Rosenthal Corn Husker/Shredder

The roar of the one-of-a-kind Rosenthal husker/shredder draws a crowd

| May 2011

  • The Rosenthal steel 40 corn husker/shredder. “At the time this machine was new, it was undoubtedly an upgrade from other machinery,” Sonny Smith muses, “kind of like computers have been in our lives the past 10 years.”
    The Rosenthal steel 40 corn husker/shredder. “At the time this machine was new, it was undoubtedly an upgrade from other machinery,” Sonny Smith muses, “kind of like computers have been in our lives the past 10 years.”
  • One of the Rosenthal’s original belts, in excellent condition
    One of the Rosenthal’s original belts, in excellent condition.
  • The Rosenthal 40 corn husker came with steel wheels; rubber tires were available as an option
    The Rosenthal 40 corn husker came with steel wheels; rubber tires were available as an option. “I’ve always thought I was born a little too late,” Sonny says. “But when I see how much hard work is required to farm with these old machines, I guess I’m happy where I am.”
  • The Rosenthal’s belt pulley
    The Rosenthal’s belt pulley.
  • Very good original lettering on the Rosenthal 40 corn husker/shredder
    Very good original lettering on the Rosenthal 40 corn husker/shredder. The Rosenthal was manufactured by Rosenthal Corn Husker Co., Milwaukee, starting in 1882.
  • In operation, the square chute shown here would be pulled down and corn fed into it
    In operation, the square chute shown here would be pulled down and corn fed into it.
  • Pulleys on the Rosenthal
    Pulleys on the Rosenthal.
  • Two black steering wheels were used to adjust the large chute that tosses out chopped tailings
    Two black steering wheels were used to adjust the large chute that tosses out chopped tailings.
  • Sonny Smith with a Farmall M he restored
    Sonny Smith with a Farmall M he restored, a reminder of tractors used on the farm in his youth. His favorite restored tractors are an International Harvester H and M. “I remember running those with Dad,” he says. “Every time I see them in the shed I’m taken back in time.”
    Photo courtesy Margaret Smith

  • The Rosenthal steel 40 corn husker/shredder. “At the time this machine was new, it was undoubtedly an upgrade from other machinery,” Sonny Smith muses, “kind of like computers have been in our lives the past 10 years.”
  • One of the Rosenthal’s original belts, in excellent condition
  • The Rosenthal 40 corn husker came with steel wheels; rubber tires were available as an option
  • The Rosenthal’s belt pulley
  • Very good original lettering on the Rosenthal 40 corn husker/shredder
  • In operation, the square chute shown here would be pulled down and corn fed into it
  • Pulleys on the Rosenthal
  • Two black steering wheels were used to adjust the large chute that tosses out chopped tailings
  • Sonny Smith with a Farmall M he restored

When Francis “Sonny” Smith looks for old iron, he doesn’t intentionally try to find mystery machines. “It just seems that a lot of the old machinery I’m interested in that’s different and unique – like the Rosenthal steel 40 corn husker/shredder and my 1920 White truck – don’t come with any information,” he says, “and there’s very little of it around.”  

Sonny grew up on farms near Princeton, Minn., as his parents worked the sandy soil there for a few years. “The soil wasn’t very good, and with nine kids, it meant they had to work outside the farm,” he says. “Raising cattle and farming was a sideline.”

On the farms they used a VAC Case, International H and M, all of which Sonny has purchased and restored. “I always loved that kind of old equipment,” he says, reminiscing.

Hooked by a husker

In 1996 Sonny tagged along with friends who called themselves “The Nickel Hitch” to look at horse-related items at the farm of a collector who had died. The inventory included all sorts of horse-drawn equipment, harvest equipment and self-propelled equipment, as well as a horse-powered crosscut saw. While there, Sonny spotted the steel Rosenthal 40 corn husker/shredder in a shed. “The first time I saw it I thought it was a pretty neat machine,” he recalls. “Eventually the group made a deal with the collector’s widow and I helped them haul out all the items they purchased. They were going to take some of the horse stuff and the Rosenthal to an auction in Waverly, Iowa.” Sonny spoke up and asked for the Rosenthal and it became his.



He didn’t have any storage room for the machine, so he ended up housing it in a shed at the Le Sueur (Minn.) Pioneer Power Assn. grounds. His intention was to run the machine but being busy with other projects he didn’t get back to the Rosenthal for a couple of years.

Shredding with the Rosenthal

In the late 1990s, during a lull in the action at the Le Sueur show, Sonny remembered the husker and pulled it out of the shed. “We really didn’t know anything about it, because that was the first time we had it running,” he says. “So we started asking people at the show about it. How do you set it up? How do you run it? Nobody knew anything about it. Nobody had ever seen another one, and manuals and other information weren’t available.”



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