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
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.
The ‘Uncle Tom’ patent was taken over in 1895. This and
the other patents taken over by Mr. McKain proves to me that it was
necessary for his Company to have the various patents to hold his
monopoly, which as a matter of fact became the tightest little
monopoly known at that time and was about the first company to be
eyed as a restraint of trade. It should be noticed who were several
of the directors of the company!
It must not be forgotten that ‘Uncle Tom’s’ Farmers
Friend Stacker was first put out by the Harrison Machine Works of
I did have much of the Harrison’s old records but disposed
of all of it except many of the old catalogs from 1881 to their
last but have given most of it away. What I did not get Director
Art. Peters took out into the lot and burned. My father’s
family had Belleville machinery in the family since 1881 right up
to and including now.
A two column write-up appeared in the October 1905
Thresherman’s Review about ‘Uncle Tom’ who passed away
August 23, 1905.
I should add that when the Harrisons disposed of their wind
stacker patents to the Indiana Company they retained the privilege
of marketing their stacker on their own machines without paying
royalty. It was said that one had to be careful about mentioning
the Indiana Company to or before Mr. William C. Buchanan, a
President and Director of the Harrisons. He passed away in
I hope and expect to get out another issue of the KISER’S
NATIONAL THRESHERMAN before long, at which time I shall go into
more of this discussion fully.
I am enclosing a picture copy of the write-up on ‘Uncle
Tom’ from the Review. (Because of space the Review write-up
will appear later, very likely the next issue. -Elmer)