Farm Collector


Tacoma, Ohio

MANY PEOPLE THERE are today who deem the now obsolete and almost
forgotten steamers and threshers also its development, designers,
inventors and builders as just a remote institution and its history
only a romance of yesteryear and worthy of little

But we who have been identified these many years both operating
and selling these grand pieces of machinery and saw it rise to the
height of perfection and then go out of use seemingly overnight,
after years of toil and hardships encountered can revert back to a
wonderful past age or era of bygone days and a grand experience
during those years we served with steam power. Day after day we
listened to its timely bark and the hum of the machinery it powered
and the sound of the old chime whistle the smoke and steam, and see
the headlight by night. They were surely the days for us to
remember. Yet back of it all there is a very interesting history
which dates back for the major part of two centuries if we have the
authentic account. Were a young locksmith or mechanic, or a Bible
student after he read these words in Isaiah 31st Chapter, 15th
verse, ‘There shall be a new sharp threshing instrument made
having teeth’ now it is quoted in seemingly reliable history
that these words gave the inventor the thought of the cylinder. If
I am rightly informed the same design has been used in threshing
all down through the annals of time of the threshers as the most
correct principal of the threshers as the leading builders found
nothing to take its place. Some few who did, failed in finding
anything as a duplicate to be a success.

Down through the age of the thresher, horse power, and the
steamer, I believe it can be truthfully said that the development
and advancement was more of a compulsion than invention to care for
the expanding production of grain and the needs of the increasing
population. History handed down for nearly 200 years gives it that
the cylinder for threshing was not allowed owing to superstitious
ideas, and was discarded. I have a record that Gen. Washington,
1796, sent one of his farm superintendents to see the
‘device’ and constructed one driven by man power but was
torn up by his workmen. This same source of information gives that,
that a Mr. Cooper built one for Thos. Jefferson which met the same
fate, being torn up by workmen. A noted statesman of
Jefferson’s day, who saw the instrument, remarked, ‘The day
will come when this device will take the place of the flail and
with added conveniences will take the labor out of threshing and
stimulate more grain to be grown.’ The next move we learn, was
the early part of the 1800’s when two brothers, Hiram A. and
John A. Pitts devised a much Improved machine using a concave.
After building their first machine, the story runs, they were not
allowed to use it in one of the New England states, but found a
favorable location at Winthrop, Maine, where Hiram Pitts remained
building threshers until 1847 when he went to Alton, Illinois, then
to Chicago, where his factory built the Chicago Pitts. John A.
Pitts went to Albany, New York, then to Rochester later record
shows a contract was let to L. Spence & Son at Springfield,
Ohio, for the building of the Pitts patent threshers. After their
contract expired, J. A. Pitts went to Buffalo, New York, where he
built his famous works knows as the Buffalo Pitts, and his
machinery was used wherever grain grew. The honor of the invention
of the combine cleaner and separator is the invention of the Pitts
Bras. as confirmed by the 12th census. These captains of industry,
invention and development, together with rather great inventors and
builders of threshing machinery, along with Aultman, Russell,
Frick, Farquhar, Westinghouse, Gaar, Harrison, Robinson, Avery,
Rumley, Huber, Case, Nichols, Kelley, Cooper, and many more noted
designers and builders of old time machinery of earlier days gave
employment to many untold thousands in building the steam outfit
and many more hundreds operating the finished machinery during the
threshing season the year ’round in this and many foreign
countries. But today the forty or more plants devoted to building
threshing machinery have gone into oblivion and it is now a lost
art. These old time builders and designers and owners of the once
great plants, now vacant and their machinery now relegated to the
scrap heap, if living today, after years of toil and hardships,
only knew its fate, would surely feel an awe of despair and would
shed many tears over the remains of their great achievements. As
many of us old time operators of the steamer and thresher in its
day, in various ways do.

And if our tongues could only tell the thoughts of the many gone
on, if they were living. Had I now some of my four old steamers to
run them as of yore, would be a pleasure, and store them as relics
would be a wonderful treasure and a reminiscences of years gone

In closing was the prophet Isaiah’s prophesy traceable back
though the realm of the old thresher?

  • Published on May 1, 1957
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