Drawn to Oddities

| July 2002

When Paul Fossler of Polo, Ill., bought his wooden-frame Eagle straw spreader in June 2001 at an estate sale five miles from home, he didn't know what it was but, he says, 'for $25, I thought I ought to own it.'

A number of people made guesses about the implement's identity that day, but Paul didn't get the right answer until he displayed his bargain in August, with a 'What is it?' sign, at the Franklin Grove, Ill., Thresheree, a small show about 30 miles from Polo.

'I see something at a sale,' Paul says, 'and if I don't know what it is (and I can identify a lot!), and if it's a reasonable price, I'll buy it. That's one of the interesting parts of this collecting thing.'

The man who identified the spreader was Charles Doty of Princeton, Ill., a retired implement dealer. He also owns an Eagle straw spreader, Paul says, and said he'd seen a third one, sold earlier at a central Illinois auction - for $380.

Charles shared information with Paul about the maker - Eagle Manufacturing Co. of Morton, Ill., which is just south and east of Peoria. First known as the Kramer Rotary Harrow Co. of Paxton, Ill., Eagle moved in 1915 from Paxton to Morton with Emil Kramer, founder of the firm, as manager.

By 1917, the business was flourishing, and selling not only rotary harrows but other farm implements, including the straw spreaders. In 1920, E.J. Leman was Eagle's secretary and general manager, as well as head of Manson, Campbell and Sons, a Detroit firm that also had moved to Morton and that produced a grain grading and cleaning device.