'Uncle Tom' Stacker

| July/August 1961

NEWBURG FARM, Pittsfield, Illinois

Your articles and notes about the wind stacker are very interesting, but I challenge some of the so-called facts as stated. First, James Buchanan did not invent the first practical wind stacker that we know as 'Uncle Tom's Farmers' Friend'. To cut a long story short, Mr. Thomas Kirshman of Cooper County, Missouri, invented this stacker before Mr. James Buchanan patented his type of stacker which was not and could not be practical. It was thought by many that the straw should not come into contact with the fan but Mr. Kirshman proved that with the proper size and speed it would not grind the straw. He did quite a lot of experimenting at the Belleville Factory of the Harrison Machine Works and put several of his stackers on the Belleville threshers in the year 1890. It, to me, seems odd that no radical change was ever made in this stacker right up to the last.

Mr. Kirshman was known to everyone by 'Uncle Tom'. My father, his brothers and their cousins knew him well. I began to visit the Belleville Factory as a very young boy but have no recollection of 'Uncle Tom'. My father's cousin, Nort Foreman, got one of these stackers in 1891 on his Belleville Thresher (thresher was used more to designate a separator then than later) which he used for years. All we boys would throw our straw hats into the blower at the end of a threshing job they never were hurt.

By 1892 and 1893 the Belleville Company had quite a few of 'Uncle Tom' stackers out all over this section.

It was said that 'Uncle Tom' was the butt of all the jokers around the plant, but was greatly loved by all. After a few of these stackers were built, some of the workers got a painter whose name I have forgotten and who was handy with a brush (being a stripper) to paint a cartoon or perhaps more correctly a caricature, of 'Uncle Tom' simply as a joke. This picture was taken over and refined by the Indiana Company and became very famous as everyone knows.

Pictured in 1914 is a rig owned and operated by my father, John N. Johnson and my uncle, Theo. Knutson. This machine was used for shock and stack threshing around Dane, Wisconsin. The engine was an 18 hp Nichols and Shepard. The Separator was of the Red River Special line with a 36' cylinder and swinging stacker. I believe it was optional at the time they bought the machine to take it with stacker or blower. It seems that most farmers preferred the stacker. I was just old enough to run the injector on the old engine when it was sold.