Huber Name Should be Bigger

| May 2005

Not much is heard about the Huber Manufacturing Co. of Marion, Ohio, considering the company is "generally credited with being first to put gas tractor production on a commercial basis," says The Huber Story, a 1948 company retrospective. The company's owner, Edward Huber, earned more than 100 patents on farm machinery, including inventing the return flue boiler-type steam engine.

Early days

In about 1850, Edward Huber was apprenticed as a mechanic to a blacksmith shop in Kelso, Ind. During this time, he learned wagon making and invented a revolving hay rake. To better his prospects, at age 27 he moved to Marion, Ohio, to sell the rake while he continued to work on other projects. Neighbors remember having to lend the young man tools because he was so poor.

In 1865 he married Elizabeth Hammerle of Kelso, and her brothers followed her to Marion, where they started the Kowalke & Hammerle Planing Mill, with Huber as superintendent, selling the Huber revolving hay rake. During this time, Huber invented a steam traction engine, and in 1870 formed Huber, Gunn & Co. to sell it. "The venture proved so successful," writes Jack Norbeck in Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines, "that in four years the Huber Manufacturing Co. was organized."

For 20 years, beginning in 1874, steam traction engines, portable engines and grain threshers were the principal products of the new corporation. Production and reputation increased as the company grew.

The covers of the World's Fair edition of Huber's 1893 catalog had beautiful multi-colored drawings of World's Fair buildings, while advertising "Threshers and Engines." The rear cover showed the "Agriculture Building," an ornate columned building flying a variety of flags, with Venice-type gondolas plying the water in front.

In this catalog, the Huber company advertised its steam traction engine as "The New Huber," and this snappy little number promptly carried off "all awards offered" at the World's Fair, the catalog says. The accomplishment was not unusual, as Huber machinery was known for its quality.