Old Iron Spans the Globe


Tags: November 2016, First Things, Leslie C. McManus,

First Things

The old iron hobby in this country tells a uniquely American story, one of technological advancement, business acumen and good old American ingenuity. But that story is not limited to the U.S. American farm machinery and implements have been exported all over the world for more than a century. Decades before the days of cellphones, websites and email, manufacturers and customers separated by oceans and continents found a way to do business.

That point was driven home to me in this issue. First there was the email received from Guatemala, where an American-built corn sheller dating to the late 1800s turned up. Then there was an email with a photo of an as yet unidentified pile of rusted iron found in Wales. Folks there who’ve had a look at it can’t identify it, suggesting to them at least that it might be American-made (check it out on Page 5 of this issue). And an article on a windmill display in Minnesota was launched by something as simple as one woman’s wish for a picturesque Dutch-style windmill like those once common in Holland.

As long as there’ve been people, they’ve been interested in the way other people operate. Each summer, tour groups from as far away as Australia find their way to the American Midwest. Antique tractor shows, museums, private collections and historic manufacturing centers are key attractions. For their part, Americans are every bit as eager to cross the pond to have a look at antique farm equipment, foreign or domestic. This past summer, for instance, two dozen intrepid enthusiasts toured England, Wales and Scotland as part of the Farm Collector Tractor Tour .

It was a terrific trip, complete with breathtaking sights, historic venues and new experiences. But I’m confident that the highlight for most, if not all, of the travelers was contact with people who shared a common interest. The old iron collections we viewed contained everything from familiar American equipment to pieces we’d never seen before, built by manufacturers we’d never heard of.

The story that began more than a century ago continues to be relevant. Whether you’re talking about the driverless tractor unveiled at this summer’s Farm Progress Show or a corn sheller built for export more than 125 years ago, American farm equipment has had, and continues to have, a unique impact on agriculture and people around the world. FC