Farm Collector

First Things

The Progress Edition – a special issue
trumpeting growth and expansion of local business – was long a
routine part of the community newspaper’s annual schedule. Articles
in this issue of Farm Collector would be a good fit for a
Progress Edition … at least, one published in the early years of
the 1900s.

Leading the way is a fascinating profile by Bill Vossler on
inventor Adolph Ronning. Ronning’s inventions spanned every aspect
of industry, including farm equipment. A prolific inventor, he won
his first patent before graduating from high school in 1912 (well
before the advent of another form of “progress,” the television).
Ronning went on to make a career as an inventor, something hard to
do then and nearly impossible to do now.

The mechanized corn picker was another sign of progress, one
that looms large in the memories of retired teacher Dale Geise,
whose essay “The Day the Cavalry Arrived” appears in this issue. As
a boy, Dale was well familiar with the early winter chore that
seemed unending. “Is it possible that tens of millions of ears
hanging from Iowa cornstalks were once taken, one at a time, by
hand?” he muses.

And then there’s the Model T Ford Snowmobile. For those with
fresh memories of horse and buggy, the Model T had revolutionized
transit by 1922, when the Snowmobile conversion kit came along.
This development, though, is somewhat harder for me to categorize
as “progress.” Imagine a time when life’s rhythms were directed by
sunrise, sunset and prevailing weather conditions. Imagine a time
when snow-covered roads meant staying close to home; when trips to
town were more about meeting basic needs, before shopping became

Still, it’s impossible not to smile at the giddy response that
surely greeted something like the Snowmobile kit. In an era when
industrial technology was evolving so rapidly, every advancement
must have felt like a stunning innovation designed to improve the
lot of mankind. Today, of course, innovation rarely receives
automatic acclaim: Lessons have been learned, and experience is a
stern taskmaster. Oh to have known those sweet, heady days when
almost anything seemed possible. Progress creates its own momentum:
These articles capture a bit of that. Enjoy this Progress Edition
from the past!

Leslie McManus, Editor


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  • Published on Feb 1, 2009
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