General Manager PION-ERA, Inc., Box 1303, Saskatoon,
Like the press and radio people who are always after the unusual
story the Western Development Museum is also interested in the
unusual exhibit. In the Hovland swather-thresher the Museum Board
and staff feel they have acquired an exhibit that can be classed as
the ‘Only one of its kind’.
The Story really goes back almost sixty years when two brothers,
August and Ole Hovland of Ortley, South Dakota, came through with
an invention or idea that has revolutionized the harvesting of
grain the world over. With enquiring minds the brothers had noticed
that when a sheaf of wheat was tossed off a binder with a broken
band, the loose sheaf lay on top of the stubble and in two or three
days was dry and ready to thresh. In this simple little observation
lay the germ of the idea of the swathing of grain for harvesting
Once started on this line of thought the brothers went down a
field of sheaves cut by the binder, breaking hands and spreading
the loose wheat on the stubble. A few days later the wheat was
picked up with forks and threshed with a conventional grain
For a year or so the brothers pondered the idea of a new method
of harvesting grain by spreading loose grain on stubble fields and
using some kind of a machine to pick it up for threshing. Of an
inventive turn of mind the Hovland’s decided to try out an
entirely different approach to grain harvesting. On February 25th,
1907 they applied for a patent on a Central Delivery Reaper and, at
the same time they also applied for patent on a travelling
A small company was formed, blue prints were drawn up and work
started on this somewhat amazing project. These men were years
ahead of their time. It was before the day of the arc welder and
the acetyline torch. With no previous experiences to guide them
these men went ahead as true trail blazers. One Centre Delivery
Swather was built and one travelling thresher.
The field swathing with the centre delivery swather was used in
the harvest of 1910 and was followed by the travelling harvester
that was towed behind the enormous tractor. The Museum has
photographs of this terrific advance in harvesting taken at Ortley
in 1910. It was claimed by the Hovlands that the pick up attachment
they invented would handle both loose grain and sheaves.
A few years ago the Western Development Museum was notified by
the grape vine about. these machines which had not caught the
farmers or manufacturers eye at that time and as a result this type
of harvesting was not pursued. The Hovland Harvesting Company was
disbanded and this first step in modernizing harvesting was lost
for twenty years.
Through the generosity of Iver and Mary Hovland of Ortley, a
nephew of the Hovlands, and the kindness of Helmer H. Hanson of
Lajord, Saskatchewan and through the efforts of many other
interested people, the Museum secured these machines as exhibits.
It was not easy. The transportation of these huge machines from
South Dakota to Saskatoon cost close to one thousand dollars and
the restoration of these machines abandoned for fifty years has
cost close to $6,500.00.
The reconditioning of these machines presented major problem to
the mechanics in the Museum workshop. The two engines that had made
up the power plant were restored to running order and a couple of
sacks of good South Dakota soil that had drifted into the separator
were cleaned out. Most of the wooden parts had to be replaced, new
belts were acquired and a complete renovation of the three machines
was necessary. The shop foreman, Bill Phipps, says the machines are
now ready to go to the harvest field on an hours notice.
This is what the Board of Directors and staff of the Western
Development Museum are trying to accomplish. To preserve and
re-create the past for the future. The Hovland thresher is a good
example of such efforts.
In the space of one short article it is out of the question to
give all the information on these machines that revolutionized the
harvesting of grain and can be seen at no other place in the world
that at the Saskatoon Museum. Here is real vital agricultural
history that is exciting tremendous interest in the ranks of the
farm historians and scientists from all corners of the globe. Come
and see for yourselves.