Mr. E.C. Foreman of Tacoma, Ohio, was for many years the representative for Gaar Scott Company of Richmond, Indiana, has many interesting stories and tells some here.
The history still vivid to my memory and most interesting to me is that of threshing machinery. Especially the old steam traction engine, now remote and relegated to oblivion. A power I loved so well. I have seen the greater part of its development and the vast use of its wonderful power. Then vanish when at the height of perfection. No vacation appealed to me more than the operating of that great piece of machinery, the steamer. Several I have owned and many I have sold.
This great industry of more than forty mammoth plants, together with numerous small shops building steam engines and threshers is now only a history of yesteryears.
My mind still reverts to the grand old days when running machinery powered by the old steamers and the selling of machinery for many years. Many of the instances come to my memory as though yesterday. Many of these sales was just luck, sudden and remarkable. Some few I will relate.
Some years ago when I traveled by rail I boarded a train and a gentleman shared his seat. Some way I took him to be a thresherman. I soon found out he was, and from West Virginia, and on his way to Columbus, Ohio, to look for a thresher. On arrival at Columbus I asked him to look over our line. He did and bought.
Once, when going by rail, I had a catalog. A young fellow spied it and asked for it to send to his father who was a. thresherman. This resulted later in the sale of two machines, one to his father and one to the uncle some few miles apart. Both were shipped on the same car.
One time a postal card came to the office wanting a catalog at once. This the office considered a ‘hot prospect’. They sent me at once. It was some fifty miles away. We went right away as seemingly it looked at least like a warm prospect. I got to the depot and inquired of the Railroad Agent the way to see the party. He said, ‘one mile, out. Expect you are a machine agent, if so I can save you a trip.’ I told him I was. He informed me that it was just a ten year old boy writing for catalogs. Three agents have already gone out, so why should you be fooled. To make sure I asked a man loading lumber nearby who gave me the same information. He stated further that his boss was in the market for a new engine. He said the mill was a short distance up the creek.
I started to locate the mill and when in hearing distance I knew from the sound of the exhaust that they were surely in need of a new engine. When we got close to the engine and saw the serial number I knew it had not been out of the shop very long. A young fellow was fringe and could not keep up the steam. He was carrying the water at nearly the top of the glass. I told him if he carried lower water and set the valve and likely new rings he might overcome the trouble. He said that was not the trouble but the engine was worn out and never was any good since they had it. He said his uncle bought it at a forced sale and surely got a fleecing in it.
On the arrival of the owner, the fireman’s uncle, he condemned it as almost worthless and when his nephew who had read every available book on steam engines could not get any power out of it nobody could. Anyway, a fourteen hp was too small and he would consider a new 16 hp.
Arranging a meeting that night we sold a new one. He said he would throw the old engine in if we payed the freight and delivered the new one to the mill.
Upon delivery of the new one, we pulled the old one out to a nearby barn lot. Put in new rings and set the valve. The engine run like new. We expected to load it at another station with an old portable some eight miles away.
Within a half mile of town a man saw us and asked us if we would help him out grinding feed as his engine was entirely gone. I consented to help him out. He was so taken with the engine that he bought the engine for cash. Later he bought a new thresher.
Once when driving a car, a storm came up and a farmer yelled at me to drive into his wagon shed. I had some catalogs on the seat. He remarked, “let me have a catalog, you are a machine agent I reckon. We are going to buy a thresher and have sent for catalogs of a couple firms.” He called his son who said, “Father, that is the same make of machine that did our threshing last season and it did a fine job, no cut straw, chaff or dirt and green straw stack as a year previous.” The farmer said, “just come to the house and get your dinner and we will consult the wife.” The wife said, “they had thought of an auto but an auto would not help buy a thresher but a thresher might help buy and auto later.” Their order was quick work.
Years ago I was in a town and held up for train service. The operator found I knew telegraphy and also that I was peddling threshing machinery. He said, “Mike, a foreign fellow, up the railroad was in here sending a telegram for repairs for a very old make of engine. A reply came just a few minutes ago, “no repairs available.” I walked up to see Mike who was feeding his chickens. “Pop is feeding Rover to the chickens. Rover got struck and killed by a train. We ran him through the meat chopper for the chickens.” From all appearances I had a faint idea part of him might find the table. Well, some two weeks later a rebuilt tractor engine found a new home for cash on delivery at railroad station.
Once I heard of a sawmill operator through a school boy whom I took in for a ride to his school. I walked down to his mill through the mud. He said, “seemingly mud doesn’t interfere with you.” I said, “You are interested in a thresher, I learn.” He informed me that he was and that a very dignified agent a few days ago drove up in a livery rig and wanted him to come up to the road as he did not want to go through the mud down to his mill. He told the fellow to wait an hour and he would see him at mill men’s shack. He waited but while there was so afraid of getting his clothes soiled off of his muddy and greasy clothes that he told him he was not interested in his line.
He said, “I see you do not carry your vest and coat pockets full of pearls and pencils as the fellow who saw me the other day.” I said, “One pencil will do the job if you are ready to buy.” He said, “Leave me a catalog and see me Saturday evening at home.” I went and the result was a new thresher. I stayed all night and his wife said, “You and Will can talk all night of your experiences with machinery and old steam engines. Now since he has bought he will neglect his Sunday School lesson for tomorrow.”
Men’s minds it seems of new inventions we can’t keep;
They crown the old out and pile them in a heap.