Collecting Sandwich Equipment

South Dakotan stays close to roots with collection

| August 2009

When Augustus Adams founded the Sandwich Mfg. Co. in 1867 at Sandwich, Ill., he probably never dreamed that some of his company’s products would be on display in the 21st century.

Adams and his two eldest sons developed their own brand of spring and cylinder corn shellers, the first of which were both hand- and power-operated. The equipment they created was known around the world in that era. The company later developed a famous line of stationary gas engines. Much of the company’s line is highly collectible today.

South Dakotan Dave Thompson has a strong sense of connection to the Sandwich company, primarily because he grew up near Sandwich. “I was a farmer there all my life,” he says. “The first time I saw the Sandwich engines running was at the Sandwich fair. You could actually see the pistons, and the flywheels were really rolling. That all intrigued me and I knew I just had to have one of my own.”

In recent years and now living near Beresford, S.D., Dave has displayed a Sandwich 10 hp engine and a Sandwich sheller at area shows. His collection is a response to others’ curiosity. “When I had just the engine set up and running at a show, many people would stop and ask what it was for,” he says. “When it’s set up with the sheller or grinder, people readily understand how it was used in the past.”

Building a collection

Dave didn’t begin his collection with a Sandwich engine. In 1973, he and his father, Stan, settled for a less costly 1-1/2 hp John Deere engine. From there, Dave began picking up gas engines from time to time and learned how to do his own repair and restoration work.

Today, Dave owns a full line of Sandwich engines (1-1/2, 2-1/2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 hp). He also owns a full line of Sandwich shellers (2-, 4-, 6- and 8-hole models). The 1890 Rustler sheller was one of the first produced by Sandwich. Although horses were used to provide power for that sheller, the company’s 1894 line included many models designed for use with steam engines or a horse-power.

The company continued to develop its sheller line; by 1908, the line included a full selection of spring and cylinder shellers. Sandwich spring shellers remained a popular item with farmers into the 1920s despite the availability of more powerful cylinder shellers. The company recommended Stover gas engines for use with Sandwich farm equipment (Sandwich did not begin engine manufacture until about 1915).

Small shellers make their mark

In the years leading up to 1920, large corn shellers were used to shell nearly all corn that went to market from the cornbelt. “They are owned and operated for community work the same as threshers,” notes Frank D. Gardner in Traditional American Farming Techniques. “Many small hand and power corn shellers are used on farms for shelling corn for feeding purposes. There are two general forms: the spring sheller and the cylinder sheller.

All hand shellers are of the first-named type, but some of the power shellers are of the second type. The latter are cheaper and of simpler construction, and seldom get out of order. They break the cobs badly and small pieces of cobs are more numerous in the corn than when spring shellers are used. For this reason, the spring sheller is considered superior. The unbroken cobs are much better fuel.”

The article, which featured an illustration of a Sandwich 4-hole mounted belt corn sheller with right-angle belt attachment, noted that each of the shellers included a cleaning device that separated chaff, husks and cobs from the shelled corn as well as elevators that moved both corn and cobs.