Shortly after the first hay presses came to the farm, farmers began to look for easier ways to handle bales rather than hoisting them by their wires.
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They turned to their local blacksmiths for help. Soon the bale hook (or hay hook) became a popular item.
There were as many different styles and shapes as there were blacksmiths and farmers. Many farmers wanted a hook just a little different from his neighbor’s so they could tell their hooks apart. Blacksmiths were more than willing to help. Besides, it was difficult for a blacksmith to make any two hooks exactly alike.
Enterprising businessmen soon got into the act. They could make standard hooks of the same size and shape and mass-produce them for the commercial market. There were D-shaped models with wood handles, T-shaped models with wood handles, T-shaped with steel handles. Some had long shanks, some with short shanks. All served the general purpose of providing farmers with a device to more easily handle bales of hay or straw.
There evolved some really unusual hooks. One of the most unusual I’ve come across is the Flippo Hook (Figure 1). It originated in Nebraska. It has a solid metal handle with a thumb-operated trigger release for the hook.
When the farmer had lifted the bale and was about to release it, all he had to do was push the thumb button and the hook released. The bale was free. To reset the hook, he pressed the thumb button again. A spring steel spring pushed down on the hook and locked it into place readying it for the next bale lift (Figure 2).
Most farmers of the time also heated with wood. It was quite a chore to stack cordwood, a process that resulted in many pinched fingers.
A company in Connecticut solved that problem. They developed a special hook to stack cordwood. It had a T-shaped wood handle. The shank extended a short way — about 2 inches — then made a distinct right angle before the hook started. That allowed the woodsman to hook one end of a piece of wood to lift the log to stack wood (Figure 3).
When the log was nearly in place, he had only to press down on the T-handle to release the hook from the end of the log. He could push the log into place with his other hand, fitting the piece neatly in place — and no pinched fingers.