Planet Jr. was a Big Player on Small Farms

Planet Jr. line designed for the small farmer, home gardener


| May 2011



Chris Moomaw with his show display

Chris Moomaw with his show display. Among other pieces, the Planet Jr. product line included a fertilizer distributor, onion hoe, onion puller, celery hiller, harrow, pulverizer, drill marker and grass edger.

When Chris Moomaw fell for a decades-old line of farm and garden implements, he was drawn in by the technology of one century and the business strategy of another. 

Riding herd over what he describes as “an unfocused collection” of small, crank-driven machines, Chris stumbled onto the Planet Jr. line of seeders, drills, and wheel hoes, and was fascinated by their mechanisms. He immediately shifted gears into building a collection of Planet Jr. pieces. “I’ve been interested in intricate linkages like what you see on these pieces for a long time,” he says.

But he hadn’t counted on discovery of a progressive business strategy literally decades ahead of its time. “(Company founder) S.L. Allen was very progressive,” he says. “In the late 1800s and early 1900s, he actively sought feedback from customers and used that to improve the product. The Planet Jr. line was constantly evolving. They really took pride in making products that were considered the best in the industry. If you look at the products manufactured by their competitors, they are primitive and awkward compared to Planet Jr. All that research paid off.”

Catalogs provide clues

Now a resident of Ridgefield, Ct., Chris grew up in rural southeast Pennsylvania. “The first powered vehicle I ever drove was a John Deere A,” he recalls, “helping bring in hay for a neighboring farmer.” The son of antique hounds, he was a regular tag-along on trips to country auctions. “I was familiar with the Planet Jr. name,” he says. “When I was a kid, my dad looked at several walk-behind garden tractors including Planet Jr., but he ended up buying a Gravely.”

While attending the gigantic flea market in Brimfield, Mass., some years ago, Chris happened on to a very nice original Planet Jr. No. 6 seeder built in 1915. “I had a rule about this stuff: Never pay more than $25,” he says. “I broke that rule in about five pieces.” Soon after he found another Planet Jr. in an antique shop. “That really got me into it,” he says. “These seeders were mysterious. They started finding me. Then I bought some online. I was building a collection, but I really didn’t know much about them. Then I started seeing catalogs for sale.”
Catalogs and other literature — including a book Allen’s daughter wrote about her father and his company — have given his collection true depth. “That kind of information has helped me learn when various models were introduced and when features were modified,” he says. “Once I started gathering up catalogs I was able to begin piecing it all together.” “Piece it together” is a bit of an understatement: Chris has developed a lengthy timeline detailing major developments in the company’s history — down to and including descriptions of company-issued wrenches — and happily shares that knowledge.

“Based on my now-expanded Planet Jr. knowledge, I’ve been reacting to some egregious claims or factoids by Planet Jr. sellers on eBay,” he says wryly. “Some have reacted positively, some negatively or not all, and one wrote, ‘You really need to get a life’!”

annemarie
11/21/2015 3:42:55 AM

Hi my husband has a planet seed drill number 300a everything still on it and still in working order. We would love to find out about selling to the right person or collector we are in Scotland uk


Bob
7/2/2015 10:51:22 AM

I have a working planet jr #4 seeder and need some info. I would like to reverse the spacing wheel?? I have markings of K 596 12 in. and 6 in. on the piece. Photos on ebay show some spacers threaded and some that slide on. Do you know (a) which method this piece uses and (b) if threaded are they left handed. Thanks Bob


erichines731@yahoo.com
6/15/2014 2:03:50 PM

So I just bought a No. 25 Planet Junior with a bunch of implements and I don't know much about it. Where can I find the book his daughter wrote so I can learn more about my seeder. What would be an acceptable amount of restoration with out reducing its value?


Nick Peterson
4/28/2011 9:07:34 AM

Thank you Chris for sharing your knowledge! If gardeners want to try it out, Hoss is now manufacturing a duplicate of the Planet Jr wheel hoe and selling it at http://easydigging.com/Garden_Cultivator/wheel_hoe_push_plow.html That page at EasyDigging also contains a link to a book excerpt called "The History of the Wheel Hoe" by Professor John R Stilgoe of Harvard University that tells the story very well. Good luck with your collection, Nick