Without Peer

| November 2001

One of the more fascinating aspects of history is its interconnectedness. Agricultural equipment history is no exception. Case in point: The long, strange history of the Peerless separator. Within the convoluted framework of its past, the Peerless would be tied to names which are still honored in the industry -Geiser, Case, McCormick - and to personalities who shaped the course of the American destiny. The very nature of its changing of corporate hands and, thereby, surviving the changes in farming techniques seems a testament to the creativity and business know-how of America's early farm machinery manufacturers.

The Peerless separator began in the mind of Peter Geiser. Born near Smithsburg, Md., in 1826, Geiser took out his first patent for a 'Geiser Thresher, Separator, Cleaner and Conveyor' in 1852. Due to this patent, he is credited by many (and especially in the pages of the Geiser Manufacturing Co.'s history) as the inventor of the world's first working separator. Geiser had tested his theories for the machine's construction on his father's farm in Smithsburg, but didn't build the first Geiser separator (as it was first known) until 1854. He built four more that year - three for sale and one for display at the Hagerstown (Md.) fair.

The next year, Geiser began building machines in earnest. Shops sprang up on the Geiser farm, two employees were hired to help build separators, and a new Geiser patent - for an automatic, or self-regulating fan - was issued. Geiser made his first agreement with another manufacturer to build Geiser separators. He signed that first contract with Jones & Miller of Hagerstown.

In the next five years, Geiser made many such manufacturing agreements, adding to the reach and renown of the Geiser name. George Frick began building them in 1858 in Ringgold, Md., and then moved to Waynesboro, Pa., where he also began building the Frick steam engine. John Snider built them in Mt. Joy, Pa., A.B. Farquhar produced them in York, Pa., and J.A. Peters also made Geiser separators in Middletown, Del.

In 1863, the first major controversy over the separators erupted when W.W. Dingee left Farquhar's operation in York, taking with him both castings and patterns for Geiser threshers. He showed up working for the J.I. Case company in Racine, Wis., soon thereafter, assisting J.I. Case in the manufacture of the Agitator thresher. As the story is told (by, admittedly, fans of the Geiser), J.I. Case's threshers were only popular around the Racine area before the defection of Dingee from Farquhar. The reason for this purely regional popularity was due, supposedly, to the fact that Case was the only person capable of adjusting his machines in order to make them work properly. The historical record is unclear concering which patterns and components Dingee carried with him, but one of the most difficult operations in separating grain from chaff was in setting the cleaning fan according to variations in moisture, weight, etc. It seems sure that at least a portion of components were for the self-regulating fan blast control.

Geiser Price and Co. was formed from Geiser's company in Waynesboro, Pa., in 1866, by Daniel Geiser, Benjamin E. Price, Jacob F. Oiler and Josiah Farney. Peter Geiser assumed supervision of manufacturing at the time, but conveyed all patent rights to the firm. All manufacturing of threshers was then brought 'in house' in buildings Frick had vacated.


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