Stubborn Genius: George W. White

Kansas inventor George W. White put everything on the line for his combined harvester and thresher.

| September 2018

  • george white harvester thresher
    Combined harvester and threshing attachment, complete with gang plow at the rear to ready the land for the next crop immediately after harvest.
    Image courtesy U.S. Patent Office
  • George White harvester thresher
    Combined harvester and threshing attachment, complete with gang plow at the rear to ready the land for the next crop immediately after harvest.
    Image courtesy U.S. Patent Office
  • George White harvester thrasher
    Combined harvester and thrasher.
    Image courtesy U.S. Patent Office
  • George White harvester thrasher
    Combined harvester and thrasher.
    Image courtesy U.S. Patent Office
  • George White harvester thrasher
    Header thrashing attachment.
    Image courtesy U.S. Patent Office
  • George White harvester thresher
    Motor plow. Nothing is known of this invention, other than the fact that it is referenced as a frame for the combined harvester and threshing attachment.
    Image courtesy U.S. Patent Office
  • George White harvester thresher
    Motor plow. Nothing is known of this invention, other than the fact that it is referenced as a frame for the combined harvester and threshing attachment.
    Image courtesy U.S. Patent Office

  • george white harvester thresher
  • George White harvester thresher
  • George White harvester thrasher
  • George White harvester thrasher
  • George White harvester thrasher
  • George White harvester thresher
  • George White harvester thresher

Timing, they say, is everything. And George White's was bad. The Kansas inventor came up with a then-revolutionary idea — a machine that would both harvest and thresh wheat — during a period of immense societal change. The invention failed to get the attention it might have received in calmer times. But his idea didn't die for lack of determination.

White, who farmed near Hutchinson, Kansas, toiled for more than 20 years in designing what we today would identify as a combine. White's design went through significant evolution from 1916 to 1923. Ultimately, he designed a downsized implement that would be installed on a Ford car, but later deemed that application impractical and turned to the Fordson tractor. Small enough to be operated by one man, White's "Get It All" weighed just 950 pounds, compared to similar devices of the day that weighed more than 7,000 pounds.

"It is constructed so the driver of the tractor not only heads and threshes the wheat but also sets the sacked grain upon the ground back of the thresher," notes an article in an August 1923 article in American Blacksmith and Motor Shop. "The changing of but four bolts and two cotter keys is all that is required to change the tractor into a thresher. The change can be made in 30 minutes."

"A most unique" machine

White's Get It All was not his first invention. The subject of a lengthy article in the May 6, 1916, edition of the Hutchinson News, White's earlier invention was a behemoth that would harvest, thresh and — using a trailing gang plow — work the ground for the next crop.



"His machine is a most unique one," noted the article, "and will thresh the wheat from the standing grain, leaving the straw standing, which is then plowed under by the gang plow pulled at the rear of the unique harvester thresher. A 60 hp gas engine runs the machine."

The May 6 account went on to note differences between the White harvester and other machines of the type. "It does not cut the grain, nor does it strip the wheat from the heads, but it catches the heads and pulls them in against the thresher, which takes the grain from the heads."



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