Joseph Oppenheim’s New Idea

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Illustration By Joseph Oppenheim
In 1969, the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame named Oppenheim inventor of the first modern widespreading manure spreader.

Joseph
Oppenheim never intended to get into the farm implement business. Emigrating
from Germany
in 1879 at age 20, he initially studied for the priesthood but then changed
course and became a teacher. His first teaching job was in Putnam County, Ohio,
and it was there that Oppenheim conceived of what would become the first
successful mechanical manure spreader.

While
teaching in a one-room schoolhouse near Maria Stein, Ohio, Oppenheim was concerned by the number
of absences that resulted when farm boys were kept home to help with the
back-breaking work of spreading manure. He seized on a solution while watching
his students play a game of “tom ball” at recess. When the ball was struck with
a paddle-shaped bat, the ball was deflected to one side or the other, depending
on the angle of the paddle. That gave the teacher the idea for a manure
spreader using a paddle concept.

Beginning
with a prototype fashioned from a wooden cigar box, Oppenheim developed the
idea into a working unit and applied for a patent. By late 1899 he’d resigned
his teaching job and launched construction of a factory in Maria Stein.
Interested neighbors described his first product as “Oppenheim’s new idea,”
leading to a diverse product line that endured for more than a century.

After
Oppenheim’s untimely death in 1901, his widow, oldest son and other family
members kept the company going. Eventually based in Coldwater, Ohio, New Idea
Spreader Co. created thousands of jobs for local residents. The company built
on its success with manure spreaders, expanding its line to include hay
loaders, corn husker/shredders, corn pickers and wagons.

New
Idea lived up to its name, producing the first pull-type picker built exclusively
for tractor operation with a power takeoff (and the first to successfully pick,
husk and load two rows of corn onto a wagon) and the first all-steel wagon with
automotive-type steering and a telescopic, tubular steel coupling pole and
sealed wheel hubs.

In 1969, the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame named
Oppenheim inventor of the first modern widespreading manure spreader. FC

To find out more about the impressive New Idea line, readNew Idea Hay Loader a Big Hit.

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