Any collector interested in machines made for farm use in Canada should obtain a copy of a history titled 'Ontario's Threshing Machine Industry.'
The paperback publication has 30 pages and many pictures, along with a very authoritative account of machines made in Ontario. It was written by Harold S. Turner, of Golderich, and Ross W. Irwin, of the School of Engineering, Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph.
We found a copy when we visited the Ontario Agricultural Museum at Milton. It sells at $1.50 each; add 75 cents to cover handling and mailing.
At least 27 makers are listed, with information on each. The manufacturers include many colorful figures, inventive and energetic, who started or organized companies to ease the job of farmers.
One of the most outstanding was John Abell, born in England in 1822 and living in Woodbridge, Ont., by 1845. Abell built for his own use the first steam engine in the district. He developed a threshing machine, the Paragon; did very well, and proceeded undaunted when fire burned his factory totally in 1874.
He built portable steam engines, of the locomotive boiler type, with an extra long smokestack with a screen on top. The book relates:
'About this time manufacturers of upright boiler portable engines equipped with water spark arresters were openly advertising the number and names of barns burned by old fashioned, fire throwing, boiler exploding, horizontal type threshing machines with screen spark arresters. In the face of this barrage it is not surprising to find John Abell mounting his engine horizontally in front of an upright boiler for several years in the 1870's.'
He won an official test and renamed his horizontal engine the Triumph. A superb showman, he exhibited in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere and won a lot of prizes, which he told about in his ads.
Here's more about him:
'John Abell stole the show at Toronto in 1881 with his exhibit of the first cross compound threshing engine ever built in Canada. This engine had one side crank and one center crank set at right angles and Abell claimed a three horsepower increase over the corresponding 12 HP single cylinder engine together with a 30% saving in fuel and predicted the compound would soon be the leading engine in the field.'
He patented his first straw burning boiler two years later. In 1886, he built his first traction engine by adding steel rear drive wheels and steering controls to the Triumph, his standard portable.
Another interesting person was Robert Bell, a native of Ontario who as a boy built a miniature sawmill on his father's farm. He built his first portable steam engine for the 1899 threshing season.
He came up with 'The Imperial Line of Threshing Machinery' in the early 1900s. The last new 'Bell' steam traction engine was built in 1928 for William Short reed, of Walton, Ont.
The first threshing machine ever constructed in Canada was the product of John Fisher, who came to Hamilton from New York State in 1835.
Relatives joined Fisher in his enterprise and expanded it after his death under the name of L. D. Sawyer & Co. Later, with Massey family members buying 40 per cent interest, the name became Sawyer-Massey Co., Ltd. and this company developed into one of Canada's largest threshing machine industries.
Many other names figure in the company sketches, such as John Good is on, New Hamburg, John Watson and Lobsinger Bros., to name a few.
Technical information on engines abounds, along with details on growth and changes in the companies. The book is illustrated.
If you write to the museum to order a copy, use this address: Ontario Agricultural Museum, Box Box 38, Milton, Ontario, Canada L9T 2Y3.