Early 20th Century Grain Threshing Days

By Staff
article image
PHOTO: MILLARD WINTER
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. 

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.

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