M. M. BAKER LOOKS BACK AT 80

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THE COLEAN ENGINE
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35-70 Minneapolis Gas tractor in Oct., 1951, owned by H. L. Johnson, Box 323, Hettinger, North Dakota.
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‘Peoria, because of its location and its railroad and river
facilities became one of the most important manufacturing and
distributing centers of farm machinery in the country. Avery
Company had built up a tremendous business in the manufacture of
engines and threshing machines. The Kingman Plow Co., the Acme
Harvester Co., the Herschel Manufacturing Co., the Ide Bicycle
Works, the Bartholemew Co., the Banker Buggy Co., Hart Grain
Weigher Co., were all located here and busy at the turn of the
century. There was a number of very substantial jobbers and many
branch houses, representing the best lines of farm machinery,
located here and every available office and showroom space along
Water Street from one end to the other, was occupied by the
manufacturers of steam traction engines, threshing machines and
similar equipment.

‘With the exception of Herschel, all of these concerns are
now out of existence. Among the first to fold was The Colean Co. In
1908 their financial difficulties became known to those in close
touch with their operations and because of my former association
with Mr. Colean, I was interested in what then seemed to be a
forerunner of their collapse. In a relatively short time a
Creditors Committee was appointed, of which Mr. Walter Barker,
President of The Commercial German Bank, was selected as
Chairman.

Here is one of the lines with which M. M. Baker was connected
when both William Colean and M. M. Baker were in the Autlman Co.,
Colean being manager of the Peoria branch while Baker was assistant
at the Chicago office. With the failure of Colean, Mr. Baker
engineered the deal that brought Holt to Peoria instead of
Minneapolis or Waterloo by offering them the fine Colean plant into
which they moved in 1909. It was the big turning point in the Baker
career that led to fame and fortune as road building and World War
I lefted the crawler tractor to great heights under his management.
From the collection of F. Hal Higgins

Mr. Barker had been helpful to me in the past both in my
warehouse and farm machinery business, and it was through him that
I commenced negotiations for tine purchase of the Colean plant in
case it was to be sold. The final purchase was completed the
following year through the payment of the principal and accrued
interest on the mortgage bonds then outstanding.

‘My first contact with The Holt Manufacturing Company was in
March, 1909, when I had written to them concerning a dealership
contract for their combined harvesters in our Illinois territory. I
was informed that because of our climatic conditions the harvesting
of grain in this fashion could not be recommended.

‘After the failure of The Aultman Co., and the completion of
my business relations with them, I entered into a dealership
contract with Buffalo Pitts Company covering their full line of
steam traction engines, threshers, road machinery and allied
equipment. Buffalo Pits Co., had interests on the West Coast. In
conversation with Mr. John Olmsted, Secretary of the company, he
told me that he was soon leaving for San Francisco on business. He
had known the Colean Company as a competitor whose product was
almost a copy of their line and also that I was at that time
negotiating for the purchase of their defunct plant.

‘The establishment of an eastern plant was of necessity one
of the new Holt organization’s first considerations and when
Mr. Olmsted informed Parker Holt of the possible availability of
the Colean plant he passed the information on to Pliny Holt. Mr.
Holt then was interested in a proposal of the Chamber of Commerce
of Stillwater, Minn., concerning a plant there. Mr. Holt arrived in
Peoria Sunday noon, July 25, 1909. He and I went over the Colean
plant and he appeared favorably impressed. With the cooperation of
a group of local business friends, I formed a committee and we
proceeded to bring the matter to an early conclusion.

‘In the meantime my own business was running smoothly and
with a dependable organization, I found it possible to spend
considerable time in the completion of the necessary details in
connection with the purchase of the Colean plant and the formation
of an operating organization. We proceeded to incorporate a new
company. After much discussion as to a name and the urge that I
become an active partner, it was finally agreed to be Holt
Caterpillar Tractor Co., entirely separate and independent of the
Holt Mfg. Co., of California. The sample Caterpillar assembled in
Minneapolis and was shipped to Peoria where it created much
interest among the old fashioned steam traction advocates. Pliny
Holt shipped his personal effects to Peoria. J. B. Hatten, a very
able shop man, together with Emil Norelius, both young engineers,
followed and were given office and shop facilities at my place
pending occupancy of the farmer Colean plant.

‘Pliny Holt was to supply one-half the capital and I was to
supply the balance. It, however, developed that Holts money was not
forthcoming. Parker Holt, manager of the California Holt Company,
then decided to come to Peoria, to look the proposition over and
insisted the Peoria organization be made an Eastern branch of the
California Co. Benjamin Holt, president of his company, then came
out and the matter was settled accordingly. I was not interested in
the Holts family affairs and made up my mind to attend to my own
business. However, I did spend much time with the new company in
East Peoria and supplied materials and cash for current needs
during the formation period.

Mr. Robert L. John of North Terre Haute, Ind., says that to the
best of his remembrance this is a 23 hp. Kitten engine pulling a
36-60 Kitten Thresher. Bob says this is the easiest running
separator he has ever seen. It is also a very good picture of the
full rig

‘The directors of the parent organization became
increasingly insistent that I take over the management of the new
company. I therefore proceeded to liquidate my other business
affairs and became Executive Vice President of the Peoria project.
I was to have the privilege of purchasing sufficient common stock
of the Holt Mfg. Co., to equal the interest of others except
Benjamin Holt, and entered into an employment contract and purchase
agreement for common stock accordingly. There was no bonus stock,
cash bonus or other consideration even contemplated in the
procurement of the Colean plant and equipment by me, as some had
assumed. The common stock I purchased at that time still hold,
which, I feel, is an expression of my everlasting faith in the
company and its products.’

Farm Collector Magazine
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