Restoring an Auction Find: Antique Corn Planter Almost Stumps Restorer

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Illustration of a 2-row horse-drawn planter from an 1891 Evans Manufacturing Co. brochure.
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A photo of the "as-found" portion of the main frame's "wishbone" front end.
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A photo of one of the rear press-wheel bearings on the clutch side, taken early in restoration.
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A side photo of the rear press-wheel showing the three different settings for seed spacing selections.
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Another "as-found" photo taken early in the re-assembly process, showing the rear wheel bearing and the clutch.
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The 1-row planter during a temporary reconstruction of the base frame.
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Detail shot of the seed box before restoration.
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A close-up of the rear of the finished planter's seed box.
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A photo of the completed planter on a display stand from the rear quarter showing the press-wheel and operating clutch linkage.
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A photo of the finished planter from the top front looking toward the rear.
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The completed planter on a display stand.
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Evans builds "the best planter in the world," this brochure claims.

About 15 years ago, I went to an auction of the remains of a true country store and family goods some 20 miles north of Santa Claus, Indiana. Yes, Santa Claus (and Christmas Lake Village) is a true place but part of another totally different story.

As with any typical country store from around the turn of the 20th century, this one had a huge collection of items that had fallen into disrepair. Today, many would simply call it junk.

The day of the auction was cloudy and rainy. We stood around with the auctioneer, going through a huge assortment of items displayed in an adjacent field. The mud finally got too deep to tolerate. When the auctioneer suspended the auction, people were doing anything to keep out of the mud. I noticed that the man next to me had managed to stay relatively dry by standing on something in the mud. The object was so far gone it could not even be recognized in the mud. I asked the auctioneer about it and he hollered out to me, “Do I hear five?” “What the hell,” I said. “Get it out of here while you can still recognize it,” the auctioneer said.

Made by Evans Manufacturing Co.

The good part was that I did not have to do a lot of research to identify the manufacturer of my treasure, a single-row horse-drawn corn planter. In what looked to be part of a seed box, the end casting clearly indicated the piece was built by Evans Manufacturing Co., Springfield, Ohio. The bigger problem was what to do with the large pile of wooden and iron pieces. This planter was nothing like I had ever seen. It appeared there had once been a large wooden wishbone-shaped frame for the main planter deck. It was so badly rotted that I started to wire pieces together to see what it could possibly have looked like.

I was truly amazed when the outline of that frame actually started to come together. Next came the seed box with the corn disc and lower drive pinion gear. The seed distributor was very strange, in that it was made of a mix of cast iron and sheet metal parts. The base (as well as the front and back of the box) was made of cast iron but the sides and lid were of sheet metal. Not only that, but the box was trapezoidal in shape.

Once I figured out how the box came together I started on the drivetrain with the shaft that ran from the large furrow-closing wheel to the base of the seed distributor. That fell into place and then the bearings for the main wheel followed. Next were the clutch and linkage, which turned out to be quite simple. Adding typical plow handles and a support for the clutch handle was relatively easy.

Bringing it back to life

Following that “mockup,” I created the real wishbone from clear ash. The wood needed to be built up for the required width. The process of sandblasting and painting the metal parts was pretty straightforward. The seed box sides and lid needed some sorting out but those too pulled together well.

An interesting issue came up with the box internals. Some sort of a brush was used to prevent release of more than one kernel at a time. It strongly resembled an old shaving brush and must have been made of horsehair, for it had virtually disintegrated (or been eaten by mice). Referring to the remaining bits and pieces, I created a new one from brush bristles.

As it all came together, I was truly amazed that I’d been able to dig enough pieces out of the mud to salvage the planter. This little gem was like nothing I had ever seen. FC

A.C. Evans follows his father into the farm equipment business

Evans Manufacturing Co. (sometimes referred to as A.C. Evans Co.) was founded by Austin C. Evans in Springfield, Ohio. Born Feb. 1, 1851, in Piqua, Ohio, Evans was the son of Jonathan M. Evans, a manufacturer of threshing machines and steam engines. The young Evans arrived in Springfield in the mid-1870s and immediately partnered with the famous Foos Mfg. Co., forming Evans & Foos Mfg. Co., producing corn planting equipment.

In 1880, Evans created his own company, A.C. Evans Manufacturing Co., which sold products in the Evans line. Interestingly, it appears he had a strong interest in the development of corn drills and planters from early in his career. In 1903, A.C. Evans Manufacturing Co. became part of American Seeding Machine Co., Springfield; it was absorbed by Oliver Farm Equipment Co. in 1929. Little other documentation on the A.C. Evans company exists.

With a background in steel industry automation, Dutch deHaan also has 20 years’ experience as a restorer of antique farm machinery. He currently resides in Evansville, Indiana. Contact him at:

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