Rosenthal Corn Husker/Shredder

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

| May 2011

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.”