Nebraska Couple Sold on Corn Planting Equipment

Collection of corn planting equipment shows the evolution of corn planters, check-row planters and shellers

| August 2000

  • Gleason and Bailey sheller
    This Gleason and Bailey sheller, made in New York of cast iron, carries a patent date of 1882. The stand on this sheller is intact; few survive the passage of years without breakage.
  • Free-standing John Deere shellers, with a David Bradley feed cutter
    A selection of free-standing John Deere shellers, with a David Bradley feed cutter at the lower left. Darrel keeps restoration efforts as true to the original as possible.
  • The Dain sheller
    The Dain sheller, made in Ottumwa, Iowa. John Deere bought out Dain and later discontinued the sheller line. "They're pretty rare now," says Darrel Heeren. He found this one, with an 1882 patent date, at an auction near his home. Enough original paint and trim survived that a friend was able to use it as a guide for a new decal, which she spent hours creating.
  • Darrel and Marian Heeren
    Darrel and Marian Heeren, Hastings, Neb. The two are active members of the Corn Items Collectors group, and are enthusiastic collectors and restorers. Darrel even tries out the antiques. "I've used one of those hand-operated planters to plant my sweet corn," he says.
  • A small portion of Darrel's collection of hand-operated corn planters
    A small portion of Darrel's collection of hand-operated corn planters. "I'm always amazed there are so many variations of planters and shellers," he says.
  • A partial selection of Darrel's box sheller collection
    A partial selection of Darrel's box sheller collection. When it comes to restoration, Darrel starts from scratch. "Some people don't like to sandblast," he says, "but I sandblast everything. I just have a cheap sandblster and some fans, but I take my time. Patience is the key. You have to be patient with what you do, and do it right the first time."
  • Gears on a Belle City Mfg. Co. feed cutter with Sheffield steel knives
    Gears on a Belle City Mfg. Co. feed cutter with Sheffield steel knives. "It was used just for chopping green corn for milk cows and other livestock," Darrel says. "It'd take a stalk and the ear." It dates to about 1900.

  • Gleason and Bailey sheller
  • Free-standing John Deere shellers, with a David Bradley feed cutter
  • The Dain sheller
  • Darrel and Marian Heeren
  • A small portion of Darrel's collection of hand-operated corn planters
  • A partial selection of Darrel's box sheller collection
  • Gears on a Belle City Mfg. Co. feed cutter with Sheffield steel knives

One look at Darrel Heeren's collection of corn equipment, and you know he's a serious collector. But Darrel, who lives south of Hastings, Neb., delights in sharing what he refers to as "My corn-e hobby." 

"I very much enjoy showing my collection to any and all," he says, "to those who have memories of these items, and those who know nothing about them. I try hard to share what I have learned, and then I have learned more myself."

Darrel's collection illustrates the evolution of corn planting equipment, ranging from hand-operated planters dating to the mid-1800s, to horse-drawn corn planting implements. It also includes a rich assortment of shelters, feed cutters, corn shock tyers, planter lids, cast iron tool boxes, and a variety of antique tools.

His oldest hand-operated planter dates to 1858. He uses it to show people that early corn crops were planted quite differently than those of today.



"They used to plant corn in grids, in hills 46 inches apart. They'd drop three or four kernels in each hill. The cultivator was little more than a couple of shovels," he says. "The hardest thing for a lot of people to understand is that they didn't always plant corn in a row, and it wasn't always a cash crop. It used to be a subsistence crop."

Hand-operated planters were used to the 1880s, he says, with later use limited to filling in gaps.