Manager Public Relations Activities, The Maytag Company, Newton, Ohio 50208
It is doubtful that a farmer in the last decade of the 19th century would have agreed with the frivolous label 'Gay Nineties.'
The mechanical wonders and labor-saving devices of today were far from reality in the 1890s. Hard work and long hours typified the farmer's life and the labor frequently was dangerous. Field workers of that period knew the dangers of hand-cutting on bundles of grain and feeding grain into the whirling cylinders of big threshing machines.
Frederick Louis Maytag, a farm youth, was conscious of threshing dangers and, while working in the lumber business in Newton in 1892, he watched G. W. Parsons experiment with and build a band cutting and self feeder attachment. Implement companies had failed in many experiments to find a practical attachment of this type.
Mr. Maytag assisted in the first test of this machine in the autumn of 1892 and in February, 1893, Mr. Parsons invited him to cooperate in the further development and marketing of this new product.
Company is Formed
In March, 1893, the Parsons Band Cutter and Self Feeder Company was formed with a capital of $2,400. Four men, each with one-fourth of the stock, comprised the firm. W. C. Bergman was elected president and manager; A. H. Bergman, vice-president; F. L. Maytag, secretary and G. W. Parsons was named to direct production.
Manufacture of this thresher accessory was a first. It was the first product of its kind to be produced and it was the first in a long line of products that were first in their field.
During the first year of operation, Skow Brothers of Newton were contracted to manufacture 150 attachments and later, an additional 50 feeders. About 100 were condemned or discarded by the users as unsatisfactory and the season ended in serious financial losses.
A Marketing Lesson
Years later, Mr. Maytag recalled that during the first disasterous year, 'We learned that nothing was actually 'sold' until it was in the hands of a satisfied user, no matter if it had been paid for.'
He pointed out that, 'For the first year, nobody gave his entire attention to the company's affairs. Each was busy at a regular bread-and-butter occupation and was obliged, for financial reasons, to handle his part of the new enterprise as a sideline.'
Although first-year success eluded the four enterprising men, they remained confident and optimistic. Mr. Maytag assumed fulltime management of the business and offices were opened in the Newton Opera House block. The abandoned 30 by 40 ft. Newton Stove Works building was purchased as a factory. Losses from the first year were made good following a successful second year of operation during which 286 machines were built, sold and delivered.
Within a few years 28 different concerns were purchasing and selling the Parsons Band Cutter and Self Feeder as an essential part of their threshing machines. Improvements in the product were made and in March, 1895, the first office building, 16 by 24 ft. was built.
The Inventive Mr. Snyder
A young man in the growing organization, Howard Snyder, drew Mr. Maytag's attention because of his unusual aptitude in servicing feeders and his ideas about the operation of the machine.
In the years that followed, Howard Snyder's inventive ability resulted in many 'firsts' in the Maytag line. One of his early inventions was a corn husker and shredder, called the Success. It was the first such machine to have combination husking and snapping rolls and it handled dry, wet or frozen corn stalks, thus eliminating the need to wait for favorable weather to perform this chore.
Other farm equipment was developed as the company progressed and its leadership was not challenged for 10 years. Then an opponent, the Ruth Self Feeder, appeared on the market. After thorough investigation, Mr. Maytag purchased the machinery and rights from the Halstead, Kansas, company and incorporated the feeder into the Maytag line. For years it was marketed as the Maytag Ruth Self Feeder.
Consolidation and Expansion
The Parsons Band Cutter and Self Feeder Company built the Ruth Feeder, the Parsons Feeder and the Parsons 'White Wings' Swinging Elevator Feeder and other farm accessories. Mr. Parsons developed another company - the Parsons Hawkeye Manufacturing Company - to manufacture another feeder, the Parsons Hawkeye, and other products.
In 1909 an announcement was made. The original company and the Hawkeye firm had consolidated and the new concern was to bear the name of the man who headed it- The Maytag Company.
Several years prior to the combination of the companies, Maytag ingenuity had been put to work on a project to make washday easier for the farm housewife and homemakers everywhere.
The rub-a-dub-dub laundry tune was on its way out and the washboard was about to be relegated to a role as a musical instrument. Sweeter washday music was to be provided by a wooden tub and hand crank on the first Maytag washer introduced in 1907.
Here are a couple of pictures of a four-wheel drive that I built in 1949 from two Plymouth rear ends and a 1946 Ford engine and transmission. It is a 5 x 5 x ? angle iron frame. The front axle was of the oscillating type so all four wheels would always be on the ground even though it was on rough ground. Steering was with hydraulic brakes, one master cylinder for each side. It handled so well that it was a pleasure to operate.
It pulled two 16' plow bottoms, 7' deep, with ease.
When I sold out due to health reasons, I sold it to a man in Lakeville where it was used to clean off snow around town. The last time I saw it, it was being used to pull a drag to smooth out a ski slope called Buck Hill, just north of town. I wish I had it back.