Early 20th Century Grain Threshing Days

An old timer reminisces about grain threshing days and a thresherman he knew in the early 1900s.

| March/April 1968

  • grain-threshing-days-01-threshing-crew
    This photo is a copy of a copy. Original photowas taken September 8, 1908. The owner is Harry Baker of Red Lion,Pennsylvania and he is at extreme left. His father is sitting on thetractor wheel. 
  • grain-threshing-days-02-three-engines
    Which one is pulling the other two? Three very popular enginesof yesteryear, the 1-3-6 HP John Deere engines, all repaired,cleaned and painted complete to decals. These three are hit andmiss engines. Two had their intake valves tied open. But thepulling engine had more than enough to do. So that it did not doany missing at all. All this is in front of the engine shed andrepair shop. It's the one in the middle.

  • grain-threshing-days-01-threshing-crew
  • grain-threshing-days-02-three-engines

In the early nineteen hundreds, Harry Baker of York County, Pennsylvania was a local thresherman. He used gas engines for power and his outfit was pulled by horses from one job to another. This outfit consisted of a 10 hp engine and an Ellis-Keystone Thresher, overshot type, hand feed and drag straw carrier.

It was mostly barn threshing. Grain was bagged by half bushel measure. Jobs varied from twenty five to several hundred bushels. For less than 100 bushels the set up price was $4.00. The price schedule per bushel was: oats - 3 cents, wheat - 4 cents, and rye - 5 cents. Grain threshing days started in July and sometimes lasted till the next spring.

In 1907 Mr. Baker bought a York Gasoline Tractor, of same trade name as the engines he was using. This tractor was rated at 9 Hp. and had one gear forward and reverse. By changing speed of engine it made about 2 miles per hour. It was built with an excellent friction clutch and brake on the gear, which was important for operation.

When the load was too much for the tractor to pull up hill, the clutch was released and the brake applied until the engine regained speed. Clutch was then engaged, brake released and tractor proceeded a little farther. This operation known as clutching, was repeated until the tractor was over the hard grade. Mr. Baker claimed that regardless of how much clutching he had to do, he was never stuck with a load.

In those days, when there were no autos, the threshing crew left home Monday morning and stayed with the rig till Saturday evening. They threshed early and late and slept in the barn during warm weather. In rainy weather the main drive belt was protected and threshing continued.

Those were happy days and we all looked forward to the good threshing meals prepared by the Pennsylvania Dutch farm women.