Corn harvesting by mechanical means has not been with us for
very long, at least a commercially successful machine wasn’t
really available until the 1930s. However, as we shall see, the
basic ideas were much older. Unfortunately, technology hadn’t
yet caught up to abstract notions. Over the years, most historians
have given the credit for the first corn harvesting machine, i.e.,
corn picker, to Edmund W. Quincy. ‘Old Father Quincy’, as
he was known throughout the country, received a patent for this
machine in 1850. In all, he spent over forty years trying to
produce a machine to pick corn, and for most of his life, he lived
in abject poverty.
Numerous other ‘corn picker’ patents were issued in the
interim, but on January 5, 1892, a patent was issued to A. S. Peck
of Geneva, Illinois. Peck’s patent was not for a corn picker,
but for a corn binder. It was intended to cut the stalks of corn
and tie them into bundles, much like the ordinary grain binder.
Usually the bundles were shocked in the field for curing and
With the development of the corn binder came the
husker-shredder. This machine was equipped with snapping rolls
which picked off the ears of corn, with the stalks and leaves going
through the shredder. The fodder thus created was valuable for feed
and for bedding.
Peck’s invention had gained wide recognition by 1895 when
McCormick, Deering, and several other manufacturers began offering
corn binders in a big way. However, the 45 year period between Old
Father Quincy’s corn harvester and the Peck corn binder can
best be classified as an experimental and developmental period.
Virtually all those inventors who developed machines during this
time made no money on them, and in fact, probably lost considerable
money for their efforts. Peck’s early design is shown in Figure
1. Figures 2, 3, and 4 show the various designs of the 1890s, with
Figure 2 illustrating the gathering chain arrangement as used at
the time. In Figure 2, the lower chain was known as the
‘short-corn chain,’ the middle one was the conveyor chain,
and the upper unit was the ‘tall corn’ chain. The ‘tall
corn’ chain was intended to carry the tops of tall corn back
into the binding deck.
Usually a very heavy pit mans wheel was used on the cutting
knife drive. This, or some other means of providing extra stored
energy for cutting the stalks. One such arrangement is shown in
In Figure 4 we see the packers which forced the vertical stalks
into a tight bundle, preparatory to binding. The binding mechanism
was adapted from the grain binder. Thus, the developmental period
of the grain binder during the 1880s was indeed an essential step
in the development of the corn binder.
A look at Figure 5 makes it evident that by the 1890s, the
gathering mechanism had been developed in a basic form; designers
have continued to use various forms of gathering chains to this
day, whether in corn binders or corn pickers. Granted, the recent
designs run at higher speeds, use improved material over the
original malleable iron chains, along with numerous other
improvements. The fact remains though, that the design was
essentially established a century ago.
During the early 1900s, numerous companies, and many individual
inventors attempted to mechanize the corn harvest. Virtually all of
these efforts ended in failure, and in the aggregate, literally
millions of dollars and untold time was spent in building a
commercially successful machine. Suffice it to say that the
ancestor of the mechanical corn picker was that virtually forgotten
machine built by ‘Old Father Quincy’ in 1850.
In the July 5, 1906 issue of American Machinist, one Horace L.
Arnold of 738 East 32nd Street, Brooklyn, New York inquired for
further information on the gas engines built by Stuart Perry. The
first two American gas engine patents were granted to the latter.
The first one was a two-cycle design, air-cooled, and using hot
tube ignition. It was patented under No. 3597 of May 25, 1844. The
second patent, No. 4800 of October 7, 1846 was also for a two-cycle
design with hot tube ignition, but water cooled. Perry was living
at Newport, New York when the 1844 patent was filed, but was
residing in New York City at the time the second patent was issued.
Although there is no doubt that the Perry patents preceded all
others in the United States by some years, we have never located
anything but the most meager information regarding Perry or his
engine designs. Anyone having further information in this regard is
invited to contact ye olde Reflector at GEM.
Has anyone ever heard of the Little Wonder engine built by
Richmond (VA) Gasoline Engine Company? This firm was incorporated
28/5/1 Fordson Carburetors Q. Did the early
Fordsons have trouble with carburetor and vaporizer systems? It
seems they were changed every few years, from the Holley 280 (round
top) 1917-21, 1922-25; Kingston 1924-26; Holley 295, 1925-27;
Kingston again in 1926-33 & 1929-33, and Zenith 1929-33 and in
the middle 1930s.I am thinking of running my 1927 Fordson with the
Holley 295 system. Would 1 be wasting time and material? Were the
problems due to trying to run on kerosene? None of the carburetors
and years correspond with production atDearborn, Cork, or Dagenham.
Bob Current, 358 Linkfield Rd., Watertown, CT 06795.
A. Having never had much experience with the
Fordson or the carburetors associated therewith, we are unable to
give you specific recommendations in this regard. For this, we hope
that, some of the Fordson experts might come to your aid.
We can tell you that the downdraft design had its own
idiosyncrasies. This, combined with the multi-pass vaporizer plates
created starting and regulating problems. Especially in cold
weather, by the time the vaporized fuel went from the carburetor,
down through the throttle plate, venturi, and the vaporizer plates,
there wasn’t much vaporized fuel left; most wind. An old, and
now departed friend, once told us that starting a Fordson under
these conditions was something like calling in the cows from the
back forty … it took time!
Our old friend also told us that back in the 1920s it wasn’t
uncommon for a farmer or mechanic to take off the manifold, turn it
over, and use an up-draft carburetor. By punching a hole in the
hood, the exhaust went out the top, instead of down alongside the
Perhaps this explains why Ford made so many carburetor changes
on the Fordson tractors. We haven’t given you the specifics you
note above, but perhaps we have given you some background on the
28/5/2 Minneapolis-Moline RE Q. My neighbor has
a Minneapolis-Moline Model RE tractor, s/n 70143. It is a
four-cylinder engine, 35/8x 4 inch bore and
stroke. Any information on this tractor will be appreciated.E.
Kenneth Jones, 809 West 22nd, Hutchinson, KS 67502.
A. We have what we think is a very extensive
listing of M-M serial numbers. However, we can find no RE
designation, nor can we locate a series of numbers within the
general lines of your No. 70143. Are there any M-M collectors who
can answer this question?
28/5/3 Waterloo Boy Engine Q. I am restoring a
Waterloo Boy gas engine. It is a Type H, 2 HP, s/n 233773. What is
the date built?Cletus H. McFadden, Box310, Gifford,
A. There are no number lists for the Waterloo
Boy engines. However, the Deere serial numbers begin with 235001 in
1923. Using the assumption that these numbers followed Deere’s
earlier production of the Waterloo Type H, would put your number
only a couple thousand engines earlier. Thus, we would think it
logical to assume that your engine was built in 1921 or 1922.
28/5/4 Case Midget Car Q. Can anyone help me?
This Case Midget Car (see photo) had the original water cooled
engine replaced with an air-cooled single cylinder engine many
years ago. Can anyone tell me what original engine was used, and
where I might find one?Jeff Markham, RR 2, Box 195, Territorial
Rd., Whitewater, WI 53190.
28/5/5 Faultless Engine Q. I recently purchased
the 4 HP Faultless engine in the photos. It appears to have been
another of the Waterloo-built engines. The unusual thing about this
engine is the top of the water hopper. It has a tin insert which
fits in the top of the hopper. It was also set up to run on
kerosene, although it is a hit-and-miss engine. The fuel tank has a
divider in the middle; two pipes come from the tank, each having
their own shut off valve.
I) Is there any way to date this engine? 2) What is the color?
3) There is extensive striping . . . what color? 4) Is the truck
original? 5) Are there a lot of these engines left?Mac
Macomber, 45 Prentice Street, Taftville, CT 06380.
A. There is no dating available for this
engine, but we would guess it to be in the 1912-20 period, like its
contemporary, the Sandow engine, and others of similar appearance.
You don’t mention for sure whether this particular Faultless
was sold by John M. Smythe Company of Chicago. If so, then we
believe it to be an orange-red color, although no one has ever sent
in the correct match. (Could anyone send in this information?)
Regarding the striping, we saw one in the reddish-orange color and
striped in black, but if there is evidence of striping, we would
suggest that you repaint it in the original colors. Back behind the
cam gear and under the main bearings it is sometimes possible to
see a patch of fairly original color; it’s been buried under
grease and dirt for a long time and is usually well preserved. The
trucks could well be original equipment, although it may have been
mounted to trucks by the original owner many years ago. To our
knowledge there is no great abundance of the Faultless engines.
We’ve always found them to be an attractive addition to
anyone’s engine stable.
28/5/6 Dishpan Fairbanks Q. I have a
Fairbanks-Morse 1 HP ‘competition’ engine, s/n 571921,
which I am restoring. The engine was painted red, while the battery
box and oiler were painted green or grey. Can you verify the
correct color scheme and paint colors?Tim W. Hunter, RD 6,
Meadville, PA 16335.
A. At the present time we are working with
Fairbanks-Morse on a project, but have found nothing whatever
regarding the colors used on their various engines. However, it is
our guess that DuPont 8554 Red is about right, along with the gray,
green, or black on the battery box . . . we’ve seen all three
used over the years, and they all may in fact, be correct.
Oftentimes a purchasing agent called a paint company and wanted
‘red’ paint . . . the shade of red wasn’t so important
as the price per gallon of material.
28/5/7 Emerson Plow A. Oldenburg, 1 South 515
Monterey, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181, recently acquired an Emerson
2-bottom plow, W-1660. It is said to have been made in 1908. Can
anyone supply him with further information?
28/5/8 What is It? Q. Can anyone identify the
engine in the photos? I’m told it is a Kohler, but I’m not
sure. It has a Tillotson MT5B carburetor and Eisemann 71R magneto.
The original color seems to have been dark green. Can anyone advise
on this engine?David Eldridge, 7368 Hollister Ave., #25,