6701 Tenth Avenue South Minneapolis, Minnesota
We are happy to present here the first article on the history of
American makes of engines and threshers. Mr. Hans J. Andersen of
6701 10th Ave., So., Minneapolis, Minn., is the author.
Many of you have requested such articles and we know you will
greatly enjoy them. Mr. Andersen says that most of the pictures
that appear with the article are from the collection of E. R.
Potter of Canada.
Walking west from Detroit in search of a new location to
practice his trade as blacksmith and millwright, John Nichols found
Battle Creek to his liking. Setting up shop, he sent back for his
family and settled down to what he thought would be a comfortable
This was not to be, for the following year, 1849, the gold rush
fever struck the country and the westward dash was begun. The wagon
trains which undertook the hazardous journey required the presence
of skilled blacksmiths and wheelwrights to keep their rolling stock
in condition for the trip. For this purpose Nichols was persuaded
to accompany a local party. The lust for gold was not for him so he
fulfilled his agreement and returned to his shop at Battle
The earnings from his trip enabled him to increase his shop
facilities, which brought his customers from far around. Many of
them were farmers come to have their crude implements repaired or
new ones made to replace those worn out.
The business resulting from his larger shop and knowledge gained
by contact with farmers and their mechanical problems gave John
Nichols reason to believe a small foundry would prove profitable.
In the early fifties, with the aid of David Shepard to share the
additional financial and business duties, a small foundry was
added. Some of their early products were agricultural implements,
mill irons, and small stationary steam engines.
Their business prospered and the number of employees grew, so
when Edwin C, son of John Nichols, was old enough he took his place
in the shop to learn the trade and later become a partner.
During the late fifties there was a growing demand for threshing
machinery which drew the interest of the partners. An investigation
of the field disclosed that a new type of threshing machine, known
as the vibrating type, was rapidly gaining favor over the then
tried and true apron machine.
After a survey of the situation, Nichols and Shepard developed a
vibrating type threshing machine based on Stuarts lifting finger
patent and the first was built in 1858.
Their early efforts were not very successful, but proved
educational, for in 1862 Nichols & Shepard patented a
counterbalanced straw rack and grain pan device which proved
successful and made their machines popular.
During 1865, Henry H. Taylor, a general agent for C . Aultman
& Co., at Chicago, was selling their apron threshing machines
at such a rate the factory could not keep him supplied. He did
notice the trend toward the vibrating type machine, which led him
to the young firm of Nichols & Shepard. In fact his interest
was so great he bought a third share in the firm.
Taylor’s investment in the firm helped them to enlarge their
facilities in an effort to supply the demand for these new
vibrating threshing machines. But it seemed that the more they
built the more were wanted.