Steam Traction: The Aultman & Taylor Company

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Dr. Bixler, a professor at Muskingum College in New
Concord, Ohio, passed away before he could publish the manuscript
to which he had devoted considerable energy. Several manuscripts
belonging to Dr. Bixler are in the Sherman Room of the
Mansfield/Richland County Public Library in Mansfield, Ohio.

Advertising was one of the most important elements in the
marketing of Aultman & Taylor machinery. The officials of the
company were imaginative and aggressive in devising new methods by
which the public and particularly farmers and threshermen were made
aware of the company’s products. The United States mail was the
chief avenue for the distribution of advertising materials. Much of
the firm’s promotional literature was handed out at the fairs
and expositions where Aultman & Taylor machinery was exhibited.
Along with advertising, the company developed a program of public
relations designed to build good will, and nothing was left undone
to achieve that end. In addition, it will be of interest to
describe several of the firm’s more dramatic means of
advertising; one of these was referred to as the ‘Royal

The Royal Train

One of the gimmicks used by a number of companies to call
attention to their machinery was a special train loaded with
equipment. It is not altogether clear as to which company began the
use of such trains, but J.I. Case and Avery were among the
foremost.1 Nevertheless, the Aultman & Taylor people laid claim
to being the originators of the special train, for it was in 1874
that they shipped 76 threshers to Kansas. They were also the first
company to ship a trainload of machinery to a foreign country.
During 1891 they shipped a train filled with equipment to Mexico, a
distance of 3,200 miles.

The special trains had many of the earmarks of a circus and were
a unique and dramatic means of making products known to farmers and

Perhaps it is within the realm of possibility to join the crowd
of people along the railroad tracks in Mansfield and to enter
vicariously into the experience of a day when a train of 30 cars
loaded with Aultman & Taylor machinery pulled out of the yards.
Even to this day there are a few of those living who in a nostalgic
mood recall the experience of seeing that train and sensing the
high emotion that prevailed among the thousands of people who
witnessed it on that May morning of 1892. It was the kind of
experience that was never forgotten.

On Sunday, May 8, several thousand people visited the Union
Depot in Mansfield to inspect the Aultman & Taylor Machinery
Company’s train of machinery that was destined for the far
West. For many days workmen had been busy loading the equipment on
the cars. The train extended back to the Fourth Street crossing in
Mansfield, from which point the train began its long journey.

This special train left the company yard at 8 o’clock on
Monday morning, May 9, loaded with threshing machines, horsepowers,
engines, water tanks, swinging stackers, etc., bound for Omaha,
Neb. Shipments of this kind were no longer a novelty, but there was
one departure in the case of this train. An engine and separator
were belted up and in full operation in charge of James Boles, a
machine expert. The equipment was valued at $90,000. The train was
decorated with bunting and flags.

A special car was attached to the end of the train that carried
Chester Miller, the freight agent of the Pennsylvania Railroad
Company, and D.H. Maloney, the general freight agent for the
Chicago and Rock Island Railroad. In addition to these gentlemen
the following representatives of the firm accompanied the train as
far as Crestline: J.E. Brown, president, James Reynolds, Arnold
Kalmerten, W.A. Habeson, J.F. Stine, William Ackerman and George
Knofflock, all of whom were influential members of the

The special coach that carried the above party was also loaded
down with circulars that were distributed at the various stations
as the train made its way to the West. When a representative of one
of the local newspapers boarded the train, he was treated to fine
cigars and accorded every courtesy in keeping with the event.

The cheers of the crowds of spectators along the track were
almost continuous from Fourth Street to the waterworks

The train was on the road five days before it reached Omaha. It
moved slowly for the purpose of giving the people along the route
an opportunity to view the sight of this unusual train. It was
taken to Chicago over the Pennsylvania Railroad, leaving each of
the stations on the way: Crestline, 9:15 a.m.; Bucyrus, 10:50 a.m.;
Upper Sandusky, 11:50 a.m.; Forest, 12:40 p.m.; and Lima, 2:15 p.m.
It arrived at Fort Wayne at 6:00 p.m. It left Fort Wayne the next
morning and then left Englewood via the C.R.I. and P. railroads.
The train made brief stops in the towns of Illinois and remained at
Rock Island during the night. It reached Des Moines, Iowa, on
Thursday evening and left the next morning, arriving at Council
Bluffs, Iowa, on Friday evening. On Saturday morning the train was
taken across the Missouri River and delivered at the company’s
branch house in Omaha.

The Dialogue

In 1880 the company published a unique pamphlet that contained a
dialogue proclaiming the unquestionable merits of Aultman &
Taylor machinery. On the front cover was a picture of the
firm’s trademark.

The introduction in the pamphlet stated that the dialogue and
the accompanying letter had been prepared for farmers and
threshermen in America, as well as in foreign countries where
Aultman & Taylor machinery was used, and wherever grain was
grown. The pamphlet was distributed free of charge to ‘every
intelligent man and woman who feels an interest in the proper
threshing of grain.’ It stated that threshing machinery was
‘a natural ally of the fair sex’ and was an active champion
of ‘the rights of farmers’ wives and daughters.’ The
letter was a compilation of testimonial letters received from their

The dialogue was used at school exhibitions and by literary
societies. The one-room rural school made many contributions to the
education of past generations and was one of the most popular of
all institutions of the 19th Century. Recognizing the potential of
the schoolhouse for advertising the company’s products, the
firm seized upon the opportunity to use its social and educational
functions to promulgate information about Aultman & Taylor
machinery. To encourage the use of the dialogue, the company sent a
certificate to be given to each person who was a participant in the
play. The certificate was engraved and signed by the trustees or
directors of the school district.


The dialogue is valuable for another reason. More than any other
document in existence, it gives the most complete explanation of
the Aultman & Taylor separator and clover huller attachment
built during the 1880s.

The dialogue was an effective vehicle for dramatizing the
advantages and disseminating the merits of Aultman & Taylor
machinery. It may have been overdone, but it was couched in the
kind of language that the ordinary farmer could understand, and
there was enough humor to hold the attention of the audience. At
the same time the points that the company wished to emphasize were
a part of the content, so that the listener was caught up in the
ongoing theme of the dialogue. Listeners became gradually convinced
that no other machinery in the world could possibly do the kind of
work that was claimed for the ‘Starved Rooster’

The following excerpts are presented with the hope that they may
indicate the nature of the subject matter, the style, and the
method of staging the dialogue.

The characters in the dialogue were five boys and two girls: Mr.
Robinson, a farmer living in St. Joseph County, Ind.; Bill Simmons,
the miller, proprietor of the Empire Mills; Mr. Jones, a farmer
living in Elkhart County, Ind.; Mrs. Robinson, wife of Farmer
Robinson; Mrs. Jones, wife of Farmer Jones; and boys and girls.
Costumes were of that period.

Jones ‘See here, you, Mr. Miller, I’ve a crow to pick
with you. How does it come that you pay my friend, Mr. Robinson,
five cents more for the same kind of wheat than you pay me? You
said my wheat was good, and I know it is the same kind of wheat
that Robinson sold you. It doesn’t seem like a fair shake. I
haul my wheat 30 miles, and Robinson hauls his five miles, and you
pay him more for the same kind. Do you think that is just?’

The Miller ‘No oh no, that would not be right if the grain
was in every particular the same; I have put your wheat and Mr.
Robinson’s in separate bins, as they do not grade alike at all,
and now I will bring a sample of each, and I think I can show you
to your entire satisfaction that there is fully five cents a bushel
difference in the market value of the two in favor of your friend,
Mr. Robinson’s wheat (brings samples of wheat). This sample of
wheat I bought of Mr. Robinson this morning; you cannot but notice
how entirely free it is from broken and cracked grains, cheat,
dirt, etc. This sample is from the wheat I bought from you, which,
in the straw, was quite as good or better than Mr. Robinson’s,
but you see there is a large percentage of cracked and broken
grains, cheat, cockle, broken straw and dirt in it. And now let me
explain to you that the price of wheat is governed in large measure
not only by the kind and quality of the grain but very much by the
condition in which it comes to the market.’

Robinson ‘Hold on, my friend, you are wrong about my having
run my wheat through a fanning mill; you see it now just as it came
from the threshing machine.’

Jones ‘Now see here, Robinson, you don’t pretend to tell
me that there is a thresher in all Christendom that will thresh
wheat and clean it like that?’

The Miller – ‘Just a word, Mr. Jones, right here; there is a
vast difference in threshing machines now-a-days; there has been
wonderful improvements made in threshing machines in the last eight
or 10 years; we are always willing to pay from three to five cents
per bushel more for grain threshed by what is known as the
‘standard thresher of the vibrator class,’ what is better
known among farmers (on account of the peculiar trademark) where it
is in use as the ‘Starved Rooster’ thresher, manufactured
by ‘The Aultman & Taylor Company’ at Mansfield, Ohio,
than for wheat threshed by the endless apron make of threshers, or
in fact any other make that we know of.’

Robinson ‘Yes sir, Jones, I know what the miller has said to
be true, and I do pretend to say that there is a threshing machine
called the ‘Starved Rooster’ that will not only thresh and
clean your wheat just as you see mine has been threshed and
cleaned, but that will do some other things no other machine will
or can do. If you will sit down with me on this pile of bags, I
will tell you what else it will do no other machine that I have
ever seen, heard of, or expect to see or hear of, can do; that is,
she will thresh all kinds of grain and seed, in any condition, in
all kinds of weather, wet or dry, hot or cold, and I will prove it
by my own experience before I am through talking to you about it;
and now, Jones, just as you see this load of wheat I brought up
this morning, she will do her work every time; besides, in 10 years
she will save a man a little fortune.’

Jones ‘Look here, Robinson, I am getting interested; I see
why I have lost five cents on the bushel this morning, but what in
thunder do you mean by saving a man a fortune in 10 years? This –
what d’ye call it?’

Robinson -”Starved Rooster,’ standard thresher of
the vibrator class.’ Jones ‘Yes! yes! Starved Rooster
business, that’s it.’

Robinson ‘You see there is five cents a bushel you have lost
this morning, on account of imperfect separation and cleaning; now
add to this fact that the ‘Aultman & Taylor’ machine
will save more grain than the endless apron does, to pay your
threshing bills and other expenses connected with the threshing,
and the further fact that the Aultman & Taylor will do your
work in half the time, and that you have a lot of hands and horses
around you for a week, to eat you out of house and home, working
your women to death, roasting their brains over the cook stove, and
putting them in such bad humor that it takes a whole week for them
to get over it. Now after taking all these things into
consideration, you will begin to have some idea of what it costs
you each year to have your grain threshed by the endless apron and
other grain-wasting, time-losing machines.’

Jones ‘You talk about getting a job done up so quick, I
don’t see into it; it sorter puzzles me how that they do the
work and faster than any other machine.’ Robinson ‘Well,
you see, Jones, it’s altogether different from your endless
apron rattle traps; it has no beaters, pickers or raddles to wrap,
clog, or wind up with straw. I have seen threshermen spend hours
unwrapping old beaters and pickers; besides, endless apron
threshers are more subject to breakdown than a man with ague. They
shake all to thunder in a few years. I have no patience with a man
that will buy such a machine. I hardly know which is the biggest
fool, the man that buys or the man that employs them.’

Jones ‘Robinson, how are you going to shake the grain out of
the straw, if you dispense with beaters and pickers? How does your
‘Starved Rooster’ machine manage it?’


Robinson ‘Well, as I told you, it is differently built from
all other machines used for threshing; separation commences at the
cylinder, and it has the whole length of the machine to separate
over; it has seven sets of rakes or fingers, which bounce up and
down like a ‘hen on a hot griddle’, and knock the stuffing
right out of the straw, and you get all your grain in the half
bushel and bags, instead of having part of it carried into the
straw stack; besides, the riddles are as big as a town lot, and
they use the over blast instead of the under blast. These are a few
of the reasons, which explain the cleanness of my grain. This
curious arrangement of shaking the straw up so lively, and the
wonderful separating capacity, prevents the possibility of any
grain going over with the straw into the stack. Now don’t you
see the parable of the ‘Starved Rooster’ unfold to you like
the dawning of a summer morning?’

The Miller ‘Mr. Jones, I hope our friend Robinson has
enlightened you on the subject of threshing and threshing machines,
and that you are fully convinced that I did not take advantage of
you in our grain deal this morning.’

Jones ‘When a man sees a thing with his own eyes, he is
bound to believe. I do see that Robinson’s grain is much
cleaner than mine, free from cracked grains and worth five cents a
bushel more than mine.’


The Miller -‘Well, Mr. Jones, I trust that you will profit
by this information and either buy yourself, or persuade your
threshermen to buy, an Aultman & Taylor machine next season. I
can assure you this one thing, that it will prove a source of
profit to you and your neighbors, in saving your grain and in time,
and in securing for you a better price for your grain, to say
nothing about the great satisfaction it ought and certainly will
afford every thrifty farmer, too, that the fruits of his hard labor
was garnered in his granary instead of being in large measure
thrown away. I am not paid for talking up any particular thresher,
or prejudiced in favor of any manufacturer of threshers, but I am
interested in having all the grain our farmers raise not only
saved, but as well in having it come into the market in the best
possible condition, and since these very desirable ends can only be
accomplished in the transit of the grain from the straw to the
sacks, it is the duty, I think, of every farmer to look well o the
kind of machinery he employs to do this work, and it seems these
Mansfield people have solved the problem of perfect grain
threshing. This much I will promise, that I will cheerfully pay you
from three to five cents per bushel for your wheat threshed by one
of the standard threshers of the vibrator class, manufactured at
Mansfield, Ohio, than I will for wheat threshed by any other make
now in use; and now that this Aultman & Taylor concern has
developed and perfected a machine that is as superior to the
endless apron machine as the endless apron machine was superior to
the flail and old ‘Ground Hog’ machine, it is a duty every
farmer owes to himself, to his miller, and to the grain dealer, to
patronize that machine. Every well-to-do and influential farmer
should talk it up among the threshermen and insist that they
operate Aultman & Taylor grainsaving, time-saving, money-making
machines; and a refusal to do so should be sufficient reason for
withholding their patronage from those who persist in the use of
these old grain-wasting, time-losing, money-losing

Simmons ‘She is ‘Queen of the Tribe,’ and knocks the
old endless apron and all other makes of machines I ever heard of
into a ‘cocked hat.’ I can just make her do anything in the
line of threshing grain or seeds, except to crack and break it, and
that she won’t do; that’s settled. Next to my wife and
babies I prize that thresher most. She has made me a little farm,
built me a comfortable house and barn, and has won for me the warm
thanks of the farmers because with it I have threshed, cleaned, and
saved all their grain and seed which they worked so hard to raise.
Why Jones! just look at her, is it any wonder the women are in love
with her? I tell you Jones, she is a ‘woman’s rights’
machine, and don’t keep them cooking and baking and stewing a
whole week over a hot cook stove, to feed a lot of hungry men, when
the same job can be done in a day. When I was running the old
endless apron thresher, the women looked as sour as a ‘pickle
keg’ when I came around to do their threshing for them; but
since I have the ‘Starved Rooster’ they look happy, and
give me a welcome when I come, that you would think it was only to
be a picnic. Why, the very girls are all partial to the boys that
help me run my machine. Now come here, Jones, and I will show you
how she does it. You see, to commence with, she has a heavier and
better cylinder than other machines; the spikes are better arranged
and more of them, so that every grain is knocked out of the head to
start with; the concaves are grated, so that separation begins at
the cylinder, what grain passes through concaves is carried back to
the sieves, and what passes through with the straw is sifted out by
the agitating fingers or rakes, of which there are, as you see,
seven sets worked by these adjustable cams; if you want more
agitation in the straw (which you always need in damp grain) all
you have to do is to tighten up these cam straps, that raises the
fingers higher and gives all the motion necessary to thoroughly
separate the grain from the straw before it reaches the rear of the
machine. Now, look here, Jones: You see the upper conveyor is all
slat-work, so the grain falls through into the lower conveyor
(which has a solid bottom) and is carried back and delivered into
the sieves, where there is over 12 feet of sieve surface to clean
over. Now add to these things the advantage (gained over other
makes of threshers) of this over blast fan, and it makes the saving
and cleaning of the grain or seed thorough and perfect. Here is
another nice contrivance, a lever called the ‘belt-
tightener’ with which to tighten the belts; this saves the time
and trouble of cutting and sewing belts. Here, too, is the concave
adjuster with which you raise or lower the concaves; you will
readily see, from the peculiar construction of this machine, that
there is no possibility of litterings, which is not the case with
other machines, which take from one to two hours to clean up. Say,
Robinson! did you explain the clover huller attachment to

Robinson ‘Why no! I forgot about it. Strange, too, that I
should not think of it when you done the finest job of hulling ever
done in my barn!’

Simmons ‘I tell you, Mr. Jones, the Allonas Clover Hulling
Attachment is one of the greatest inventions of this age. In 15
minutes I can change my Aultman & Taylor thresher to a perfect
clover huller, and I can hull two bushels of clover seed while the
best double-cylinder huller in America hulls one, and clean it so
perfectly that the seed will always bring the highest price in the
market. No need of running it through a fanning mill, for it will
be thoroughly cleaned when it comes from my machine.’

Jones ‘Now, Simmons, you don’t pretend to tell me that
you can hull clover seed on a threshing machine? That’s
spreading the thing on a little too thick.’

Simmons ‘Yes, sir, I do pretend to say that I can do that
very thing, and as ‘proof of the pudding is in eating of
it’ if you will just step here to this granary, I will prove to
you that I have only told you the facts. Right here in this bin is
60 bushels of clover seed hulled in one day from a 20-acre field,
and hulled, too, by that same ‘Starved Rooster’ machine
that you have been looking at.’

Jones ‘Simmons, you don’t mean to say that you hulled 60
bushels of that seed in one day and on your threshing machine? Why,
that is the cleanest seed I have ever seen. I would like to know
how you hull clover seed on a threshing machine, and do such work
at that.’

Simmons ‘That’s what I mean to say, John Jones, I can
hull 80 bushels of clover seed on that ‘Starved Rooster’
machine with my Allonas Hulling Attachment and clean it just as
well as this in my bin; and now I’ll show you how it’s
done; you see this shelf is a hulling concave; I just drop this at
the rear of the cylinder, and bolt it fast to the post of the
cylinder frame; then this solid concave I drop in next, the same as
you would any concave; with these little bars of iron I close up
the cracks between the concaves, and also the grate work in the two
threshing concaves, which I use in the front. I then put the grain
board in the proper place, change my riddles, shutting off the
draft in the windmill, using just enough to clean the seed
thoroughly, and then I am ready for business. You see that it is
only the work of a few minutes to make the change, and that here is
another saving to the farmer. The same machine threshes perfectly,
and without waste, your wheat, oats, barley, Hungarian timothy,
flax and clover seed, without pulling stakes, and of course without
the loss of time and annoyance of having a second machine and
another threshing spree.’2

Other Kinds of Advertisements

Frequent use was made of a variety of publications. The one
nearest at hand was the newspapers. During several months of each
year the newspaper carried a half and full-page advertisements of
Aultman & Taylor machinery. The pictures in those
advertisements were accompanied by statements or explanations that
suggested the outstanding features of the machinery. Advertisements
also appeared in the American Thresherman and many of the farm

Circulars, catalogs and similar materials in great quantities
were sent out through the mails. For example, in January of 1892
Aultman & Taylor mailed the largest quantity of material ever
sent out by one firm in Mansfield. They sent during that month
540,000 pieces of mail. It was decided that such a vast number of
pieces of mail seriously interfered with the usual routine in the
Post Office, since the quarters were cramped. So a method of
handling that vast quantity of mail was adopted by the postmaster
and the mail clerks:

The wrappers for the circulars were brought to the Post Office
and canceled, after which the circulars were enclosed in the
wrappers. To avoid delaying sending them through the Mansfield Post
Office again, the postal clerks who laid over at Crestline went to
the Aultman & Taylor office and sorted them into states
preparatory to taking them directly to the train. It was assumed
that this way of handling such a large bulk of mail was perfectly

Another means of advertising was by the exhibition of Aultman
& Taylor machinery. The company showed its equipment at the
state and county fairs, as well as the great world’s fairs. At
many of those expositions the company won gold medals for its

A number of the companies devised stunts for the demonstration
of traction engines. The author recalls a rather simple stunt that
the Aultman & Taylor people used in demonstrating their engines
at the fairs. The steering chains of the engine were so adjusted
that, when the engineer turned the front wheels in toward the
boiler, the engine would move continuously in a circle. From time
to time the engineer would check the water and throw a few shovels
of coal into the firebox, and then he would leap off the platform
while the engine would continue to move in a circle without an
engineer. There was usually a crowd of fair-goers standing nearby
gawking at that engine without an engineer. By the time the fair
came to an end, the engine had dug a furrow or ditch eight or 10
inches deep.

Merchants have often made use of a lottery to advertise their
business. This is illustrated by the involvement of the Aultman
& Taylor Company in such a deal. The company sold a thresher to
a local merchant and entered into an agreement to have the thresher
given away to a customer. On Dec. 1, 1883, the firm sold a
separator to Schonfield and Frederick, who were merchants in
Mansfield. That separator was built especially for the
company’s exhibition at the world’s fair.4 The
company officials sold it much below cost, since it was their
desire to have the separator somewhere near the factory. It was the
most elegantly finished thresher they had ever built. The list
price was $400, but they stated that they would not build another
one like it for less than $700.

The merchants presented to each customer a guarantee ticket that
on July 1, 1884, one of their customers would get the Aultman &
Taylor thresher free of charge. Each edition of the newspapers for
seven months carried a full-page advertisement of Schonfield and
Frederick in which the customer was urged to purchase merchandise
and was informed that along with his purchase he would be given a
ticket for a chance on the Aultman & Taylor thresher. A picture
of the thresher appeared with each advertisement. In this way, a
product of the Aultman & Taylor Company was before the public
from Dec. 1, 1883, to July 1, 1884, or a period of seven

Another scheme had an appeal to those of musical inclinations.
The company published songs for the organ and piano. The title of
one such song was ‘The Jolly Thresherman.’ The title page
was finely lithographed. At the center of the page was a portrait
of the ideal young thresherman with scenes at dinner and at a
dance. At the corners of the picture he was shown as a husband,
father and patriot. It was claimed that the poetry was superior to
that of the average sheet music of that day. The song was set to
music from the famous popular opera H.M.S. Pinafore by Gilbert and
Sullivan. It was advertised in several of the firm’s
publications and was sent free of charge to anyone who wrote to the
company and requested a copy.

Through the use of newspapers, magazines, drama, trademark and
other methods, the company succeeded in bringing its machinery to
the attention of the farmer, the thresherman, and the general


1. Holbrook, Stewart. Machines of Plenty. New
York: Macmillan, 1955. 112-15. This source gives a detailed
description of the trappings of the Case special trains.
2. A Dialogue. Cleveland: Short and Foreman.
3.  The Sunday Shield, May 9, 1892.
4.  Rhode notes that Dr. Bixler’s text contains a
discrepancy. Dr. Bixler gives the dates as 1883 and 1884, but he
cites a publication from 1880 (below). Logic demands that the date
of the publication fall during or after 1884. Also, Dr.
Bixler’s manuscript states that the world’s fair was held
in St. Louis. The Louisiana Purchase Exposition took place there in
1904. Perhaps he had in mind the Centennial Exposition in
Philadelphia in 1876. The only other world’s fair of any size
occurring within a decade of Dr. Bixler’s dates was the
Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
5. Mansfield Herald, April 29, 1880.

Next issue in Chapter 15 : A detailed look at litigation
and personnel in the Aultman & Taylor Company’s later
years, all in the March/April issue of Steam

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