The Heritage of a Farm Machinery Company

A twisted road of earlier farm machinery companies leads to the Northwest Thresher Mfg. Co.

| September 2005

  • StillwaterTractionEngine.jpg
    An overhead view shows the Stillwater Traction Engine. Figures 2 and 3 show the application of power to the traction wheels by the traction clutch and the reverse clutch, respectively.
  • MinnesotaThresherMfgCo.jpg
    Minnesota Thresher Mfg. Co. had as one of its mainstay products the North West thresher, shown ready for a day’s work, probably somewhere in North Dakota, circa 1910. (Photo from the Richard Birklid Collection.)
  • StillwaterTractionEngine_1.jpg
    One of Minnesota Thresher Mfg. Co.’s earliest products was this Stillwater traction engine. Note the large flywheel on the other side of this No. 10 engine. The plate under the cylinder says, “Pat. March 29, 1881.”
  • 20HPNewGiant.jpg
    Minnesota Thresher Mfg. Co. made steam traction engines under at least three names, including Giant, New Giant and Northwest. This is a 20 HP New Giant. The X-shaped lugs on the rear wheel indicate it is a 1904 or older, as different lugs were added in 1905. (Photo from the Richard Birklid Collection.)
  • NorthWestthreshers.jpg
    Early in its history, Minnesota Thresher Mfg. Co. made North West threshers, which were their mainstay products.
  • Stillwaterboiler.jpg
    This view of the Stillwater boiler shows how narrow the machine was. It was made to burn wood and coal, and had a large direct flue and a small return flue to give it more heating area than a direct flue of larger surface.
  • NewGianttractionengine.jpg
    The New Giant traction engine (erroneously called “Minnesota Giant” in this cut) was the follow-up to Minnesota Thresher Mfg. Co.’s earlier Stillwater traction engine. The engines were stubby and compact.

  • StillwaterTractionEngine.jpg
  • MinnesotaThresherMfgCo.jpg
  • StillwaterTractionEngine_1.jpg
  • 20HPNewGiant.jpg
  • NorthWestthreshers.jpg
  • Stillwaterboiler.jpg
  • NewGianttractionengine.jpg

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series on the Northwest Thresher Co.

Like many successful farm machinery companies, Northwest Thresher Co. of Stillwater, Minn., enjoyed the fruits of work done by earlier sister companies. Unlike many others, the company endured an early, unsuccessful corporation filled with lawsuits, accusations and court cases that went as high as the Minnesota Supreme Court.

SEYMOUR, SABIN & CO.

The first mention of Seymour, Sabin & Co. was in an 1872 Minnesota "Report of the Committee," discussing state contracts from 1866 for the company's use of prison labor for workdays of 6:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Company representatives included U.S. Senator Dwight M. Sabin, his brother Jay and Geo. M. Seymour. By 1872, the company employed 185 convicts at $.40 a day, each.

A Nov. 1, 1879, article, in Independent Farmer and Fireside Companion describes Seymour and Sabin's Minnesota Chief, saying that the farmer's profits depended on getting every kernel of grain. "A thresher must be built that would do all this. But it takes capital to build such machines; capital composed of brains and energy as well as money to carry out and manufacture what invention produced; and this is why the "Minnesota Chief" became a success as a specialty of Seymour, Sabin & Co."



The "manufactory" is described in fascinating detail: "Here are horse thieves, petty thieves, forgers, defaulters and murderers, some of whom were once lawyers, doctors, merchants, farmers and mechanics, all filing, fitting, cutting and hammering at the various parts that go to make up the perfect machine. As you go through one room, blue-eyed Bob Younger looks up from his work, and Cole gives you a look like a startled wolf, while Jim hangs his head sullenly. They are busily engaged making belts, rakes and riddles, doing excellent work."

Excepting its connection to the companies that followed, little else is known about Seymour, Sabin & Co.