1917 Holt Combine Finds a Home in Iowa

Rare, early Holt combine never fails to generate interest from old iron hobbyists.

| June 2016

Larry Maasdam is an avid collector of farm-related items. The Clarion, Iowa, man has more than 7,000 farm and construction toys, hundreds of farm signs and clocks (including dozens of neon signs), 90 hi-crop tractors, 90 restored tractors, crawlers, garden tractors and antique snowmobiles. In their free time, he and his wife, Melanie, volunteer at the nearby Heartland Museum, home to a large collection of antique farm items. All of that is to explain that Larry knows a gem when he sees one — and a 1917 Holt self-propelled hillside combine is a definite gem.

In the right place at the right time

By age 15, Larry was already in the contracting business. His dad, Leonard, invented the Vermeer trencher at about the same time the nearby city of Killduff, Iowa, was putting its telephone wires underground. “They hired a Jeep trencher to dig the trenches,” Larry says. “But once it froze, they couldn’t dig across a gravel road, so the city came to Dad, and saw he had a trencher on tracks, and they wanted us to try it.”

It worked, and Larry found himself installed as full-time operator of the machine, digging trenches for every telephone wire in town. “Back then, there weren’t any gas lines or buried cables, so I didn’t have to worry too much,” he says. “After I was done, the city asked Dad what he wanted per foot, and he said the same as the Jeep trencher operator was going to get paid.”

The payment was enough for half of the cost of a Vermeer trencher. “My dad said he would buy the other half if I wanted it, and I could pay him as I could,” Larry says. “That’s how I got started, in the fall of what would have been my first year of high school. At age 17 I had my first dozer, and I kept doing construction, though I farmed for a while. But that’s how I got involved with all the antiques.”

That also led to the start of a crawler collection, in 1984. Today, Larry has about 40 crawlers.

A “must have” addition to the collection

In the late 1990s, Larry learned of a rare 1917 hillside combine built by Holt Mfg. Co., Stockton, California, for sale in Oklahoma. “I had never seen anything like it,” he says. “I couldn’t believe it was self-propelled, powered by one track, with about a 24-foot head.”