Making a Case for Antique Farm Equipment and Implements

Collector says antique farm equipment is often overlooked

| November 2000

  • Herb Wessel's barns are full of vintage treasures, including a thresher dating to 1926, and two Case horse-drawn plows of equal age.
    Herb Wessel's barns are full of vintage treasures, including a thresher dating to 1926, and two Case horse-drawn plows of equal age.
  • A 1930s-era Case hay loader
    A 1930s-era Case hay loader. The loader was the first real attempt at a mechanized process for loading newly-cut hay onto a wagon.
  • The J.I. Case eagle.
    The J.I. Case eagle.
  • A Case six-bottom plow made in 1918 for use on large tractors or steam engines
    A Case six-bottom plow made in 1918 for use on large tractors or steam engines.
  • A 1900 Case horse-drawn lister
    A 1900 Case horse-drawn lister. Listers were used in dry country, planting seeds in a trench to preserve moisture.
  • A 1926 Case combine
    A 1926 Case combine, one of the first models Case made.
  • At left: A 1916 Case 30 hp steam engine. At right: A 1918 Case 20-40 gas-kerosene tractor.
    At left: A 1916 Case 30 hp steam engine. At right: A 1918 Case 20-40 gas-kerosene tractor.
  • A Case horse-drawn manure spreader from the 1920s
    A Case horse-drawn manure spreader from the 1920s.
  • At left: A 1918 Rock Island Heider 12-20, also known as a Model C. On the right is a 1948 Case D previously owned by Herb's father.
    At left: A 1918 Rock Island Heider 12-20, also known as a Model C. On the right is a 1948 Case D previously owned by Herb's father. The latter tractor is still used around the farm.

  • Herb Wessel's barns are full of vintage treasures, including a thresher dating to 1926, and two Case horse-drawn plows of equal age.
  • A 1930s-era Case hay loader
  • The J.I. Case eagle.
  • A Case six-bottom plow made in 1918 for use on large tractors or steam engines
  • A 1900 Case horse-drawn lister
  • A 1926 Case combine
  • At left: A 1916 Case 30 hp steam engine. At right: A 1918 Case 20-40 gas-kerosene tractor.
  • A Case horse-drawn manure spreader from the 1920s
  • At left: A 1918 Rock Island Heider 12-20, also known as a Model C. On the right is a 1948 Case D previously owned by Herb's father.

Herb Wessel believes in the preservation of antique farm equipment that tells the story of farming over the last 100 years. At his farm in northern Maryland, he has barns full of implements to prove it. 

"A row of tractors doesn't tell anybody anything," he says. "'I specifically collect the implements the tractors would have pulled or powered. We're losing the equipment faster than the tractors. People are more interested in tractors; I'd like to see more people interested in equipment. Some tractors are so over-restored they look better than brand new, and then there are ropes around them so no one can touch them. I like for stuff to be in working order and ready to go."

Herb's collection does include a selection of tractors, but the emphasis is on antique farm equipment, some dating to the 19th century. There are also automobiles, pickup trucks, steam engines, dairy equipment, old license plates, vintage tools and farm toys. There are even some model airplanes suspended from the rafters.

"I used to build them as a kid," he says. "I still build them once in a while just to see if I can keep my hand in it."



But despite the amazing variety, there is a theme to Herb's collection. That theme is symbolized by an eagle, which represents Case, a name known throughout the farming industry for more than a century. It's part of Herb's farming heritage. The 1948 Case D tractor previously owned by his father and the 1954 Case 400 he bought new are proudly displayed and still used around the farm.

"My hobby is genealogy," he says. "Three of my grandparents were German. My grandfather bought a farm in Howard County (Maryland) in 1898. I moved here (to Carroll County, Maryland) in 1958. We've always been in dairy farming, but I got interested in the mechanics. I learned by experience how to fix the tractors."