Farm Collector

The Battle of the Fans

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.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1958
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