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A typical scene of steam engine threshing as it was done on Missouri farms a generation ago. The 1955 St. Charles Fair provided a real-life re-enactment of this memorable scene.

135 Eau Claire Drive, St. Charles, Missouri

Please accept my renewal subscription and change my address as
shown below. While I class myself as a ‘thresher’, my only
actual connection was ‘water boy’ with the rigs that
threshed on farms near my boyhood home in Garden City, Missouri,
about 20 to 30 years ago. The old steamers always fascinated me and
I regretted to see them replaced. I always felt a little sorry for
the generation only a few years behind mine who would never see
this tremendous farm, spectacle. Accordingly it was a great thrill
for me when I was able to re-create for the 1955 St. Charles County
(Mo.) Fair the ‘threshing exhibit’ described in the
enclosed clipping and photographs which I hope you can use in the

We actually threshed about a wagon load of oats beginning each
day at 4 P. M. The bundles were hauled in by truck then reloaded on
two wagons, one pulled with a fine team of Missouri mules to give
our audience as authentic a scene as possible. The threshing was
staged in a natural ampitheater with several hundred spectators
daily lining the grass covered hillside. The entire ‘rig’
had been given a fresh coat of red and green paint by volunteer
painters just prior to Fair time. I’m enclosing a photograph
and two articles which appeared in our local paper in regard to
this exhibit, which I hope you can use in the ALBUM, at least to
the extent of giving credit to the men whose well preserved
equipment we used.

It is my fond hope that the St. Charles County Fair, one of the
finest county fairs in Missouri, will make this threshing exhibit
an annual feature so that this great tradition of agriculture can
be kept alive and real in the minds of coming generations.


‘Beginning 4:00 p. m., Thursday afternoon and each
afternoon, through Sunday, on the north east corner of the Fair
Grounds, will be re-enacted one of the most memorable legends of
agricultural history steam engine threshing complete with the coal
smoke, dust, straw, and smell of hot steam and metal that went with
it. Hard at work will be the 60hp. 1919 Nichols & Shepard steam
engine owned by William Thorough man of Washington, Missouri, and
the Nichols & Shepard ‘Red River Special’ thresher
owned by George Brinkmann of St. Charles. On display also will be
an A. D. Baker steam engine owned by Bernard McMenamy and a 1926
Rumley ‘Oil  Pull’ tractor owned by George Brinkmann.
The Fair is also indebted to Mr. Brinkmann for providing bundled
grain to make this demonstration possible.

‘The steam threshing engine, immense and ponderous by
today’s standards, was the forerunner of the mechanical
revolution that has swept through American agriculture in less than
a generation. Almost overnight what many old timers (and a few of
us youngsters) regard as the most memorable period of farming, has
passed into legend.

‘Steam engines for farm use were first developed about 1860
as horse-drawn portable engines for belt operation of threshers.
Conversion to self-propelled traction engines which could pull the
thresher from farm to farm came soon after. In the early 1900’s
some such engines were developed specifically for pulling gang
plows and were used to break the virgin prairies of the Dakotas and
Canada. The largest of these were rated at 110 h. p. and weighed
over 40,000 lbs.

‘Steam engines reached the peak of their use in 1910 with
some 72,000 engines on U. S. farms. After that they lost out
rapidly. Oil-burning internal combustion tractors such as the
Rumley ‘Oil-Pull’ on display, still large and cumbersome by
today’s standards but less troublesome than steam, were
introduced to power the threshers. After World War I the thresher
itself gave way to the modern combine. The last steam engines were
built in 1926 and are rapidly disappearing from the American scene,
but not before this combination of Yankee genius and the might of
steam had made the American people the best fed people in history.
Here indeed was the key that unlocked the horn of plenty.

‘The Fair still needs one bundle wagon for the threshing.
Also if anyone has any old farm implements they would like to
display, they are urged to bring them to the Fair Grounds on

All threshermen (whether they ever threshed or not) are urged to
register and wear the ‘Old Thresherman’ button.
Registration fee will be 50c and all proceeds will be used to
defray the expenses of this and future threshing exhibits.
Y’all come.’

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment