Vintage Photographs Give Glimpse to Early Rural Life

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Figure 1: The Norquists hit the road: early promotional efforts at a country fair.
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Figure 2: Giving the Waterloo Boy a break.
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Figure 3: Shelling corn with a 10 hp Stover.
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Figure 5: A large Fairbanks Morse pumping engine.
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Figure 6: Showing off the engine: do you know what it is?
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Figure 4: A shop-built ice sled.

This month’s Vintage Iron is a collection of original vintage photographs and postcards. They turn up at auctions, swap meets, flea markets, antique shows, engine shows, antique malls and in family photo albums, trunks and attics. They are an important link to the past, and tell a lot about the way farming was done years ago.

The first photo (Figure 1) comes from an engine collector at Clay Center, Kan. It shows the O. Norquist hardware store display at the Clay County Fair. The Norquists were agents for International Harvester, Banner buggies and Ingeco engines. If you study the photograph closely, you can see a one-cylinder Famous traction engine, a Ford Model T touring car, a tank cooled 6 hp Famous portable with a flywheel driven auto sparker magneto, a 2 1/2 hp Ingeco portable belted to a fanning mill, a 2 hp Famous vertical portable belted to a 6-inch IHC burr grinder, a 1 hp hopper cooled Famous, and a 2 1/2 hp Famous belted to a line shaft running two cream separators and a pump jack. The photo was taken by Wernette Photography, Clay Center. The date is unknown, but it was probably in the mid- to late teens.

The second photo (Figure 2) was found in an antique shop near Sabetha, Kan. It shows a group of farmers in front of a corn crib, shelling corn with a 4 hp Waterloo Boy portable gasoline engine. The photo was taken by the Lotus Studio, Fairview and Morrill, Kan.

The third photo (Figure 3) is of another farm scene, also shelling corn. The engine shown is a 10 hp Stover tank cooled on factory trucks. The photo was taken in 1906, and the man in the foreground is identified as John Allen. The location and photographer are unknown.

The next photo (Figure 4) is of a shop-built ice sled. It has a wooden frame and sled runners from an old box wagon. The drive wheels are made from iron implement wheels, with long steel cleats added to them to catch the ice. The engine is a tank cooled one-cylinder, and was part of an early car or truck that has been adapted to this machine. The name on the back of the card is Wm. J. Hickman, 401 Haines St., Kane, Penn. The card, which was purchased at the Portland, Ind., show’s antique market, is undated.

The final two photos are actually postcards. The first (Figure 5) is of “Franklin’s pumping engine,” a large Fairbanks Morse model N standard horizontal tank cooled 22 hp engine with electric ignition and air starting pump. The card is postmarked March 15, 1909, and was mailed to a woman at Paradise, Kan. The location of the engine pumping house is unknown.

The second card (Figure 6) shows a farmer and his son standing in front of a large 8 or 10 hp unidentified engine on a homemade truck. The engine is belted to a silo filler. It has a place for the pulley to bolt to either flywheel, and has a gear-driven governor. The main bearings sit at a 45-degree angle, and the cylinder oiler is above the cylinder behind the hopper. The water hopper has straight sides and a small lip around the filler opening. The card has no date, location or names. If anyone can identify the engine (or the people), let us know.

The photo postcards are the most commonly found photos of early day rural life. While digging through boxes and boxes of postcards at shows and antique shops, a collector can expect to find lots of farm scenes, and shots of threshing and plowing with steam engines and early gas tractors. Shots of gasoline engines are tougher to find. Some of the larger companies also produced advertising postcards. IHC, Case and Rumely are among the most commonly found. FC

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment