FROM SOUTH AFRICA

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Here is a picture of an Advance Portable Engine on Abell Patent Boiler which I saw at the 1949 Minnesota State Fair.
2 / 4
Like Bob, my main interest is in steam traction engines, but I am also keen on all early agricultural implements, and propose to write to you about these, since steam is a bit forgotten here at present. However, some of us are starting a new South African
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Here is a picture of my Case Engine with George Williams onatthe throttle and Harry Rockman standing beside the engine.
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60 HP Reeves Simple, Canadian Special, No. 7904, High Wheeler.

548 Windermere Rd., Durban, Natal, South Africa

It is our pleasure and privilege to present here a letter from
South Africa. Not many ALBUMS get that far from home, but when they
do and then report to us we are very happy. And so we shall let Mr.
Hobson speak to you and hope he comes again.

I hope you don’t mind my addressing you in this familiar
way. I’ve read the Album for so many years that I just
can’t think of you as anything but Elmer. You may recall using
an article of mine on steam threshing in England in your Spring,
1949 issue. Since about 1948 I have taken the magazine by regular
subscription through my friend Bob Pratt of Ipswich, England. I
send Bob some money from time to time and he keeps sending each
issue until I send some more, and that’s how we go on. I have
every copy for the past 14 years. I look forward to it and read it
fully before filing it away. It is one of the very few magazines
which improves with time. My only grouse (beef) is, that it should
be twice as big and come out twice as often.

Looking through my back numbers, I find an interesting article
by Mr. J. F. Percival in September-October, 1955, on grain binders.
He refers to the scarcity of right-hand binders, which a later
correspondent said were mainly for the export trade. That may well
be so, but to my knowledge right-hand binders were equally scarce
in England. I only saw one and this was a Deering ‘Ideal’
on a farm in the West Country about 1937. The man driving over 70
and he said that in all his experience it was only right-handed
binder he had ever seen. Yet right-handed mowers were quite usual.
There does not seem to have been any special reason for this; it
seems to have been a sort of convention. I think Deering were later
taken over by McCormick, which would account for several references
to right-handed McCormick machines.

FROM SOUTH AFRICA

When I was a boy in England, from 1918 to about 1930, combines
were virtually unknown and nearly all grain was cut with
horse-drawn binders; there must have been thousands in use. Many
were American machines; in fact, the first binder I can remember
seeing at work was a ‘Walter A. Wood’ made, I think, at
Hoosick Falls, New York. It was very small, only about five feet
cut, and was drawn by two beautiful chestnut horses. Other makes
often seen were the McCormick or Internataional and the
Massey-Harris (Canadian). Deering binders were not often seen, but
there was plenty of their mowers, including a very handy little one
of only 3 feet cut, drawn by a single horse. Leading British
binders were the Harrison McGregor, or ‘Albion’, the
Hornsby, and the Wallace. They were heavier than the American
machines and were hard work for three horses on damp soil, though
they lasted a long time. Later some were motorized with a little
petrol engine driving the sickle, reel, canvases and knotter, so
that all the horses had to do was to pull the machine along. The
‘Adriance Platt’ binder was also used with no canvases, but
I was never lucky enough to see one. Their mowers were, at one
time, popular here in South Africa, but not in England. Leading
English mowers were the Albion, Bamford, Bamlett, Edlington and
Wallace. The Viking, a Swedish mower, was used both in England and
South Africa.

Early tractors were also mostly American. The first one I ever
saw was a Titan (International) working on a friend’s farm. To
begin with they were only used for ploughing. They were owned by
the British Government and leased out to farmers, driven by war
veterans who were unfit for Army service. A very few survived and I
believe have been preserved; I saw one driving a threshing machine
as late as 1931. Other American tractors, of which one saw isolated
examples, were the Overtime, the Mogul (another International
product), the Samson Sieve-Grip (very dangerous; one near us
overturned and killed the girl who was driving it), and the Wallis
Junior. The favorite tractor after 1918 was the Fordson; it was
partly assembled in England and more than any other make encouraged
the small farmer to go in for power cultivation, for it cost only
150 (about 750 dollars in those days) and it was very easy to
drive. I spent many happy hours on my school holidays driving one
for a neighboring farmer (who was glad to get off the thing!) and I
also drove an ‘International Junior’, of which you have
illustrated several, with a sloping hood like the old International
truck (which was also used in Britain) and the radiator behind the
engine. This was followed by the International ’10-20′ and
’15-30′ which by 1930 were in common use on larger
farms.

Three years ago I made a trip through the Cape Provience, about
400 miles from here, and met an old gentleman who showed me a photo
of a remarkable tractor he had owned in 1913. It was a huge
machine, with very high wheels and a big four-cylinder kerosene
engine. He said it was an ‘Emerson-Brantingham’, and the
unusual feature about it was, that it had an automatic steering
device. This consisted of a drum under the frame, with a long cable
which was hooked on to an anchor in the middle of the field. Once
started, the tractor went round the field steering itself, with no
driver on it. At first I thought it must travel in an
ever-decreasing spiral, but he said no; it went in a straight line
to the headlands and then steered itself for a quarter-circle, then
down the next side, and so on. When it reached the center it
automatically switched itself off! He said it was so noisy, you
could hear it working miles away, and if the engine stopped he just
mounted his horse, and galloped off to set it going again! Have you
or your readers heard of this one? It must have been a boon to the
hard-worked farmer.

Many of your correspondents seem interested in stationary oil
engines. So far, nobody seems to have mentioned the Amanco, made by
the Associated Manufacturers Co., of (I think) Milwaukee, Wis.
Their smallest model was a tiny engine called the ‘Chore
Boy’; then came the ‘Hired Help’ and ‘Hired
Man’, each with a picture of the person after whom the engine
was named, by way of a trade mark. There was also a small
motor-boat engine, assembled from Model T Ford parts and called the
‘Amanco du Brie’. Some friends of ours used a ‘Hired
Man’ for cutting up firewood. It had a peculiar exhaust beat,
because of its ‘hit-and-miss’ governor, and at the age of
five I tried to cure this by slipping round the back of the barn
and pushing a rag into the exhaust! I soon found out my mistake,
and escaped with seconds to spare! They never did find out just why
the engine suddenly stepped half-way through a log, and believe me,
it was quite a long time before I remembered to tell them!

The larger Amanco range started with the ‘two-mule team’
and so on up to the ‘Seven-Mule-Team’ which was a massive
affair with two huge flywheels I remember a
‘Five-Mule-Team’ used for driving a bread-mixing machine in
a country bakery. It was a brute to start, but once going, it would
run for 24 hours with no attention whatever, and often did. Then
the problem was to stop it! This was usually done by pushing a
heavy piece of lumber under one of the flywheels, and blowing out
the subsequent flames from the friction! Another good American farm
engine was the Fairbanks Morse, with low-tension ignition.

Of course, my greatest pleasure was the steam traction engines
and wagons and I never missed a chance of climbing on the footplate
and going for a ride. These were nearly all British, American
engines not being used in Britian. Aveling, Allchin, Burrell, Brown
& May, Davey-Paxman, Foden, Foster, Fowler, Garrett, McLaren,
Mann, Marshall, Clayton & Shuttle-worth, Ransomes, Robey,
Ruston, Tasker and Wallis were the leading makers.

Well, I’ve talked enough about early days, but I felt I had
to write to you both and wish you everything for a very happy New
Year. Tell Earlene that I can sympathise with a lot of her problems
because I, too, am a school teacher. I have thirty or so of the
little dears waiting to greet me in a few weeks’ time! I have
also been taking Modern History with a group of senior students and
this is very interesting because we have been doing American
history from George Washington onwards. At present, of course,
everyone decent is horrified at the cruel death of your President.
I think few Americans can realize how much he and Mrs. Kennedy were
admired and respected in other countries. Only a few weeks ago I
was telling my students of the deaths of Lincoln, Garfield and
McKinley, and said ‘let’s hope that ends the list’,
little anticipating the tragic outcome.

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