Better Grab a Sweater

A look back through Farm Collector's history.

article image
courtesy Library of Congress.
The largest sag pipe of the Los Angeles Aqueduct passes through Jawbone Canyon, shown here during construction in 1913.

Did you ever go looking for something you misplaced and, in the process, find not the missing item, but something altogether different? I don’t remember what I was looking for when I was rooting around on the Farm Collector website a while back, but for darned sure it wasn’t an article published in Iron-Men Album in 1953.

A bit of background, if I may. The Farm Collector website is a big tent encompassing Farm Collector, Gas Engine Magazine and Steam Traction. Farm Collector is the new kid on the block. GEM was launched in the mid-1960s and Steam Traction, formerly known as Iron-Men Album, dates to the late 1940s.

When you visit the Farm Collector website, much of what you see is new content, material published in recent issues. What you don’t see is what’s in the site’s attic, as it were. The search function found what I was looking for in an editor’s column published in 1953. But that column touched on several unrelated topics – and that’s when something new and shiny jumped out at me, something I’d have never found had I not been looking for something else.

In the early 1950s, Iron-Men Album caught the attention of F. Hal Higgins, a freelance writer who specialized in agriculture and mechanized agriculture. Higgins had worked in the field since 1925 and had a deep interest in early steam engines and tractors. He also had unique access to early industry leaders and the products they produced. For him, the upstart Iron-Men Album must have seemed like a veritable clubhouse. When he submitted the occasional random memoir, he was preaching to an enthusiastic choir.

When I stumbled onto the Higgins article, what instantly caught my attention was a reference to early Caterpillar equipment used in construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Higgins was still a boy when that legendary project began in 1908, but early in his career he met some of the men who helped make it happen – and one of those accounts is published in this issue.

We often speculate about the initial impact of early technology, but for the most part, it’s all conjecture. In this issue, we share with you a firsthand account of the development of mechanized farm and industrial equipment (“I Was the Boy”). It’s summer, but if you’re like me, you might want to grab a sweater: You’re about to get a few chills down your spine!

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment