Late 19th to Early 20th Century Manure Spreader

 This manure spreader was used to replenish nutrients lost after a crop had been harvested and before a new crop was planted. Over the course of the winter, a farmer might accumulate a large amount of manure created by horses, cattle, pigs, or other animals. Taking advantage of the stored energy inside that manure, the farmer could disperse it onto the fields so that future crop plants could make use of it as they began to grow.
 One of the dirtiest and smelliest jobs on the farm, spreading manure involved not just activating the gears on a spreader and pulling it with horses, it also involved loading the spreader with manure using shovels. Once the spreader was loaded, it was taken out to the field before the gears were activated. When the spreader was ready to be used, the lever on its side was moved to free the gears. As the spreader was pulled forward, the wheels would move the gears, and the gears would move the wagon floor like a conveyor belt, carrying the loaded manure to the back of the spreader. The gears would also move the axle with tiny spikes at the spreader's back end. Those spikes would break up and disperse the manure as the manure moved to the back of the wagon box.
 If you would like to see a 32 second video of a similar manure spreader in action at Kline Creek Farm living history farm near West Chicago, Illinois, click or touch here. For a more visually informative 4 minute and 31 second video which shows a similar horse-drawn manure spreader being loaded by shovel, activated, and used to fertilize a field, click or touch here.

c. 1910s to 1920s Avery "Self-lift" Ten-bottom Gang Plow

Before making their own gang plows, the Avery Company sold Cockshutt plows in the United States with the name, Cockshutt-Avery.  By 1911, however, Avery had not only begun making their own plows but had developed an innovative way for farmers to lift their plows without the need of a plowman.  Avery called its new gang plow the “Self-Lift” plow, and it advertised its new plows alongside its own line of tractors throughout the rest of the 1910s.

A farmer needed at least one extra helper to manually lift the bottoms on the older plows such as the Cockshutt you can see across the lawn.  A farmer using the “Self-Lift” plow, however, could lift the plow bottoms by pulling on a cord attached to a lever on the plow.  That lever, which you can see sticking straight up near the middle of the plow, activated a series of gears and chains which lifted the plows up off the ground.  Once the plows were lifted up, the lever automatically released and the plow bottoms stayed in place until the farmer pulled on the cord and lever again.  Just like many of the older plows, the Avery gang plow’s bottoms were independent of each other, so any stone in the field would only impact the forward movement of the plow that hit it and not all of the plows.

The original founders of the Avery Company were Robert H. and Cyrus M. Avery, both born and raised in Galesburg, Illinois.  Robert, the older of the two brothers, enlisted to fight for the Union during the American Civil War.  In 1862, he joined Company A of the 77th Illinois Infantry, eventually becoming a sergeant.  During his first couple years, he served in the Army of the Mississippi, participating in the siege of Vicksburg as well as the fighting at Arkansas Post, Jacksonville, and Shreveport.  In August, 1864, Robert was captured by Confederates and was held prisoner for about eight-and-a-half months in a variety of places, including about five-and-a-half months in Andersonville.1  While waiting in prison, Robert developed ideas for farm implements, including a cultivator, and possibly a stalk cutter and a corn planter.  When he was released after the war, Robert eventually made his way back to Illinois where he joined with his brother, Cyrus, to start a company and to make his ideas a reality.
By the early 1870s, they had established R. H. & C. M. Avery in Galesburg.  They found a large and ready market for their implements and, after about a decade in Galesburg, they found they needed to move to larger and better facilities.  In 1882, the Avery brothers relocated their business to Peoria and had a new factory built next to the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad line.  In 1883, they organized and renamed their venture the Avery Planter Company.  During the next several years, the company continued to grow, employing about three hundred workers by 1890.  Robert died in 1892, but Cyrus continued to lead the company into the twentieth century.  In 1900, Cyrus reorganized the growing company as the Avery Manufacturing Company.  After Cyrus’ death in 1905, J. B. Bartholomew took over the company, reorganizing it again as the Avery Company in 1907.

An ad for the "Self-Lift" gang plow
from The Implement Age, vol. XLII,
no. 12 (September 20, 1913), p. 23.

In 1912, the Avery Company plant covered about twenty-seven acres, including nearly six-and-a-half acres of floor space in the factory and warehouses.  The company employed about 1,300 workers and made a wide variety of products, including steam traction engines (one steam traction engine is here in Stuhr Museum’s exhibit), gasoline tractors, threshing machines, farm wagons, riding and walking cultivators, stalk cutters, corn planters (such as the Avery corn planter also found in Stuhr’s exhibit), and the “Self-Lift” gang plow.  The Avery Company sold their products across the United States, as well as to markets in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the Argentine Republic, Portugal, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Sweden, Egypt, China, the Philippines, and Cuba.2  It was probably in the 1910s or early 1920s when the Avery Company produced Stuhr Museum’s “Self-Lift” gang plow.

If you look closely at this gang plow, you will see a round disc in front of each plow bottom.  These discs are called coulter-discs.  The coulter-disc helped prepare the ground for the plow to overturn the soil and create a nice furrow.  The coulter-discs, being sharp blades, cut through roots and softened the soil so the plow could move through the ground more cleanly and evenly.  The coulter-discs you see here were made by the Galesburg Coulter-Disc Company of Galesburg, Illinois.  The founder of the company, Stephen A. Ingersoll, was born in Barryville, New York, in 1858, moving with his family to Wenona, Illinois, in 1867.3  After attending the Northern Indiana Normal College in Valparaiso, Ingersoll moved to Sandoval, Illinois, as a young man and got into the lumber business in 1881.  A few years later, in 1884, he also took over a coulter-disc company in Sandoval and made and sold coulters-discs.  Over the years, he added other disc and plow-related implements to his products, and eventually outgrew his facilities in Sandoval.  In 1905, he moved to Galesburg, Illinois, and into a larger factory.4  According to a 1912 source, his factory, which measured about 144 x 216 sq. ft., employed some 50 to 100 workers, depending on the season.  It may have been sometime in the 1910s or 1920s that the company made the coulter-discs found on this Avery gang plow.

Advertisement from the Implement News Buyer's Guide,
vol. XXXVI (1916), p. 248.

1 For a brief biography of Robert H. Avery, including details about his Civil War experiences, see Portrait and Biographical Album of Peoria County, Illinois. Volume 2. Containing Full Page Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County Together with Portraits and Biographies of All the Presidents of the United States and Governors of the State (Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1890), pp. 951-952.

2 Much of the narrative here can be found in individual biographies found in Peoria City and County, Illinois: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, vol. II (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 27, 181-183, 246-248, 662-665, and 787-788.
3 For a brief history of Ingersoll and his ventures, see History of Knox County, Illinois, Its Cities, Towns and People, vol. II (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 377-378.

4 The Ingersoll Tillage Group traces its roots back to Stephen A. Ingersoll and his coulter-disc company.  You can find a brief history on their website by clicking or touching here.

Early 20th Century Hero Corn Grader

 This Hero corn grader was made by the Twin City Separator Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A farmer would have used this grader to better obtain the best quality corn seeds for the next year's crop. As the Twin City Separator Company summed it up in a 1916 pamphlet, "There are two very important requirements of a corn grader; first, to sort out the best types so as to avoid planting kernels which would germinate poorly, and produce weak, unproductive plants; and second, to have only the flat, uniform, perfect kernels to use in the corn planter."
 If a farmer wished to plant a consistent and healthy corn crop, he or she needed to make sure the corn seeds were the same size and shape. If kernels that were too large or too round were placed into the corn planter's seed boxes, they may not pass through the planter's holes and they may clog the planter's holes or cause other problems during planting. If broken or misshapen kernels were placed into the planter's seed boxes, they might pass through the planter's holes but they may not grow or they may produce small or misshapen ears. By using a grader, farmers increased their odds of planting healthy corn seeds without serious issues.
 In order to use this grader, a farmer dumped the ungraded seeds into the hopper at the top of this machine, and turned the crank on the machine's side. As the farmer turned the crank, the drums or cylinders inside also turned. The corn kernels would fall into the top drum where the smallest kernels and broken kernels would fall through the holes in the drum, dropping into a basket beside the grader. The kernels that did not fall through the holes would move down into the lower drum where the larger or rounder seeds were separated and dropped into a basket. Eventually, the ideal kernels were left for the farmer to use in his corn planter when planting season arrived.
 In 1911, the Hero corn grader cost $11.00.

Hero Corn Grader ad from the
January 11, 1911 Breeder's Gazette.

 If you would like to see an 8-page illustrated pamphlet for the Hero Corn Grader, published in 1916, click or touch here. This digital image is provided by the James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library at the Hennepin County Library on the Minnesota Digital Library's website.

Late 1890s to Early 1900s Johnston & Linihan Improved Gem Grain Grader

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, many farmers on the North American prairie used a fanning mill to help separate, grade, and clean seeds for the new planting season.1  To separate meant to divide seeds into their various plant species.  To grade meant to sort the seeds to better ensure that the best quality seeds ended up in the ground for the next year’s crop.  To clean meant to remove weed seeds, chaff, and other debris so that only the desired crop seeds were left to be planted.  In order to accomplish the task of separating, grading, and cleaning the seeds, the farmer used a series of boards, screens, and sieves which he placed in notches inside the machine, into a hinged box called the shoe.  The boards, screens, and sieves have wire mesh with different sized spaces between the wires.  You can see examples of a screen and sieve on top of the machine on display.  Depending on the seeds being separated, graded, and cleaned, the farmer could follow the directions which came with the fanning mill, or the farmer could experiment to see which combination of boards, screens, and sieves worked best for the specific job.  As you may notice on the side of this machine, the Gem Grain Grader here has some directions for grading and cleaning certain seeds.

A view looking at the shoe holding several
screens and sieves.

In order to use the fanning mill, the farmer dumped the unsorted and uncleaned seeds into the hopper at the top of the machine and turned the crank handle on the side.  As the crank moved, so did the axle connected to the crank.  As the axle moved so did a series of paddles attached to the axle.  These paddles acted like a fan, creating an air current that blew across the boards, screens and sieves.  As the farmer turned the crank, the boards, screens, and sieves shook inside the shoe, causing the seeds which could fit between the spaces of one screen or sieve to fall down to the next.  The air current blew out light debris and moved around the lighter seeds to aide the sorting process.  By combining the air current with the shaking movement, the fanning mill separated seeds of different weights, shapes, and sizes much faster than a person separating them by hand.  This was a significant change from the hand sorting done by people up into the 1800s and, in many places, 1900s, especially when you consider a 1916 estimate that ‘there are from 700,000 to 1,000,000 wheat berries, about 12,500,000 alfalfa seeds, and as many as 120,000,000 timothy seeds in a bushel.”2  To get a feel for the operation of a fanning mill, along with its sounds, you can view a short video of two men cleaning barley seeds by clicking or touching here.  For a shorter video of a fanning mill being operated without seeds, click or touch here.

A sideview of the fanning mill. You can see the fan with one
of the paddles inside the machine. The wire running across
shakes the shoe as a person turns the crank.

The maker of this fanning mill, Johnston & Linihan of Kalamazoo, Michigan, appears to have come into business sometime in the mid-to-late-1890s.  In the 1895 Kalamazoo directory, William Hazel Johnston was listed as a “traveling man,” and Michael E. Linihan was listed as a laborer.3  In the 1899 directory, however, they were listed together as Johnston & Linihan, makers of the Gem Grain Grader.4  The 1904 Bradstreet’s Book of Commercial Ratings, Michigan listed them as makers of fanning mills, as did the 1906 Kalamazoo directory and the 1907 Michigan business directory.5  Further research is needed to uncover a more detailed identity for this company.  The Gem Grain Grader here at Stuhr Museum was used in the early 1900s on a farm near Gresham, Nebraska.

The worn instructions for setting up this fanning mill to
grade or clean a variety of seeds.

1 A good early nineteenth century source describing the use of a fanning mill is J. Brownlee Davidson, Agricultural Engineering: A Text Book for Students of Secondary Schools of Agriculture Colleges Offering a General Course in the Subject and the General Reader (St. Paul, MN: Webb Publishing Company, 1916), pp. 282-286.
2 Davidson, Agricultural Engineering, p. 282.
3 The 1895 Kalamazoo City Directory pages for William H. Johnston and Michael E. Linihan can be accessed at Ci/100.htm and Ci/117.htm, respectively.
4 F.A. Corey’s Annual Directory of Kalamazoo City, Comprising a Street and Avenue Guide Together with Corporation, Co-partnership, Residence and Business Directory, vol. XVI (Kalamazoo, MI: Kalamazoo Directory Co., 1899), p. 289.
5 Bradstreet’s Book of Commercial Ratings, Michigan, Selected under Specific Agreement, from the General Volume, Which Is Copyrighted (New York: The Bradstreet Company, 1904); Ihling Bros. & Everard’s Kalamazoo City and County Directory, 1906, Comprising Miscellaneous Information Regarding City and County Officials, Churches, Societies, Etc., an Accurate Guide to the Streets of the City, an Alphabetical Record of Names, Occupations and Residences, a Classified List of Business and Professions, Concluding with a Complete Directory of the Villages of the County and the Farmers Owning Property Therein {Detroit: R. L. Polk & Co., 1906), pp. 337, 621; and the Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory also Containing a Business Directory of Windsor and Walkerville, Ontario, 1907-1908 (Detroit: R. L. Polk & Co., 1907), p. 1275.

Late 19th to Early 20th Century Spike Tooth Harrow

 This spike tooth, or peg tooth, harrow was used pulverize dirt clods and loosen soil before the new year's crop was planted. A farmer might have used this harrow to prepare the soil for planting a crop of clover, alfalfa, or another grass. A farmer might also have used this harrow after plowing in order to better prepare the soil surface for planting a row crop like corn. Farmers also used harrows to tear up unwanted plants before planting a crop, or to scatter dirt over grass seed that had been recently cast on the ground in order to quickly cover the seed with soil.
 If you look closely at the ends of this harrow, you might notice that it has latches on both sides so that it could be connected to other harrows, allowing a farmer to pull two, three, or maybe five harrows at one time. By attaching multiple harrows together, a farmer could cover more ground with each pass of his horses or tractor. To see a video of a metal spike tooth harrow in action, being used to prepare a garden, click or touch here.

Early 20th Century Corn Seed Grader

 This corn seed grader has no clear marks that would enable us to identify a manufacturer. This grader, however, still played an important role on the farm, essentially performing the same task as the nearby Hero corn grader. If a farmer wished to plant a consistent and healthy corn crop, he or she needed to make sure the corn seeds were the same size and shape. If kernels that were too large or too round were placed into the corn planter's seed boxes, they may not pass through the planter's holes and they may clog the planter's holes or cause other problems during planting. If broken or misshapen kernels were placed into the planter's seed boxes, they might pass through the planter's holes but they may not grow or they may produce small or misshapen ears. By using a grader, farmers increased their odds of planting healthy corn seeds without serious issues.

Early 20th Century Cockshutt SP76 Eight-bottom Gang Plow

 This gang plow was made by the Cockshutt Plow Company of Brantford, Ontario, and was reportedly pulled first by a steam engine and then by a 10-ton Holt Caterpillar tractor, possibly around Petersburg, Nebraska.. If you compare it to the Avery ten-bottom plow across the lawn here at Stuhr Museum, you will notice that this plow has a platform whereas the Avery does not. This Cockshutt plow required a plowman to walk along the platform, raising each plow bottom with its own lever. The Avery, on the other hand, is a "self-lift" plow, meaning the driver of the tractor pulling the plow could lift all ten plow bottoms by tugging on a rope connected to the lever sticking up in the middle of the plow. That lever, connected to a series of chains and gears, lifted the plow bottoms off the ground. For both the Cockshutt and Avery plows, each bottom could move on its own. Having independent plow bottoms meant that any large stones in the ground would only impact the movement of the plow bottom that should hit it. If you want to see a video of a different Cockshutt eight-bottom gang plow with four plowmen being pulled by a Sawyer-Massey steam engine tractor, click or touch here.
 You can trace the roots of the Cockshutt Plow Company back to 1877, when James Cockshutt opened up a small shop called the Brantford Plow Works. By the mid-1880s, James had developed his own plows, particularly the J. G. C. sulky – meaning, single-bottom – plow, which became a very popular tool for farmers on the prairie. James, however, died before his sulky plow was patented; and his father, Ignatius, and brother, W. F., took over the company, renaming it the Cockshutt Plow Company. In 1888, W. F. returned to his own store and his brother, Frank, took over the company. Throughout the last decade of the 19th century, Cockshutt's business grew.
 Under the leadership of yet another brother, Harry, the company acquired more capital and purchased other firms, including the Adams Wagon Company, Brantford Carriage Company, and one-third interest in the Frost & Wood Company. Already one of the leading plow manufacturers in Canada, the company added a wide variety of other products to its line, as well as a large number of dealers, when it acquired these other firms. The company's numerous well-built products, its wide distribution, and good management enabled the company to survive the Great Depression and thrive for nearly three more decades. In 1962, the White Motor Company purchased Cockshutt's farm equipment business, although it continued using the Cockshutt name for some time.

You can read an informative history of the company by Danny Bowes on Yesterday's Tractor Co.'s page here.
You can read a narrative history of the company, which includes several images, by William H. Cockshutt on the International Cockshutt Club's page here.
Another web source on Cockshutt's history can be found here. Not all of these sites agree on the details of Cockshutt's history, particularly the demise of the Cockshutt business and name in the 1960s.

Early 20th Century Horse-drawn Walking Plow

 Although it has no clear identifying marks, this plow (the green one in the photograph above) may have been made by the John Deere Plow Works in Moline, Illinois. Pulled by two horses, this plow turned over the soil to the right side, creating a furrow in preparation for planting row crops. The smaller plow next to it, which also deposited the turned over soil to the right, may have been made for a garden or smaller field.
 To see a video showing the cooperation between man and horse that takes place when a similar walking plow is being pulled by two horses, click or touch here. To see a video of another walking plow being pulled by one horse, click or touch here. For a relatively long but very informative 23 minute and 40 second video on walking plows, click or touch here.

Early 20th Century Two-bottom Gang Plow

 This two-bottom plow, displayed behind a Fordson tractor, would have been used to dig two furrows in preparation for planting row crops. With the aide of wheels, this plow would have had less resistance than the walking plows displayed inside the exhibit building. Like the plows inside, the plowshares on this gang plow turned the soil over to the right side. In order to adjust the depth of the plowshares, a farmer would push or pull on the levers which tilted the side wheels inward or straightened them out. The rear wheel could be removed in order to allow the plowshares to dig deeper into the ground. To get an idea of what plowing was like by viewing a short video of a walking plow without wheels being pulled by one horse, click or touch here.

c. 1920s to 1930s International Harvester Plow Guide

 This plow guide was made by the International Harvester Company of Chicago, Illinois. Described as a "special steering device," the plow guide was used on tractors such as the Mogul or Titan to help the driver with steering. In theory, the plow guide, which was attached to the right side of the front axle, rolled inside the furrow, keeping the tractor moving straight ahead. If all went as planned, the driver of the tractor could get off the tractor and make adjustments to the plows being pulled behind. This plow guide is painted the same colors as the 1910 Mogul here in Stuhr Museum's exhibit, and it could have been attached to the right side of its front axle.