KECK GONNERMAN HISTORY


| March/April 1973



Arnold Pierson

A nice picture taken at the A. J. Smith Farm in Little Falls, Minnesota. Courtesy of Arnold Pierson, 416-3rd Street S. W., Little Falls, Minnesota 56345.

Arnold Pierson

Sr. R. R. 1, Box 10, Mt. Vernon, Indiana 47620.

Keck-Gonnerman Co., Mt. Vernon, Indiana, for three-quarters of a century was a dominant figure in American industry in the field of manufacture, sales and servicing of mobile steam engines and grain threshers marketed under the trade-mark 'Kay-Gee'.

Location of the firm from its inception until it was sold was in Mt. Vernon, but its sales extended over grain belts in both the United States and Canada. At the peak of its operation, it had the largest payroll in the Mt. Vernon area with more than 200 male employees. Moreover, 85 per cent of these employees were skilled workmen.

The firm had branches in St. Louis, Mo., Peoria, Ill., and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Threshers bearing the 'Kay-Gee' stamp of excellence were exported to Cuba to thresh rice. When grain combining developed, the Mt. Vernon firm manufactured thresher bodies that were converted by small manufacturers into soybean combines in Michigan and rice combines in California. In the early 1940s, Keck-Gonnerman distributed Allis-Chalmers farm implements and the Ann Arbor baler, the first successful self-tying baler, to dealerships in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky. In the same period, thousands of 'Kay-Gee' straw walkers and straw spreaders for operation with combines were built at the Mt. Vernon manufacturing plant.

The varied and efficient skills represented in the firm's employees produced sizable income for Keck-Gonnerman in the manufacture of mining machinery, begun in 1904. Before the installation of boat building and boat servicing facilities in large number along the Ohio River, inland water transportation firms found the Mt. Vernon industry capable of making parts for and repairing marine equipment and 'Kay-Gee' machine shops hummed with their contribution to the expanding traffic along Midwestern waterways. Keck-Gonnerman even devoted several years effort to make a tungnut picker or gatherer for tungnut plantations in the Southland.

But it was in the manufacture of mobile steam engines and threshers (called 'separators' by many users) that 'Kay-Gee' achieved its peak operation and continental reputation.