The following article originally appeared in the July 28, 1910 issue of Farm Implement News. While few of us have to deal with the issues discussed in the following article, it's interesting to read as it gives us an opportunity to understand just how important the engines we now collect were to the everyday life of merchants and farmers in the early part of the 20th century. Enjoy.
Most of the dealers whose letters have appeared in the recent issues of Farm Implement News report that they are handling gasoline engines, and many of them say that the business is satisfactory in every way. In some cases dealers report buying engines in carload lots. The minority is large, however, and if these reports reflect the situation throughout the country, there is a wide field of prospective engine trade that ought to be cultivated.
The dealer who thoughtfully considers the gasoline engine subject cannot avoid the conclusion that every farmer who has not already bought a gasoline engine is a prospective buyer. As he goes deeper into the subject he sees that nearly every farmer who buys one is a sale prospect for the second. When the great possibilities of this motive power on the farm are but partially realized he is ready to agree with the manufacturers that the time is coming when the equipment of the average farm will include two or three gasoline engines of different sizes.
'The farmers here are not interested in the gasoline engine,' says one dealer. There is a latent interest in gasoline engines in every farmer. It must be developed by the dealer. The most effective way is to buy a sample engine, learn how to run it and give practical demonstrations. The less one knows about the gasoline engine the more he is attracted and interested by a demonstration, and if he happens to be a farmer he instantly recognizes the value of such a motor to him. You cannot interest him with a catalog if he has never seen a gasoline engine at work.
It is true of all classes of labor-saving farm machinery and apparatus that one sale begets others in the same community. This is especially true of the gasoline engine. Place an engine in the hands of a good, reliable farmer, one who is highly regarded by his neighbors, and you take a long stride toward an established trade in this line. This has been the experience of many dealers who at first were skeptical about the engine business and who for a time fought shy of it.
Because no gasoline engines have been sold to farmers in your community is no reason why you should refuse to take up the sale. Do you intend to wait until the direct sellers and mail-order concerns have skimmed the cream of the trade? The fact that no engines have been sold in your section is the best reason why you should 'start something' in this line. It means that you have a rich, but hitherto uncultivated field. It insures sales. Do not deceive yourself with the thought that there is no demand for engines in your trade. If there is no demand you may rest assured that all the material and conditions necessary for the creation of a large demand are present in every farming community.
If the problem of keeping the boys on the farm is half as serious as we are led to believe it is by speakers and writers of national reputation, it constitutes one of the strongest arguments the dealer can use in his efforts to sell gasoline engines. The normal boy likes machinery and motive power. He is eager to take charge of something that 'goes.' One of the happiest days in a little fellow's life is the day Santa Claus brings him a toy engine. As he grows older his desire to run a bigger engine becomes a passion. The seventh heaven of bliss is reached when he takes his first ride on a locomotive and is permitted to throw over the lever and pull the throttle.
Young men find the poorly equipped farm an uninteresting and unattractive place, to say nothing of the back-breaking labor that is required to accomplish the necessary tasks. The gasoline engine lightens the labor and changes the boy's view of the farm. In all probability the appearance of a gasoline engine and his father's permission to 'rig up' as many labor-saving combinations as he could has called back many a dissatisfied farmer boy who was headed city-ward and started him along the road to a life of contentment and a successful career as a farmer.
In the Gas Review of September, A. Ten Eyck discusses this question and relates experiences and incidents which prove that the gasoline engine keeps boys on the farm. He says:
A few years ago while threshing beans with my outfit, which consists of a 3 HP gasoline engine and an Ownes No. 4 bean thresher, all mounted on a single truck wagon, a boy of about 16 years of age, son of the man for whom I was threshing, said to me: 'If father would only buy an engine like that, so we could thresh beans and buzz wood, and grind our own feed and pump water I would be more contented to stay at home and work. I have always wanted to run an engine and work around machinery.'
While there I let the boy take care of the engine, explaining to him its various parts and how they worked together to get the power, and to say that the boy enjoyed it is putting it mildly. The boy experienced more real genuine pleasure from starting and stopping and caring for that engine than he had found in the whole season's work.
Thinking about it afterward and comparing the longings of that boy with the longings of my own boyhood days when I too longed for an engine, I can understand how that lad felt. This was in the days before gasoline engines were made. Today, as cheap as they are, there is no excuse for any farmer not having one to do his work and satisfy the desire of his boys for experience with real machinery.
The papers are filled with articles about how to keep the boys on the farm, and many such theories are spun along that line, yet the boys, as soon as they are old enough, drift away to the cities to work in a factory or on a boat or on a railroad, wherever they can get a job of running a machine of some kind. What is the reason for such restlessness, such a desire to get away from the old home? Simply this: In many cases the father is content to do his work in the same usual way his father did and expects his boy to fall in line. The boy has advanced ideas in regards to the value of machinery as an aid to farm woes and his soul rebels at the thought of the drudgery old-fashioned methods entail. He yearns for the newer and more progressive ways. Instead of doing the daily tasks slowly with straining muscles and toil, he can be the master of forces that answer to his lightest touch. But the father, failing to appreciate the longings of his sons to be the masters of their work and not the slaves, sees the boys go to the city where their labor is lightened during the application of mechanical power. The whispering pulleys and flying belts and the hum of the engine find a responsive chord in the heart of the youth.
I did some work a few days ago for a farmer who was one of the progressive kinds. He had a 10 HP gasoline engine, a feed grinder, ensilage cutter, corn husker, buzz saw, etc. He also had a boy. I said to the boy, 'Do you often have any desire to leave the farm and go to the city to work?' 'No, sir.' He relied, 'work is too much of a pleasure on this farm to want to leave.' When there was an axe or a set of sections to grind, the engine was ready to furnish the power. No tired arms, no backache, no dread of the work. When feed was needed, there was no driving several miles through the cold and over rough roads, the engine and feed grinder were always ready to save that kind of a trip. When there was no wood, the engine and buzz saw were there to do the hard work. At corn husking time the engine and corn husker did the work in short order.
Hundreds of boys are in the cities today working for wages. Exposed to the temptations of the city, working in dusty, dirty, poorly ventilated factories, are many boys who would be enjoying the pure air and the sunlight of the farm had their fathers realized and tried to meet the requests and longings of the boys' hearts for machinery to run, and had its help to do some of the drudgery that necessarily comes on the farm.
What are a few hundred dollars spent for an engine and machinery to satisfy the boy and keep him contented on the farm, and have his help and companionship, and see him grow up a sturdy, robust, self-reliant man, compared to the loss that comes from the absence of the boy from the home? A neighbor said to me a short time ago, 'When my boy is two years older I shall buy an engine and as fast as possible get the machinery for it to run; the boy is crazy about an engine.' That man is on the right track to keep his boy on the farm.
Special thanks to Intertec Publishing, now known as Primedia Business, for permission to reprint this article.