The Battle of the Fans


| July/August 1958



Higgins, Texas

IT IS NOW 51 YEARS AGO since the power contest between the Baker and Huber 16hp. engines on the Baker test fan at Wichita, Kansas, took place during the Threshermen's Convention Meet in April, 1907, I, at that time was a young man of twenty-three. I had broken into the threshing business with a new Advance outfit three years previously. Our family for many years owned and farmed a section of land near Caldwell, Kansas. I attended all of the above conventions after 1902, and it is quite likely I am the last man living who has proof. The May, 1907, issue of 'American Threshermen', on page 4 shows myself standing in the coal bunker of the Baker engine, my back to the camera; however, the Huber-Baker contest was held later that day.

Down through the 50 odd years following that now famous event I have heard some fantastic tales, and a lot of nonsense, mostly of late years, by those who were 'Johnnie come late' fellows who were at that time not born or too young to remember. Now I did not hold the speed indicator on the fan at any time during the run, but it was common knowledge of all that were there that Huber won the contest, and I never knew of Mr. Baker denying the results (730 R.P.M.), but he did question how it was done (by excessive boiler pressure). (Mr. Blaker's report in current 'ALBUM' to the contrary). I here again refer you to the 'American Threshermen (same number) page 8, a picture of the Huber engine and its crew, underlining it is these words 'The Record Breaking Sixteen-Horse Huber at Wichita.' It is also noteworthy, no such report was made of the Baker engine.

As to the fairness of the test I refuse to stick my neck out here, but I do agree with Mr. Baker that the Huber engine had terrific boiler pressure.

During those years I became quite well acquainted with both Balderson and Albeck in charge of the Baker engines, fine fellows and engine experts and no doubt knew all the answers and a few 'tricks of the trade' also. In the picture mentioned you get a view of the Baker fan. It was enclosed type and as far as I know was never used again. As late as 1918 I thought I recognized the fan on a vacant lot near Rumely agency in Wichita. Mr. Blaker told me in 1951 the aftermath of the contest was a lawsuit in which Huber won. I also never heard of this before, however, possible it may be.

Again to mention the Wichita Convention, a rather amusing incident to be observed one day. J. I. Case was there with its incline platform and a big banner proclaiming they (Case) had the only hill climbing engine. A Reeves 25hp. engine stood near by steamed up, its engineers tied a big warehouse broom to the Reeves' stack and successfully went to the top of the incline with ease.