Mothballed Moldboards

| July 2003

New-old stock parts are precious to old-machinery collectors, but complete NOS implements are just plain rare ... and historically important. That's exactly what Mike Schmudlach of Brooklyn, Wis., thought as he read the flyer for the Roeseler's Hardware auction in Hustisford, Wis., in June 2001. While the list noted one 'brand-new' plow, three were actually very old models, including a Moline Plow Co. No. 3, a Madison Plow Co. Turf and Stubble model and a McCormick-Deering Model WE-1 plow.,

Mike, a building contractor and part-time farmer, also collects International Harvester tractors and usually doesn't pay much attention to horse-drawn implements. In this case, however, he made an exception because the plows were in the same condition as when they were shipped to the store about a century ago. The plows probably belong in a museum because of their immaculate condition and age, Mike admits, but for now he enjoys having the old implements and sharing them with interested folks at farm shows.

Roeseler's Hardware was established in Hustisford in 1869 by August E. Roeseler Sr. who sold hardware and threshing machines to small-crop farmers in the Dodge County area. His son, August E. Roeseler Jr., took control of the business in 1889, while his sons Edward, Oscar and Henry subsequently ran the store starting in 1952. Henry's son, Duane, eventually became the sole proprietor, although his uncle, Oscar Roeseler, lent a hand until he was more than 90 years old.

Throughout the 20th century, Roeseler's Hardware sold farm implements made by manufacturers including McCormick-Deering Co., New Idea Co., Moline Plow Co., Madison Plow Co., gas engines made by Fuller & Johnson, Overland and even Ford Motor Co. Model T automobiles. Other products stocked and sold were household appliances, milking and milk-handling equipment. The family business also offered services such as well drilling and silo construction.

As older lines of goods were replaced with new products, any leftover inventory either remained on the shelf or was stored on the second and third floors of the hardware building. The family's method of storing unsold stock helped preserve the plows that Mike bought at auction, because those three immaculate implements spent the better half of the last century on the third floor. To his delight, Mike found the old plows stored along with an International Harvester Co. cream separator still wrapped in packing paper, new buggy sills, wooden plow beams and a wooden washing tub, in addition to a large number of used items once taken in trade. Liquidated in 2001, Roeseler's Hardware was the oldest family-owned hardware in Wisconsin.

Mike's oldest plow is likely the Moline No. 3. The non-adjustable plow was forged from a single piece of steel. The painted logo on the plow's wooden beam isn't the Flying Dutchman, while the beam is solid oak rather than forged steel. These combined characteristics suggest a pre-1900 manufacture date, and the plow was certainly manufactured before the Moline Plow Co. name was changed to the Moline Implement Co. in the 1920s. The finish on the oak handles and beam, in addition to the paint, is excellent, shows no wear and leaves no doubt about the model and manufacturer.