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Preserving American Agricultural Heritage

An Illinois collection celebrates traditional farm practices.

| September 2017

  • Dennis’ AgriGold man makes the Jolly Green Giant look like a midget.
    Photo by By Leslie C. McManus
  • A 1923 Taylor 1-1/2 hp vacuum engine and Taylor vacuum system manufactured in Elgin, Ill. Beginning in the 1920s, vacuum pumps were commonly used with milking machines. The engine could also be equipped with a belt pulley for other uses in the dairy barn.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • An opening in the center of this two-man corn sheller allowed shelled corn to pass to a bucket below.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The Champion horse-hair picker would not pass muster with OSHA.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Carved from the trunk of an oak tree that died, this 12-foot ear of corn is estimated to weigh 2 tons. Dennis used a forklift to move it.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • A scale used to weigh live chickens.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • A display rack for whips. “When I saw it,” Dennis says, “I knew I had to have it.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • This cast iron Kenwood rendering kettle features stunning relief artistry.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The Rite-Way automatic hog sprayer.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Dennis with a seed corn bag from his collection of bags representing 700 companies. “The artwork on these bags is just amazing,” he says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • A rare Funk’s sign dating to 1941, celebrating the hybrid seed producer’s 25th anniversary.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The manufacturer of this complete and original planter is unknown. Dennis’ best guess is that it dates to the 1870s-90s. “It had to be one of the first ones made,” he speculates. The piece has a seat for a helper, who operated the handle that caused seed to drop.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Atop the “corn crib” Dennis built in his museum is a collection of pedal tractors, including a 7045 Allis-Chalmers his wife found at a bargain price. Allis is the preferred line in the Rehn collection. At bottom right: a collection of shoe and boot scrapers.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus

There are two types of collectors, says Dennis Rehn. “One doesn’t want you to know what he has,” he says, “and the other one can’t wait to tell you about the new thing he found.”

Dennis, who lives near Kirkland, Illinois, puts himself firmly in the second camp. “Nothing gives me more pleasure than talking about this stuff,” he says.

“This stuff” is Dennis’ description of a collection that takes in everything from corn collectibles to wagons to signs to hog ringers. And it all started with higher education. Dennis has been an active collector for 20 years, dating to the time his kids left home for college.

“Our daughters went to college in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and Jacksonville, Illinois,” he explains. “We wouldn’t let them have cars on campus until after their first two years, so we made a lot of trips to pick them up and bring them home. At some point, I figured if I was going to make those trips, I’d take a day for me and hit the antique shops along the way.”

Corn is king of this collection

It started innocently enough. “Twenty years ago, money was short, but seed corn bags sold for $5 or $10 each,” he says. “I could pick up a bag and be happy.” Seven hundred bags later, he has a good representation of the galaxy. “I don’t have many duplicates,” he admits.

The bags paved the way to a major category in what would become an all-encompassing passion for corn collectibles. Corn planters, shellers, seed corn dryers, germination trays, a smut destroyer, signs and more dominate the collection.

9/24/2019 1:34:50 PM

I think the unknown corn planter in Mr Rehn,s collection is a George W Brown & Co.- Galesburg, Ill.


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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