NATIONAL PLOWING CONTESTS

623 Columbia Drive, Marietta, Georgia

I am submitting a bit of factual matter concerning the great
plowing contests. Incidentally, the caption for RobertE. Lee’s
little Russell and the wood train in the last edition should
properly have been accredited to his granddaughter, Mrs. Annie Lee
Day, who furnished the picture and a bit of story. I just sent in
the picture and found you a new subscriber, is all. And it was a
mighty fine job you did at reproducing the picture. Well, here goes
. . .

These contests do not appear to have received much attention
through the pages of our traction engine hobby magazines. Yet,
while they are held once each year in some selected part of the
United States, they do offer an excellent opportunity to combine
with a good steam threshing showoff, since very large crowds of
people from all over North America and some foreign countries
attend. Actually, these contests are more than simple plowing
events, for they reveal the results of studies by the U. S. Dept.
of Agriculture and many other agencies in an effort to combat soil
erosion and loss of fertility because of non-rotation of crops,
non-replenishment of various soil elements through rest, cover
crops, etc.

‘Plowtown, U.S.A.’ stems from its beginning in a
regional contest first held in 1939 by Herb Plambeck, farm service
director of radio station WHO in Des Moines, Iowa. The sequence was
interrupted by World War II but was resumed when it became linked
with national soil conservation conferences in 1946. The event is
now staged under the auspices of the National Association of Soil
Conservation Districts, representing 2900 conservation districts
throughout the United States, with headquarters in Washington, D.
C.

Each year, in advance of course, NASCD sets the rules and
selects the site for the coming event. This is done from the
standpoint of area improvement, agricultural potentiality, national
need, etc. The 1960 event was staged at the 540-acre farm of Mr.
Burton Ode, near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This section of the
country was near the upper stem of the ‘Dust Bowl’ of the
30’s and well do I remember the havoc wrought upon the
dried-out farm lands that were blown out into the middle of the
Atlantic Ocean each summer, while the grasshopper pestilence got
down to eating paint off houses and finally cannibalism after they
had stripped every green and grey thing in that part of the
country. The pestilence was so bad, with even trees suffering, that
many farmers were compelled to construct a crawling entrance into
but one door of their homes. These were made of gunny sacks over
steel arches and resembled the entrance of an eskimo igloo. When I
left those parts in 1933, after dust had drifted completely over
fences and farm buildings like big snow storms, I never expected to
see nor hear of a green thing growing again in what had once been
the bread basket of the United States, the Red River Valley.
However, through governmental aid dams were constructed, windbreak
trees were planted and watered, and a great program of soil
conservation study was put under way. The monument to the success
of this program stands in the great recovery made and the bumper
crops now again reported.

So the spectacular event has grown in size from that which
numbered only a few hundred in attendance at first, to the record
crowd of over 160,000 during the show-time of Sept. 21 to 23
inclusive. But it is indicated that over two years went into the
planning of this single event. After selection of the site,
sponsors were sought for the various phases of the works. One of
these was the farm radio broadcasting station WNAX at nearby
Yankton, which was assisted by the Sioux Palls Chamber of commerce
and the South Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts.
Many machinery firms spent approximately $250,000 setting up
exhibits worth over five million dollars. To be counted with these
was Republic Steel, which gave away 5 tons of farm-help brochures
and 16,000 wire splicers for a total of about $17,000; I-H utilized
20 men for nine days to set up tents and exhibits on over a dozen
lots in the 100-acre display, and before one of its grandstands
which had a seating capacity of 1800 it conducted five shows daily,
the finale of which consisted of eight baby crawlers doing a square
dance backed by a country music band. This part of the show was
narrated by Jim Hill, MC from WCCO in Minneapolis. Ford Motor also
spent approximately $15,000 on 12 out of 122 lots in the exhibits.
Each lot was 40 ft. by 100 ft. and rented for $180. In addition,
there were numerous smaller lots for little exhibits, and also 25
machine demonstration lots each 60 ft. by 500ft., which rented for
$360. A total of 82 exhibits was signed.

Massey-Ferguson of Ontario, Canada, spent about $20,000 which
included a show featuring Tex Ritter for entertainment. This
portion was planned eighteen months in advance. This firm also
bought many tons of corncobs from local farmers to afford a more
pleasant walkway over the rain-soaked ground. Yes, the rains hit
this event pretty hard, too. Deere & Company used five lots for
display, and exhibited their new line of four and six-cylinder
engines, a breakaway from the long run of twin-cylindered jobs
manufactured since the end of WW1, a long record indeed.
Incidentally, this new line was unveiled a few weeks prior in
Dallas, and Deere spent 2 million flying their 5000 dealers down to
that event. Allis-Chalmers found considerable farmer interest in
their new picker-sheller for corn, a rather expensive sort of
combine. This exhibit cost some $4,000, but did not apparently
include one of their new experimental electric tractors which
derives its energy from petroleum fuels without combustion. One of
the heaviest spenders was my old employer, J. I. Case, which spent
about $30,000 on the show; over $3,000 in signs and educational
displays alone. However, they were not exhibiting current lines of
the same type of machinery that I took for granted back in the last
days of Steam. They built their last steam engine, an Eighty as I
recall, four years after I left Racine to belatedly attend
University.

Whether it may be classed as entertainment or not, an added
attraction to the event this year was the attendance of both
Presidential aspirants, each of whom made an address before the
large crowds. Likely one of these persons will have been elected
ere you read this mention in The Album. While it may be remarked in
passing, the information as to how much they promised to the
farmers is not at hand so this is left to your surmise. The
Governor of the state also attended and rendered an oration.

But the import of the plowing event soars to new highs as the
winners of both level land and contour plowing contests will be
flown to France during 1961 by radio station WNAX in order that
they may enter international competition. Other problems involved
in this gigantic and gala event included: a million-dollar
liability insurance policy costing $1000 (beside the individual
exhibitor policies; obtaining a release from the railway company
for a crossing between parking fields; stepping up a county paving
job to take care of the anticipated traffic; special power and
telephone line extensions; a tanker water supply and personal
conveniences; legal contracts with the farm owner, etc. Champlin
Oil and Refining Company of Fort Worth supplied test fuels and
lubricants and also trash collectors made from oil drums. Glamor
even reared its pretty head in the contest for a ‘Queen of the
Furrow’ finalists of which competed during the Plowtown show.
The success of the entire event was quite evident as evinced in the
remark of one farmer to his young son, ‘Laddie, three days here
is worth six months at school.’

May these events grow to include more of our historic elements.
What a picture would three of the old IHC 45’s make with their
fifty bottoms, or what we would be most tickled to see, an old
Reeves or 110 Case with 14 bottoms, a set of harrows, seeder, and
packer, going right down the virgin prairie! Those great happenings
have all gone to the seed of romance.

TELL CITY STAGES UNIQUE WHISTLE BLOWING CONCERT

By L. J. MANN, Otterbein, Indiana

A unique ‘Concert’ of steam whistles from past
steam-boats, trains, industrial plants and other sources, was the
feature of the second annual Schweizer (native of Switzerland) Fest
held in Tell City, Indiana, Monday night, August 1st. Arranged by
Bert Fenn, vice-president of the Tell City Historical Society and
also vice-president of the Tell City Chair Co., the whistles were
blown on the roof of the Chair Company factory, whose boilers
supplied the steam.

Of special interest to visiting river-men were the steam-boat
whistles that had been loaned for the occasion. Prominent among
them was the whistle from the St. Louis and New Orleans Anchor Line
Steamer ‘Gold Dust? a large single-chime brass whistle, with a
bell 24 inches high by 7 inches in diameter. The Gold Dust is the
vessel on which Mark Twain made a trip from St. Louis to Vicksburg,
in 1882, commemorating his return to the river after an absence of
21 years and which he described in ‘Life on the
Mississippi’

These whistles were loaned by museums, libraries, and
collectors. You were to bring your tape recorder and make a record
of this event. Programs were given out so that you had a complete
description of where each whistle came from. The concert was at
5:00 p.m. and you did not have to be close to hear it!

Probably the biggest whistle was a wildcat whistle from the
Langstaff Planning Mill, Paducah, Kentucky, which had a bell 30
inches long and 9 inches in diameter. The plunger travels 20
inches.

There were several towboat whistles and eight whistles from
steam locomotives. Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Mann, Otterbein, Indiana,
were among the steam enthusiasts who journeyed to this event on the
Ohio River.

DARKE-COUNTY ASSOCIATION

The Darke-County Steam Thresher Association, Inc., held their
Annual Meeting and the following officers were re-elected.
Sylvester B. Ditmer, President; Charley E. Ditmer, VicePresident;
Mildred Ary, Secretary; Harold Ary, Treasurer. The following
directors are: Homer Holp, Asa Humston, Clark Davidson, Arthur
Heiland, Elmer Egbert, Hugh Hartzell and Roscoe Shiverdecker. It
was decided at this meeting to hold their 1961 Reunion, July 21, 22
& 23, on the Harvey Estey Farm, 1 miles east of Greenville,
Ohio, on State Route 71. For further information, contact Mr. S. B.
Ditmer, 318 Hart Avenue, Greenville, Ohio, or Mildred Ary, R.R.1,
Union City, Indiana.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment