1961 Westside Drive, Rochester, New York 14624
The picture of the potato digger shown in the November-December 1975 issue of I.M.A. stirred almost forgotten memories within me. Memories of picking up big, bright potatoes on beautiful fall days when I was a boy. My father, P.M. Abberit and my uncle, M.H. Chase both resided near Hamilton, New York and they purchased such a digger together about 1910. They used it as long as they were able to work and now that they are both gone, I have no idea what happened to the digger.
The construction of the digger was simple and rugged to my knowledge. No repairs were ever needed. It sure was a great help as compared with digging potatoes out with a spading fork. Whereas the job of picking them up remained an arduous one, the small plots of potatoes grown in that area (say one acre average) did not justify a more sophisticated machine.
The digger did have some minor shortcomings, however. Whereas most of the dirt, potatoes and stones left the spokes of the revolving wheel at the side, some would be carried around to the back. There was a continued 'rain' or dirt on the lower portion of the operator's pants and an occasional stone would hit one's shins with painful results. To overcome these troubles, my father attached a cross piece at the midpoint of the handles and from that he hung a piece of burlap. The innovation worked 100%.
The handles had to be raised quite high for the shovel to clear the ground when turning and having to lift all parts to the rear of the axle made quite a load. When letting the shovel down, this same load had to be held up with one hand so the other could be used to disengage the hold-up lock.
The speed of pulling was moderately important. There was some tendency to leave potatoes buried right next to the shovel path and their tendency was accentuated at slow speeds. My uncle would drag the field after picking up the potatoes and the spring-toothed harrow would uncover a few more. Salesmen for the conveyor type . digger claimed the box bruised the potatoes. At home we kept the horses going at a moderate walking pace and had no trouble with bruises.