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Glancing at early thresher catalogs
Glimpses of Yesteryear
By Mary Jo Dathe
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 5:44 AM
According to the catalog, "Simplicity, perfect proportions, few parts, the ideal thresher. It stands superbly in a class of its own."
A stroll along West Courtland Street in Spring Valley will take one past the Methodist Church Museum, the Washburn-Zittleman House and the adjacent Ag Building. On the lawn is the noted Wood Bros. threshing machine and during Ag Days it was on display as well as being pulled in the tractor parade by historical society President Joe Bezdicek.
In the Wood Bros. "Thoroughbreds" catalog of 1915, they recounted a bit of history. They bought their first threshing outfit in 1886, and proceeded to produce a self-feeder in 1890, a Perfection Tender in 1891, the Humming Bird Separator in 1895, an engine in 1907 and a Double Gear Plowing Engine in 1910. "Wood Bros. are building the most perfect line of threshing machinery made today." F.J. Wood and R.C. Wood located their factory in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1899.
When it came to threshermen's problems with machines, they stated in so many words, they had been there, done that. "So it is perfectly natural that when Brother and I gradually worked up to a point where we built a threshing machine, we eliminated just as many of these problems when concern the average thresherman as it was mechanically possible to do, and we make improvements every year."
One testimonial claimed, "After being on the threshing job for over 40 years and trying out different makes of threshers, I honestly wish to say that your machines are superior to all ... Mr. Hurtig, Carver, Minn." From George Reiss in Kansas, "Gentlemen: I will tell you how I like the Steel Separator ... I have used it both in headed and bound grain, wheat, rye, oats and barley, and it did very good work in cleaning the grain in the shape it was in, as some was so wet it wouldn't keep in the bin after threshed ... your self-feeder is just all right!"
The 65 pages of pictures and text continued: "Every Wood Bros. machine is thoroughly tested before shipping. We start with the raw material; we make our own castings in one of the slickest little foundries in Iowa. We assemble the machines in our great room and after a beautiful new Humming Bird is ready to run, we first slide it out into this testing shed where we hook it up to power and give it a fair test, so every part is working in nice, smooth order ...the machine is ready to put into the field by the purchaser and it does a big day's work the first as the last.
"Old and experienced threshers tell us that the machine threshes the grain cleaner from the head than any machine they have ever tested .... The straw while traveling up the grates back of the cylinder receives the same agitation that it does on the balance of the rack...the cylinder cannot throw threshed grain back on the rack ... From the time the straw first strikes the cylinder until it is delivered to the blower, it has traveled a distance of nineteen feet, every inch of which is separating grain from the straw ... all working parts of the separator are correctly balanced, working together like the parts of a well kept watch."
Yes, "Ye Humming Bird - the Queen of the Fields. The most satisfactory thing about the Humming Bird, the one thing you are most interested in, is that it is the biggest money maker for you. Buy a Humming Bird and you will find it is the best thresher, the best cleaner, the most satisfactory machine you ever owned from front to back, top to bottom." Their special theme, repeated over and over: "More grain in the sack, less in the stack!"
Another item in the historical society files was an even earlier catalog from Northwestern Manufacturing & Car Company of Stillwater, Minn., published in 1883. In this colorful booklet with a handsome Indian brave on the cover, they featured the Minnesota Chief Separator. "It is neither a Vibrator nor an Apron machine, but far surpasses either in all the essential requisites of a perfect Thresher. It is easy of management, light running, capable of rapid threshing, as the Separating Table and Sieves will take care of all that can be passed through the Cylinder. In separating and cleaning it excels all others. It threshes everything a farmer has to thresh - wheat, rye, oats, barley, flax, timothy, millet, clover and peas.
"It handles flax and timothy nearly as rapidly as grain, requiring no change of parts, except sieves, and cleans them fit for market. With its clover attachment it threshes clover full equal to any Huller. It is by far the most popular Separator in the market, outselling all others wherever known, and invariably secures the most and best jobs of threshing."
There were only four belts on the separator, apparently a great advantage? Thirty-three pages extolled its virtues and seven pages were devoted to testimonials. Let's say this machine was top of the line until Wood Bros. came along to challenge that claim.
The Ag Building will be open for tours through Labor Day and then on weekends in September and October. We'll see you there, as you will not want to miss the mummified cat, which reposes on red velvet in his (or her) fancy wood box with a clear, see-through cover. The guides will be happy to tell you the story of its acquisition.
I read with interest in your article about the stationary threashers written by Bob Bezdicek. I grew up in MN and would like to contact him. Would you have an e mail or phone number? Thankyou, Dave Bezdicek, Pullman, WA. 509-334-3736
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4/16/2013 7:19:00 AM
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Getting broadband internet to rural Minnesota is gaining momentum. Is broadband as essential as electricity and running water, thus requiring more government support to make it feasible in sparsely populated areas?
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