Steam Show and Threshing Bee


| March/April 1972



Smith Steam Engine

Mary Jane Reckinger Smith Steam Engine, Illinois Thresher Co. Sycamore, Illinois, 1917

F. D. Schrauth

We thank Fox Tales of Industrial Supply Company of North Aurora, Illinois for permission to reprint the following article by Peg Tyndal Jackson. And we thank F. D. Schrauth of 112 S. 5th St., St. Charles, Illinois 60174 for sending us same.

Typical of the steam shows held from April to October all over the country was, the one held this August for the 15th year on the Taylor Marshall Farm just north of Sycamore. Gigantic steam engines, many of them built around 1917, put on demonstrations of threshing and sawing wood as they did it 'back then'.

On display also were gas tractors, separators, and a great many other items of antique farm equipment. There was even a balloon ascension, with a pretty girl going up, up and away; and a parade through the grounds of all the whistling, snorting, puffing machines. Two teams of enormous oxen, each beast weighing 2600 lbs. plodded their way along, pulling a swamp buggy. As in the 'good old days' threshers' dinners were served by the ladies of the Charter Grove Grange.

This nostalgic event was attended by around 12,000 people over a period of four days, and it not only brought back memories to the Old Timers, but kindled interest among the younger people who came in droves.

'There's something about steam,' says John Malsch, President of the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club, the organization that puts on this show. 'Steam only lasted about 40 years,' Mr. Malsch went on, 'but it was good, efficient power. . . and once the steam was up, those old engines didn't let you down.'

The boss of each threshing job was the engine operator. Sometimes it was an outsider who contracted to thresh the grain. Or it could have been one of a 'ring' whose members got together and purchased the steam engine, as it was with Newton Gould of Elburn, an exhibitor at this show.