Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania 17022.
Harry E. Bechtold of Columbia, R. 2, Pennsylvania often drove past Harvey Hoffman's place in Rheems and admired the steam engine there, little dreaming that one day he would own it.
Iron-Men readers may remember a recent article about old-time thresherman Hoffman and his steam engine. Harvey died recently and on Saturday, July 31, his estate was auctioned off.
The prize item at the sale, of course, was the 1920 steam engine, a 16', 14-ton Frick 'Eclipse.'
Bechtold says he isn't too good at estimating crowds, but wouldn't be surprised if there were nearly 1,000 people at the auction.
Hoffman's engine was rather well known throughout the area, which may help to explain the size of the crowd. Several steam engine collectors began bidding. As the bids jumped up in steps of $5,000 the competitors soon dwindled down to two, Bechtold and Titus Brubaker of Rohrerstown. At $14,200 Brubaker called it quits and the engine was Bechtold's for $14,300.
He plans to exhibit the machine at local events. Before the new owner even took it home, Hoffman's sons ran it over to Kinzers for the annual Rough and Tumble show. Bechtold, incidentally, says he hasn't missed a Kinzers event since the 1950s.
Original cost of the engine when Hoffman bought it new in 1921 was $3,800. Hoffman traded two engines in, and paid $1,800 in cash to make the purchase.
Bechtold has a 10 acre farm and plans to use the engine for threshing and baling. In addition to the farm he has a section of woodland and may hook the 'Eclipse' up to his sawmill every now and then.
Bechtold has four other engines which he acquired in the '50s-two Fricks and two Peerlesses. These are in rough shape and he won't exhibit them in this condition.
Bechtold has another hobby. He catches rattlesnakes.
Years ago he developed an interest in photography and wanted especially to photograph rattlers. He went along on hunts and 'caught the bug.' He claims to have bagged 5 rattlesnakes in 18.2 seconds.
Bechtold and a partner won the state rattlesnake huntin championship in 1974 and 75 at Sinnemahong in Cameron County. Bechtold held the bag so agrees that he can be called the state champion rattlesnake sacker.
He has a business of his own, manufacturing wooden skids and industrial pallets. He is never at a loss for something to do what with his business, his steam engines, rattlesnake hunting, farming and clearing off his woodland. In addition he has a wife and a family of six children, ranging in age from 28 to 11.
Some other prices at the Hoffman auction may be of interest. A Dutch cupboard went for $1,700, a rolltop desk for $375, a blanket chest for $110 and a baling machine for $310.
Readers may recall an article about Hoffman's friend, John Kauffman, model builder and painter. A threshing machine scene by Kauffman which hung on Harvey Hoffman's living room wall went at the auction for $500.
Bechtold knew both Kauffman and Hoffman. Harvey would be glad to know that his engine is in good hands.