M. M. BAKER LOOKS BACK AT 80


| November/December 1952



Colean Engine

THE COLEAN ENGINE

F. Hal Higgins

'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.