Chain Links to the Past

Restorers face a challenge in the quest for replacements of early detachable-link chain, which has not been manufactured for many years.

| October 2018

  • chain link
    A straight length of No. 34 malleable chain.
    Photo by Ted deHaan
  • chain link
    In this photo, No. 34 malleable chain is shown with No. 34 K1 attachment links to hold buckets to the chain.
    Photo by Ted deHaan
  • chain links
    Three malleable chain attachment links: No. 34 K1 (with two flat side tabs), No. 34 A1L (used for one side of a drag conveyor connected with rubber and wood to other side) and No. 34 C2, used for 90-degree attachments.
    Photo by Ted deHaan
  • Allied-Locke catalog
    This page from an Allied-Locke catalog shows ordering and application data, including various chain sizes and strengths.
    Photo by Ted deHaan
  • hook chain corn sheller
    Hook chain for a John Deere No. 2 corn sheller.
    Photo by Ted deHaan
  • drive chain links
    Patent No. 188,113: Links for drive chains. Patent awarded to William D. Ewart, Chicago, assignor to Ewart Mfg. Co., Chicago, March 6, 1877.
    Photo courtesy U.S. Patent Office

  • chain link
  • chain link
  • chain links
  • Allied-Locke catalog
  • hook chain corn sheller
  • drive chain links

The old saying, "For want of a nail, a shoe was lost" has wide relevance – and never more so than during the early years of farm mechanization.

If there was a breakdown in the field of equipment that relied on custom chains and belts, work halted. Belts and chains simply were not repairable in the field.

During the early days of the 20th century, the development of mechanized farming was exploding. Many functions were combined, and traditional "horsepower" was replaced by engines. Farmers also began to expect higher degrees of reliability from the newfangled machines. Day upon day of forced downtime was not an option. Answers were needed – and fast.

One critical solution was developed by William D. Ewart, who won a patent for a chain design offering both ease of use and fast repairs. Utilizing individual flat, malleable iron, detachable links, Ewart's chain provided flexible power transmission.



Some pieces of equipment required a simple conveyor system to enhance the process. Such systems employed a series of links called "hook chain." Wide individual wire links were hooked together to form a conveying system. Configured in a continuous belt, they could also be sprocket-driven.

Launch of Link Belt Co.

Detachable-link, malleable iron chain (also known as "flat chain") was created by William D. Ewart in 1874, and is covered by patent No. 188,113. Ewart, a farm implement dealer in Belle Plaine, Iowa, went on to launch Link Belt Co. in 1880. Eventually he relocated to Chicago, where he established Ewart Mfg. Co.