A Little History
Advertising Manager of Frick Co.
Frick 'Eclipse' Traction Engine and 'Centennial' (1876) Model Metcalf Thresher Made at Quincy, Pa. Photo Taken in the Late 70's.
Frick Co. of Waynesboro, Pa. were one of the early pioneers in the building of the traction engine. In these early days they were called. 'Self-Propelled' engines. They were the only vehicles that would move them selves that the people knew anything about. What an event when the 'steamer' came to do our threshing.
Nearly all the early traction engines used the chain drive. It was a noisy and loose arrangement. It would stand more than the engine could pull going up hill but when going down it would frequently jump the sprockets. Then what could you do? Just keep her in the roadif.
The next model substituted a train of small gears mounted between two heavy iron bars, for the chain. These gears must have had a good deal of backlash, noise and wear also, and were later changed to the system of reduction gears which bridged the space with fewer parts. By 1885 these engines were highly perfected and gave remarkably good service.
The Metcalf thresher was built at Quincy, Pa. where George Frick at one time had his shop. It must have been a right good thresher for it was on the market for many years. Mr. J. T. Metcalf as a youth operated the Frick steam engine which had been built in 1856 and is now in the Ford Museum. The writer took a picture of Mr. Metcalf in Quincy, leaning against the wheel of one of the old traction engines. At that time his company was making small air compressors for gas station use.
Canton, Ohio Farm Agent, Stark County, Ohio 306 Bellflower Ave., N. W.
You ask for my impressions of new things which may be expected in farm machinery when it begins rolling off the assembly lines again. I am not competent to make many assertions of what is to come and so you will understand that ideas of new developments I mention have been gleaned from advertisements of equipment manufacturers during the past twelve months.
'WHAT'S NEW IN FARM MACHINERY' includes power lifts and controls, quick and easy attachment, standardization of hitch and power-take-off, and tractors and power implements adapted to the so - called two - horse farm.
Control of equipment by automatic units powered by the tractor engine is probably outstanding of all newer developments that are on the way. It is hydraulic, called 'power control', 'touch control', 'finger tip control'. The automatic units, known as 'slaves' are manipulated by levers sometimes so small that in some machines the weight of a finger 'bids' the slave to raise or lower the implement, regulate the depth of penetration of plows and tillage tools and to move them to one side and another.
Double slave units make possible the lifting or lowering either side of a cultivator gang. A touch regulates the angling of gangs of the disk harrow.
Provision for quick and easy attachment of implements to the tractor are coming, maybe sooner than many suspect. Some manufacturers already have them. Time required to attach or detach a machine or implement to the tractor will be 'a matter of minutes' instead of hours of hard labor. Some say it will be as easy as hitching or unhitching a team of horses. Clear vision is also being provided the newer methods of attachment.
Quicker and more thorough lubrication has been developed. Something akin to the 'one-shot' system may be common in the near future. And this is certainly not of least importance. Two of the worst enemies of reason able length of service rendered by machinery is lack of sufficient lubrication, and rust. Many manufacturers of lubricants already have made available excellent rust preventive compounds but only a very small percentage of farm machine operators and owners make use of them.
Many manufacturers will standardize mounting, design of hydraulic controls, power-take-offs. This ought to be good news for everyone.
Safety seats are already appearing. They will be more comfortable, too. They are not standard equipment but they are available.
Reduction of hand and stoop labor, in operations not yet completely mechanized, is coming. We are familiar with grain combines, field balers and corn pickers. What some may choose to call a potato combine will be ready soon. It digs, cleans and bags the potatoes in a matter of minutes. Sugar beet harvesters top, dig the beets and elevate them to the truck or wagon. Field balers require only one man for tractor and baler. Loaders deliver the bales on the truck.
Three-in-one forage harvesters, with minor attachments, can handle corn or grass ens'lage and be used to make chopped hay. They are driven with mounted motors or power take off.
One company has a corn harvester that may well be called a corn combine. It. cuts the standing stalk, snaps, husks (he ears and delivers them to a trailed vehicle. The stalks are shred and spread over (he field. Soil erosion is reduced over winter and less trouble may be experienced when plowing the stalks down. An excellent machine for areas infested with the European corn borer. It is claimed that 95% of the borers are killed.
Vegetable growers in Stark County, Ohio are using oil sprays to control weeds in such crops as carrots. The cost is less and the sprays are more efficient than use of the conventional cultivators. The newest machine for weed control in corn fields and for other crops is a 'cultivator' which is equipped with burners or fire guns to kill the weeds instead of shovels to tear them out of the soil. I understand the burners must be adjusted to direct the hot blasts upon not more than the stalks of the corn plant. If the blast hits the corn leaves it is equally as fatal for the corn as for the weeds.
Now here comes another weed killer. This machine uses heavy electrical currents applied through electrodes which resemble rakes. The electricity kills deep rooted perennials as well as the more tender annuals. This is good news for those who are troubled with pesistent patches of quack grass, Canada thistles, bind weed and others equally troublesome. This would be a custom job, handled much the same as a custom combine in the community.
'Two-horse farm' tractors will be ready soon as manufacturing facilities are available. A complete line of implements is designed to accompany them. These tractors will weigh 1000 to 1100 pounds, pull a 12-inch plow, and turn 2 to 3 acres in ten hours.
Side delivery rakes will have better and fewer parts. They will be easily adjusted for light and heavy windrowing, operate with power take-off and have two speeds for raking with a reverse motion for tedding. Mowers for all sizes of tractors are coming.
You ask, 'When are they to be here?' Well Elmer, your guess is as good or better (ban mine. Supplies and materials are slow. Probably enough time has elapsed to retool for peace time production. Cut it seems to re quire a very long time for US Americans to get settled down to peaceful production of so many things every body wants so much. Moreover, newly designed machines often require new factories.
I have been told it. requires a couple of years to get new machines off the draft board. The experimental model must have a year. The test model takes another year and finally the pilot model must precede assembly line production. But they will be here 'sometime', Elmer.
From The Old Wind Stacker
The newspapers have been printin' a lot about the government spendin' a million for this and seven million for that, six billion here and a lot more needed there, and us, poor suckers a shoveling tax money trying to keep the thing agoin' puts me in mind of a trip I once made about 175 miles up state to check up on a steam traction engine that had a bad case of inefficiency.
Mr. Thresherman, who owned the engine, drove in to the station with horse and buggy to meet me. On the way out he told me the whole story how his engine was almost new and had been a good one until all of a sudden it stopped its regular sharp, snappy puff and began to blow up the stack, using water like a camel in from a seven day trip on the desert, and burning coal as fast as he could shovel it into the fire box, but. still the engine had no power. He was mighty put out about the thing. He said he couldn't afford to buy a new engine and knew (his one never would be any good (he had no faith in me as yet).
After listening to the whole story, I said, 'The way you describe if, brother, your trouble is simply a broken piston ring which leaves the steam blow through and up the stack in stead of pushing and pulling and hauling the load.' He blew up and said he had nine different expert engineers working at it and everyone set the valve different and the engine acted worse and worse after each setting. He said there was nothing wrong with the piston.
About this time we arrived at his home and there stood the engine, looking nice and shiny and apparently good as new. I told him to build a fire and get the boiler hot because the job wouldn't take long and we wanted a good high steam pressure to try it out. When I had finished, he said, 'Now you put in a new valve and don't bother about the piston because the experts said it was all right.' To satisfy him, I installed the new valve, which it didn't need. Then I said, 'Brother, I've come 175 miles to help you out of your troubles and I sure wouldn't feel right if I went home without pulling that piston.' He said, 'All right if you think you must, but it's no use (he still had no faith in my ability).
Well, we pulled the piston and, sure enough, the ring dropped offbroken into six or eight pieces. He sure was surprised as he told how they had looked at it a dozen times and it looked all right, but I told him pistons always look all right in the cylinder but you must pull them to find trouble.
We fitted a new ring nice and snug and put everything back to place, putting a brake on the flywheel to give it resistance and then turned on the steam. Well, sir, that engine took the load and cut off with a bark like a beagle hound bringing a rabbit out of a swamp. Mr. Thresherman, being well pleased said, 'To think that I was dumb enough to worry my life away a season just because those experts monkeyed with the valve and wouldn't pull the piston, but the way it works now sure gives me a new lease on life.'
Well, that's just the way it seems to be with this glorious country of ours. We've got a leak all right, that we must admit, and a lot of so-called political 'experts' have been a monkeying with everything in sight and things seem to be getting worse and worse. Maybe some day when we get tired enough shoveling in taxes, we'll wake up and cut out the monkey business and get someone on the job who will have the good of the country only at heart, and courage enough to pull the defective piston and fit it up snug with a new ring. When this happens our resources will again generate power. Then folks will take a new lease on life and this good country of ours will again be one grand and glorious place in which to live. Uncle Silas used to say, 'Many a good ingine's been dum nigh ruin't by monkeying ingineers.''
Mr. L. W. Blaker of Alvertdon, Ohio has a demonstration each year that is worth attending. Nearly 200 steam engine minded people gathered last June 1946 to see, hear and fellowship.
The above cut shows a 32100 hp. Port Huron engine on the A. D. Baker Prony brake developing 106.2 hp. at the above event. A 150 ft., 8 in. 5 ply belt was used.
Drop Mr. Blaker a card giving him your name and address and he will notify you when the 1947 demonstration will take place.
The Kennedy outfit near Xenia, Ohio threshing, July, 1946. Needless to say, it is a Prick engine, but it is not so very evident that it is pulling a Case thresher.
The picture is the compliments of Mr. Leroy Wolf of Xenia, Ohio. Leroy is a retired R. R. Engineer and a Peer less fan. He is leaning on the platform of the engine in the picture.
Published four times a year February, May, August, November. The subscription price is one dollar per year for 4 issues.
Edited and published by ELMER L. RITZMAN Millerstown, Perry Co., Pa.
A good reason should be given for the launching of a new magazine in days like these. We have long felt that we who are interested in steam farm engines and other agricultural machinery should have some medium of expression. Someone must start it, hence our humble beginning. This little pa per is to be an informal discussion of the history and usage of antique agricultural equipment and on the new things rolling off the assembly line. We hope to feature many pictures of both the old and the new.
The magazine will be issued four times a year, February, May, August and November of each year. We re quest that you send us good clear pictures of your equipment and a letter telling about yourself and inter est. Historical articles on Farm Equipment and especially steam threshing events are most acceptable. You will aid us greatly if you will do this.
We will appreciate your sending us names and addresses of folks who might be interested in such a magazine. We will then send them a copy and invite them to become a sub scriber. If subscribers and interest increase the magazine will increase in size and, of course, contents.
Certainly we will receive and carry advertising matter. We have no sub scribers yetno talking point at all, but if you want to take a chance with us we will be glad for your inquiry. Classified advertising will be carried at the rate of one cent per word, 25c minimum. Copy should be received one month prior to publication.
This copy of the 'Album' is a gift to you. All subscriptions will begin with the February issue.
Well here we go and if we pass your place please give us a push.
Perhaps the most interesting and thrilling threshing event we ever had the privilege of witnessing was the Ford-Hayden threshing of the season of 1944. Perry Hayden's tithing or Biblical wheat is a story in itself. This article is only concerned with the threshing.
It was at Tecumseh, Michigan and the day was perfect. About two thousand people had gathered. Before the threshing started we paused for worship. Four ministers took part in the devotions, also a Hammond organ and seventy-five young people from the Ford Institute were in the choir.
We had been at many a threshing where there was a lot of swearing done before we got. started but never before with such a religious ceremony. We think it helped. (Maybe this is what we lack.)
The first machine to be started was a miniature machine Henry Ford had built for his grand children twenty years ago. A group of boys operated this outfit and did it very efficiently.
Next was the 1863 Birdsall apron thresher powered by ten horses in the sweep or horse power. We never expected to see such a scene. The horses were not used to the power and some trouble was experienced in the starting. Single and double trees were broken because the horses started too suddenly. The power transmission was by shaft all the way to the machine and a bevel gear turned the cylinder. In some sections it was called a 'tight gear.' This one run very quiet. The one we had at home could be heard for three miles.
The 'Apron' thresher was most interesting to us. It did much better work than we had expected.
Henry Ford then started the 1882 Westinghouse portable machine that he had run when he was 19 years old. He started it very smoothly. Not all do it that way. The old Westinghouse thresher worked well. The straw racks worked in a way that made us wonder why it was discarded.
The next machine to be started was an 1888 Case center crank compound engine. It neither acted or looked its age. It was pulling a modern Case thresher with all the attachments. If engines could think we are sure this one would have felt like a January-June marriage. It really made the host of it.
Notice how they braced these engines to hold them steady. In the 80's counter balancing had not been practiced on any degree of perfection.
However, you will note that by this time the steam engine had come near to its perfection. Nothing much except design has been done since with the steam farm engine. Will it ever come back? We hope!
It was our privilege to stand on a wheat stack and see three old time outfits threshing at one glance, plus a miniature machine in full operation. We wish it could be repeated.
Mr. E. L. Edson, Delevan, R. D. 2, N. Y. is enthusiastic about engines and threshers. He makes a collection of engine and thresher catalogues and has more than a thousand of them. Best of all they are systematically filed so that on a moment's notice any one may be produced. 'Eddie' knows the history of the Companies about as well as anyone. He is also a writer of stories and we may get him to con tribute to the ALBUM from time to time. He enjoys a large acquaintance by correspondence, and is gifted in writing interesting letters. In the above picture you will see 'Eddie' to the extreme right posing with his three small engines and boiler while the editor looks over the set up. A visit with this Brother is as good as a tonic. No ceremonies, and he turns the place over for your enjoyment.
Here is a scene that should stir the memories of some and be information to others. Threshing with the tread power. This was a power that was popular in sections. A horse had to be trained to operate this machine. It was the only power that a horse and a half could be gotten out of a horse. It was very hard on horse flesh. A team was only used about two hours and then they changed horses and allowed a two-hour rest period.
Many wrecks are told of these machines. Horses would get scared and jump over the top. Always with disaster. Here is a story that is different. The power was left standing on the barn bridge or bank and every time that the farmer turned his horses out. to water he had one horse that would always go back of the barn to the tread power and get on the thing and give it a good whirl and then calmly back off and come to the stable. I think that confirms the statement that we like to do what we don't have to do.
The power was always set so that the brake lever was close to the feed er of the machine, so that should any thing happen it could be stopped immediately. The cylinder of the thresher always had a ratchet pulley so that the machine could run even though the power was stopped.
The very early powers did not have a governor and the feeder had to govern the speed by the amount of grain he would feed. (Think what you missed.) On other jobs such as sawing wood they usually got a boy to regulate the speed by using the brake lever. A hex of a job for a boy.
The above picture was taken August 1894 at the J. W. Replogle Farm. Walnut, pa., near Mifflin. Do you want to go tack to the good old days?
Rev. Elmer has offered me space for a few words. He is the best fellow that. ever sunk his or your thumb in the butter dish at a threshing dinner (remember those dinners?) But Elmer wouldn't do this to youbutter is too scarce. Besides, he ain't that kind of a guy.
My main interests in life are: Getting enough to eat, getting sufficient clothes to wear, photographing steam engines and threshers in operation. Elmer collects the whole engine I just collect pictures of 'em.
If you fellows have any good engine or thresher negatives, 2 x 3 or smaller (the negative can be larger if the picture interest is contained in that size portion of it), I shall be pleased to make you an enlargement of same (for free), if you will send negative which will be returned.
Happy threshing, James M. Barnhart Eagle Road, Newtown. Bunks Co., Pa.
The Birdsall engine, made at Au burn, N. Y., was distinctive in many ways. It had open drive wheels which were patented in 1882. The Auto steer was used in 1885. It has a shaft and bevel gear drive. It has 52 1-in. flues and it steams like a fire engine. In some respects it was away ahead of its time. The open or skeleton drive wheels and the Auto steer was not used on tractors until the late teens.
The engine in the above picture is owned jointly by Arthur S. Young and Elmer L. Ritzman. It is in good running order. Carries 120 lbs. pressure. It is snappy and turns in a surprisingly small radius. Mr. Vie Winter mantel of Pittsburgh, Pa. is at the controls. It was last owned by Mr. Pay C. Hunn of Colden, N. Y. who was the agent for these machines. This engine was built in 1004 and was the last engine Mr. Hunn sold. It is a 12 hp. Come around and fire it up sometime.
The Avery Under mounted engine is the most interesting of all the engine family. We have come to this conclusion after exhibiting old engines at the Fairs the past several years, it has the locomotive twist and the farm engine utility. There is always a group of old and young around it. To watch the engine move slowly making almost no noise is a wonder the 'gas age' cannot understand.
Here is the Editor giving a final inspection before he starts for the Fair held at Port Royal, Pa. It takes about three-fourths of the road and all cars and trucks go around it very steadily. The driver of that machine is safe on the highway. Try it sometime.
You kin talk about yer tractors an' yer
O' yer small an' nifty threshers thet
air run by three men crews;
You kin sing about yer enjines thet
air driv by gasoline
But I like to hear the chuggin' o' the
ol' time big machine!
Chug a chug a chug a chug a chug
a chug a chug a chug!
As the forty-inch 'cyl-in-der' chews a
tough an' dampish slug!
Yes I love to hear the zoomin' as the
concaves rip the grain;
Hear the blower's deep notes boomin'
like a basso's rich refrain;
Hear the drive belt's chipper rippin'
as it leaves the enjine's wheel
In response to power impulse from
the throbbin' steed o' steel!
Chud a chud a chud a chud a chud a
chud a chud a chud!
Hear it talkin' to the pitchers like a
thing o' flesh an' blood!
Fifteen strappin' husky pitchers form
the backbone o' the crew
With a separator tender an' a water
While the man who runs the enjine is
the king-pin o' the lot.
We must not forgit the cook-shack
with its cook an' coffee pot.
Chug a chug a chug a chug a zipp!
The safety like a shot!
Both the cook and enjine driver have
to keep their kettles hot!
Nineteen men to keep it busy an' a
boss to watch the clocks
While a dozen pair o' Normans strain
at pullin' in the shocks.
It's a he-man's aggregation that sur
rounds a big steam rig
An' a starvin' congregation if the cook
takes on a swig!
Chug a chug a chug a chug a chug a
chug a chug a chug!
Hear it cluckin' like a rooster that
has found a lady-bug!
Oh yer dirty an' yer dusty an' yer full
o' soot an' grease,
An' you've filled my rags with wheat
beards till they burn like stingin'
In the heat I've sweat an' struggled
tryin' hard to fill yer maw,
But her appetite's o'erwhelmin' when
comes to chewin' straw!
Chug a chug a chug a chug a chug a
chug a chug a chug!
Hear that blisterin' black ol' biler
sayin' 'Slug, ye spikers, slug!'
In the evenin' after supper when you
gather roun' the shack
Spinnin' yarns about the threshin' thet
wuz done in years 'way back,'
Tellin' how the grain poured out until
the only thing you'd see
Wuz the spring seat on the wagon an'
the lead team's double-tree!
Chud a chud a chud a chud a chud a
chud a chud a chud!
Gee! Thet blamed ol' enjine snorted
like a filly smellin' blood!
As the stars begin to twinkle an' you
seek the bunk-tent rest,
You unroll a pack o' blankets on the
straw an' make yer nest;
You relax the weary muscles an' it,
seems yer very soul
Feels thet sense o' satisfaction which
is mankind's richest goal!
Chug a chug a chug a chug a chug a
chug a chug a chug!
An' you dream about the enjine an'
its rhythmic chug a chug!
From The American Thresherman 1928
What Many a Boy Watched For
The threshin' engine usta come
Aramblin' down th' road,
Puffin', chuggin' grumblin' 'bout
Its awful heavy load.
'Twould hiss, an' tug,
An' smoke an' snort,
Then whistle loud an' clear
To let us barefoot fellas know
That it would soon be here.
We'd drop whatever we were at,
If it was work or play
An' scamper off to see that rig
Arumblin' down our way!
We'd climb upon the water-tank,
An' ride along through town-
That, threshin' engine was a friend
That. never'd let us down.
'Twould pull up near a farmer's barn
An' shove the thresh-box in
We'd hold our earsthe whistle'd
And oh, boy, what a din!
The dust would fly, straw blow 'round,
We kids would romp an' yell-
That threshin' engine was our pal
Each summer for a spell.
It seems to me, the boys today
Are missin' loads o' fun
I wish they had an engine
Like we fellas usta 'run'.