Holiday Harvest 2007: Book Recommendations from Farm Collector

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Are you looking for something different to tuck under the tree this holiday season? One of these is a perfect fit for the collector on your shopping list:

Collecting antique farm equipment is a good way to learn about traditional American agriculture and a way of life now gone. But old iron doesn’t tell the whole story. If you’re hungry for more context, try Days on the Family Farm by Carrie A. Meyer.

Meyer lucked on to a discovery of diaries kept by a distant relative – May Lyford Davis – from 1896 to 1944. Davis and her husband farmed in north central Illinois, and her detailed daily diaries paint a rich picture of community life and farming activity.

The diary entries themselves were quite spare, often little more than brief notations. Meyer fleshes them out with comprehensive research into every aspect of daily living including the economy, politics, the impact of radio, travel, women’s suffrage, war and peace, the shift from horse farming to tractors, and a rural lifestyle now barely remembered. Black-and-white photos, many from family albums, complete the story, one that’s essential reading for anyone interested in traditional American farm life.

Days on the Family Farm by Carrie A. Meyer, University of Minnesota Press, paperback, 264 pages, $17.95 ($5 s/h). Mail orders: University of Minnesota Press, c/o Chicago Distribution Center, 11030 S. Langley Ave., Chicago, IL 60628; (773) 702-7000;

For the antique farm equipment enthusiast, nothing tells the story of a bygone era with as much truth and immediacy as a photograph. In that sense, T. Lindsay Baker has created the definitive work on the American windmill in his new book, American Windmills: An Album of Historic Photographs.

Baker, the reigning authority on windmills in this country, has written about wind-power history for 25 years. This latest book is surely his crowning achievement. Packed with nearly 180 very fine historic black-and-white photos, American Windmills is a handsome coffee table book. The supporting text, and the rarity and uniqueness of the photos themselves, take it far beyond.

For those who link windmills with the family farm, Baker pulls the curtain back to show windmills in a wide range of settings and applications. He also delves into windmill manufacture, distribution and use throughout the United States. Vintage promotional photos (including one of a young lady in the late 19th century dressed as a windmill) are a particular delight. For windmill enthusiasts or anyone interested in the history of American agriculture, this book is a must-have, and a joy to peruse.

American Windmills: An Album of Historic Photographs by T. Lindsay Baker, University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, hardback, 168 pages, $24.95. Mail orders: University of Oklahoma Press, Attn.: Order Department, 2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069; (800) 627-7377;

Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of Big Books on vintage tractors; enough, perhaps, that one could be forgiven for thinking the category’s been exhausted. But as Ralph Sanders proves in his latest book, The Farm Tractor: 100 Years of North American Tractors, there’s still a rich vein of history to be mined from the history of American farm tractors.

It helps that Sanders, whose excellent photography was a staple in Successful Farming magazine, and who photographed the tractors for Classic Farm Tractors calendars for 12 years, has a natural eye for what makes a tractor special. And just as importantly, as he proves in this celebration of American farm tractors, he also has a keen appreciation for history and the revolution that was the mechanization of the American farm. A particularly nice touch is Sander’s tractor timeline, which focuses on historic events that at first blush may seem distant to the subject, but give context to the development of the American farm tractor.

From Allis-Chalmers to Oliver, all the big names in tractors are here. Better yet, so are many of the lesser known, including the likes of Bates, Sheppard and Square Turn, plus a listing of numerous other orphan brands. Well-researched and excellently photographed, this book is an excellent addition to any tractor fan’s library.

The Farm Tractor: 100 Years of North American Tractors by Ralph W. Sanders, Voyageur Press, hardback, 384 pages, $40. Available through Farm Collector Books (

The farm collectibles category most typically deals with machinery manufactured from steel and cast iron. Susan Miller’s book – Vintage Feed Sacks: Fabric from the Farm – presents a softer side of the hobby. Containing dozens and dozens of examples of feed sacks, her book also scampers through a broad range of similar pieces: sacks that once held sugar, flour, potatoes, corn meal, salt, rice, lead-shot, and even cash and coins.

The author is a collector and knows her stuff. She speaks knowledgeably on the history of cloth sacks, has firsthand experience in sewing, as a girl, with fabric “harvested” from the sacks, and is now a sharp-eyed collector who happily shares her passion for this niche of antique farm collectibles.

Nearly every page is packed with excellent color photographs of collectible sacks, complete with current pricing. A big portion of the book is devoted to chicken feed sacks made of printed fabrics in a stunning rainbow of colors and prints. It’s no wonder farm women recycled those sacks: The fabric was beautiful!

Vintage Feed Sacks: Fabric from the Farm by Susan Miller, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., paperback, 160 pages, $29.95. Mail orders: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310; (610) 593-1777; email:;

Need a reason to get excited about a new year? Try the Classic Farm Tractors wall calendar for 2008, produced by John Harvey and the folks at Classic Tractor Fever. They’ve put out another stunning, oversized calendar featuring a super selection of classic tractors. Setting the pace right out of the gate: a spectacular cover photo of a one-of-a-kind trio: a 1908 IHC Friction Drive, a 1958 Farmall 450 and a Case IH MX 255.

Mike Hood’s fabulous photography presents a dozen collectible tractors: a 1947 Ford-Ferguson 2N, 1966 Versatile D-100, 1926 Lauson 20-40, 1938 Farmall F-20, 1940 John Deere Armored A, 1964 Allis-Chalmers D19 Beachmaster, 1960 Case 930 (Western), 1963 Farmall 560, 1968 Minneapolis-Moline G-1000 Vista (Wheatland), 1948 Earthmaster CH, 1942 John Deere LA and a 1958 Oliver Super 88.

The calendar also includes a smattering of wit and wisdom (watch out for a blizzard if the pigs are squealing in the winter), basic reference, and safety tips and pointers – a great addition to your home, shop or office!

Classic Farm Tractors calendar, $10. Mail orders: Classic Tractor Fever, Box 437, Rockland, DE 19732; (800) 888-8979;

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