625 Secor Ave., Forest City, Iowa 50436
(From I & T, May 21, 1963)
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM IMPLEMENT & TRACTOR. COPY
RIGHT 1968 IMPLEMENT & TRACTOR PUBLICATIONS, INC. (Rodney Hill
thought this column called’ ‘Reflections’ written by
the late Elmer J. Baker, Jr., would be of interest to the GEM
readers and wrote the Implement & Tractor company and asked for
permission to reprint. We hope you enjoy it — Anna Mae)
In the Feb. 7 issue, the Reflector uttered some admiring remarks
about the Titan 10-20 and its contribution to power fanning
history. But a faltering memory led us to say that the Titan had no
carburetor or spark plugs. We were correct about the former and in
error about the latter, and we stand corrected by W. R. Peterson,
who writes on the letterhead of the Peter son Mfg. Co., Plainfield,
Ill. To quote the appropriate portion of his Titan
I am impelled to challenge your statement that the Titan 10-20
had no spark plugs or carburetor. True, it had no carburetor, but
it did have spark plugs; big outsize critters of a size that I have
seen nowhere else, but spark plugs nonetheless. It also had a good
high tension magneto, KW by name, with an impulse coupling for easy
starting and safety. This impulse coupling worked with marvelous
efficiency until the magneto became saturated with lube oil that
worked up through the joints in the crankcase. When this happened
the magneto armature would drag so that the impulse coupling spring
could no longer drive the armature in its properly timed
orientation. Faced with this condition, there were but two choices
open. One could either disassemble the mag and wash it out or build
a fire under it to make the oil let go of the armature. The
Stanolind lube oil that we used in those days was only a few SAE
numbers (unheard of in those days) below that of light axle grease.
In cold weather we had to store a supply of the oil in the house so
we could pour it into the Madison-Kipp lubricator.
It was easy to become a tractor ex pert in those days, since no
one else knew anything about tractors either. I had the opportunity
to drive a Mogul 8-16 a few hours on a road oiling job; at night
when no one else wanted to work. Based on this
‘experience,’ I went out and got a job from a farmer who
had just bought a new Titan 10-20 (with spark plugs). He started
the Titan for me and showed me how to adjust the mixing valves for
kerosene and water and sent me to the field in high gear to plow
clover sod, with the suggestion that I should shift into low gear
when I got to the field, since the tractor would not be able to
pull the plow in high gear. When I got to the field I did not have
the courage to ship out of high gear for fear I would be unable to
find low gear, so I proceeded to plow in high gear until noon. When
I returned to the house at noon the boss was so impressed with my
skill that he gave me a raise right then. And so are experts
Cutting wheat on the H. L. St. Clair, farm on June 20 1966.
Jason Cline on binder, Edith St. Clair with bonnet on, Anne Wager
and father. Less Wager, on tractor.
In dredging up memories of strange tractors, I must mention one
that probably had the shortest life of any that I know of. This was
the Titan 15-30, a four cylinder big brother of the 10-20. It was a
ghastly collection of mixing valves such as I had never seen be
fore or since. There was a mixing valve for each cylinder. How one
was supposed to get a uniform mixture to each cylinder I will never
know. I guess you were supposed to have a stroboscopic ear.
I have also had the dubious honor of piloting a Bates Steel Mule
with the single track that the operator wore between his legs, in a
manner of speaking. We were trying to make it run on kerosene,
which it was most reluctant to do. We kept running it faster and
faster in this effort until in its despair it finally blew up in my
lap, upon which we towed it back into the weed patch from which we
had dragged it a few hours earlier.
We, too, had one of those Voss washing machines for which I
became the engineer because I was the only one in the family with
the necessary curiosity to unravel the ignition mysteries of the
Olds (one cylinder, stationary) engine with which we powered
Ah me! I consider it one of the great ironies of fate that our
enlightened modern generation will, for the most part, never learn
what goes on inside a gas engine, because they are now so
confounded efficient and durable that there is no longer any need
to look inside their hermetically sealed, chrome plate
I trust you have not been too much distressed by these
meanderings of a kindred spirit. Please carry on with your
Reflections. I enjoy them, no end.
(Signed) W. R. Peterson
The Reflector is not going to argue with Mr. Peterson about the
Titan ignition, for he’s an expert. He even tells how he
received the rating, which is more than most experts will confess.
So we looked back in the records of the old Tractor Field Books and
found that the Titan was factory equipped with ?-in. spark plugs,
probably made by the Kingston Ignition Co., as they were once
listed as sup pliers for IHC. My memory is that those used to be
described as ?-inch pipe thread. Users were not called upon to
change them twice a year, and likely they would not have been able
to afford to if they had been so admonished by Kingston or K-W
Ignition or M &W.
IHC used to be choosey about its electrical sources of supply,
and in the farm engine trade they were the lone Irishman who was in
step when all the rest of the company were marching out of step. By
that is meant that IHC made and pushed volume-governed farm engines
when almost every one else who didn’t make industrial engines,
like the Charter folk at Sterling, Ill., made hit-and-miss governed
engines. The volume-governed engine ignited at every other
revolution, if 4-cycle, while the hit-and-miss engine fired only
when the reduction of speed showed that another explosion was
needed to rev the engine up to governed speed.
The by-product effect was that the volume-governed engine (the
IHC) remained hot enough to burn kerosene –cheaper per explosion,
because coal oil was cheaper than gasoline–but the hit-and-miss
skipped enough explosions on all except capacity full loads to
elide explosions, and the intake charges for them, and thus ran
cheaper on light farm loads such as Voss washing machines and
windmill pump-jacks which had to operate during the dog days when
the stock was thirstiest and the wind did not blow enough to creak
a sail, let alone work the cylinder at the bottom of the well and
raise some water. (Wow! What a sentence.)
1927 Eagle 45 Hp. 2 cyl. 8?-10. Only 6 manufactured this model.
Won trophy as best restored at Cambellford, Ontario on June 18.
Also exhibited at Steam-Era. Owner is John A. Howe, R.R. 5,
Trenton, Ontario, Canada.
A Case Gas Tractor. I think this is really something but
don’t know the man. I saw it at Rollag, Minnesota and I think
the man is from Wisconsin. That Rollag sure is growing fast and
Elemr Larson is still fixing. Saw his patterns for a model
Hart-Parr. The little Oil Pull runs nice yet.
Hit-and-miss engines, even big ones used for town waterworks,
were equipped with a make-and-break ignitor and got their spark
from a No. 6 dry cell, or two, and a coil with a brass buzzer
blade, I think. Then a long for gotten prophet invented the Webster
tri-polar oscillator magneto, the most perfect conglommeration of
electrical and mechanical devices ever hashed together into big,
and admired, business. The Webster Electric Co. was organized to
make the tri-polar oscillators at Tiffin, Ohio, but the Racine
Chamber of Commerce sent an emissary to Tiffin and lured the
Websters to Racine, where they domiciled for all time.
The Webster Electric Co. at Racine was managed by one of the
world’s finest gentlemen–a man named Arthur Loeb. Every time
that Elliot B. Perkins of the FIN ad staff got to Racine in the
Sahara days, Mr. Loeb would invite Perk out to the Elk’s Club
for lunch and forget all about the business he had to run making
tri-polar oscillators and the two of them would stay at the club
until the waning light startled Mr. Loeb into a realization that he
had a loving family at home waiting for him, so he and Perk would
have to part company, until the next time.
Back to Chicago would come Perk with a much bigger order for
advertising of Webster tripolar oscillators than the company really
needed. They had all the business except the IHC, and the only
thing that would have switched that would have been to fire all the
McCormicks and install the Deerings and turn over a new leaf.
IHC used to buy their tractor rotary magnetos from K-W, as Mr.
Peterson recalled. One year the company set out to meet
hit-and-miss governed pumping engine competition with a new model
of their own. It did not have the tri-polar. It had, if memory
serves, an oscillator made by a little company on the West Side of
Chicago set up by Ed Johnston, manager of the Experimental
Department. He put a big fellow in charge who used to design grain
On the Webster oscillator, as I heard it explained by an
inquiring dealer expert at Rochelle, I think, one big spring pulled
back the shaft that, when released, actuated the make-and-break,
causing the spark at the break of the electrodes, while another and
smaller spring pulled in the opposite way to insure the opening of
the electrode contacts, if they were sticky and reluctant. This
double opposing spring business may have been patented, with
Webster holding the patent. Anyway, the IHC oscillator depended
upon inertia to make the ‘break’ for the spark, instead of
the secondary opposing spring used on the Webster. So when the IHC
engine got nice and dusty and oily, the resistance set up cancelled
out the inertia, and there was no ‘break’ for the spark.
That dealer had spent the better part of two days just to find out
what the trouble was and what caused it.
But IHC never pursued the hit-and-miss pumping engine much
further. It went the way of the single flywheel model developed
late in the feud between Fairbanks-Morse and IHC on engines. They
took turns cutting each other’s throats, price-wise.
For their small rotary magnetos, IHC turned to the Wico Electric
Co. of Springfield, Mass. At that period there were about eight or
ten companies making small mags for farm engines, and every foundry
in every county-seat town in the whole US seemed to make farm
engines. The Reflector once counted some 200 names in one issue of
the Buyer’s Guide.
Just to tie up the frayed ends of the story, Ed Johnston sold
his Accurate Engineering Co. to Harvester, his boss. At that time
Harvester had never done any precision manufacturing in any of
their plants, just as other farm implement people hadn’t. The
nearest thing to precision work was in the knotter department.
The Accurate plant on the West Side was abandoned and the
operations were transferred to the large Piano Works, out around
Pullman, a suburb south of Chicago, T. G. Sewell, a quiet and quite
efficient engineer in the experimental department, was sent to the
Piano Works to manage the new venture.
Taken on our vacation in 1967 at Rock Rapids, Iowa
Not only did it take charge of any magneto experimental work the
company needed, but Piano started to make ball bearings, and they
did so well that the bearing makers started almost giving away
their bearings to Harvester to compete. It was the old Wisconsin
Steel story all over again. ‘Get the price right or we’ll
make it ourselves.’ Harvester never liked to be long-priced on
materials it had to use and sell in a competitive market like farm
machinery. In this attitude Harvester has been perfectly right and
proper. Farmers were almost ruined in the old days when they had to
buy in a protected market and sell their products in a competitive
We wonder how IHC came out in their diesel pump and injector
pro-gram. We once went through that air-conditioned Milwaukee
production department not long after it was established, when the
only other place in the world air conditioned was Mr. Bosch’s
factory at Stuttgart, and we don’t mean Arkansaw.
It’s time to ring off before I&T runs out of paper stock
and patience, and Harvester starts considering putting the
Reflector on the payroll for gratuitous public relations.