F. H. HOLLAR Single Wheel Cultivator

By Staff
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Russell Myers, who is 83 years young and son of Jacob Myers, with a Myers cultivator also manufactured in Singers Glen, VA.
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The Hollar cultivator used an idler pulley to engage the steel wheel, while the Myers cultivator used a sliding clutch, shown here.
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This late-model smaller Hollar cultivator has a rubber tire cap attached to the steel wheel for better handling. Only ten were manufactured.
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Leonard Hollar (left) and Fred Brown (right) comparing Leonard's collection.
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All cultivators were stamped on the crossbar with a manufacture number (42) and year of manufacture (1946); some may also have a brass identification tag.
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Leonard still gardens with his favorite cultivator.
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An original F. H. Hollar designed and manufactured single steel-wheel cultivator.
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The author, Al Minutolo, working a flower bed with one of his cultivators, #42 made in 1946.

5380 Jones Mill Road Crozet, Virginia 22932

Nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, north of
Harrisonburg, Virginia, is the community of Singers Glen. Although
not often on tourist maps and guides, Singers Glen has
distinguished itself as the birthplace of sacred music singing in
America, and as a local manufacturing center of gardening
equipment. Generally, the latter claim is known only by local folks
unless you have been fortunate to see a ‘Hollar’ or
‘Myers’ garden cultivator at a steam and gas show or local
auction.

In the early 1940s, Forrest H. Hollar designed and manufactured
a powered steel, single-wheel cultivator for home gardens. In June
1998 I visited the steam and gas show at Singers Glen and had the
opportunity to talk with his son, Leonard Hollar. This was a most
enjoyable visit, since Leonard worked with his father daily and can
recount many stories and memories of the Hollar cultivator
business. This story is one of an entrepreneur who created a
business out of family necessity and provided his customers a
powered gardening cultivator of lasting engineering excellence.
Forrest Hollar passed away in 1965 at age 69.

World War II provided America and its people the opportunity to
flex its industrial capabilities and move toward industrialization
at a rapid pace. In the South this growth was somewhat slow, due to
its historically agricultural base and significant population
movement from rural farms to industrialized centers. Only in later
years would the South’s agriculture economy impact the rise and
growth of the modern farm equipment industry. For about 15 years,
from 1940 to 1955, two neighbors, Forrest Hollar and Jacob Myers,
manufactured powered steel single-wheel garden cultivators in
Singers Glen for their neighbors, friends, and local farmers.

The Hollar cultivator exemplifies the truism, ‘Necessity is
the Mother of Invention,’ in that it was ‘invented’ out
of the need for a powered cultivator to support a large family
garden. Demographics which are available today indicate that
throughout the nineteen-forties and early fifties, manufacturing
and marketing of small powered garden equipment was regionally
based, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, and this equipment
was often not readily available nor affordable to gardeners and
farmers in the South.

F. H. Hollar lived his entire life in the Singers Glen
community. He could repair and make almost anything, and his shop
still stands near his family homeplace. Years ago he would have
been called a blacksmith or a backyard mechanic, but today he would
be a designer, engineer, production worker, shop manager, and
salesman all in one. Over the years, this family-operated shop
produced almost 1,000 units with an average price of $145-$165.

In the early years, the cultivators were powered with Maytag
engines and had wooden handles similar to a garden push plow. In
1938, electricity came to rural America and Hollar, being a fix-it
expert, purchased electric motors and converted neighbors’
gasoline engine powered Maytag washing machines to electric
Maytags. This resulted in a ‘shop full’ of Maytag engines
which were installed on his early cultivators. In later years,
Briggs and Stratton, Clinton, Economy, Lauson, and Tecumseh engines
were used (depending on availability); however, over time, Briggs
engines were the most preferred.

Although demand for these cultivators was high, production
during the early years was limited due to steel and engine
shortages. He was always trying to find and purchase enough steel
to make a production run of several cultivators. After the war,
materials became more readily available, resulting in increased
production. Over the years, only minor changes were made to the
original design. Dust shields were added at various locations to
protect bearings, and front counterweights added to improve
maneuverability and balance. All cultivators have the year of
manufacture and its production identification number stamped on the
frame. The cultivators had two belts and uniquely, the proper belt
lengths for each cultivator are also stamped on the frame. Some
cultivators may also be identified by a brass metal tag riveted to
the crossbar between the handles reading ‘F. H. Hollar, Singers
Glen.’ During operation of the business, several family members
worked in the shop. Leonard began working in the shop at an early
age and remembers all aspects of the original manufacturing
processes. Most parts, including handles, frames, cultivator drive
wheel, cleats, bearing supports, and pulleys were handmade and
assembled in the shop. Leonard has inventoried the shop and now
retains the original jigs and fixtures used to bend, weld, align,
and assemble the cultivators. Even today, Leonard recalls how
through experience he learned that when pouring bearings it was
necessary to heat the bearing mold before pouring the bearing
material to ensure the bearing surface would form properly.

In the early 1950s, several new single-wheel cultivators with
balloon tires, such as Choremaster, and Bolens, were introduced,
and Leonard recalls this as the beginning of the demise of the
business. At this time, cultivators were taking on a new look in
that they were being engineered and manufactured utilizing compact
designs, lightweight materials, balloon tires, and modern, larger
engines. Additionally, manufacturers moved into national marketing
programs with authorized dealers while cultivators were being mass
produced at low costs. Recognizing this trend, Hollar responded By
manufacturing several small cultivators with a rubber cap attached
to the flat steel cultivator wheel. In practice this type wheel
worked especially well for covering planted seeds, and especially
potatoes, because it would ride on the top of the soil instead of
sliding into the furrow.

However, local manufacturers fell on hard times and often faced
going out of business. This was the fate of the Hollar cultivator,
and the last unit was produced in 1955.

The old shop was dormant for many years, however, in 1975, a
family friend in Winchester, Virginia, asked Leonard Hollar to
build an original cultivator for a gift to his son. His friend
wanted to demonstrate to his son the creative spirit, desire for
self-sufficiency, and pride of ‘a job well done’ typically
exemplified by craftsmen of an era past. Leonard went down to the
old shop and found and made enough parts to build perhaps a last
one.

Although the Hollar cultivator is no longer in production, the
story does not end. Leonard, who is now 71 years old, still keeps
busy repairing and rebuilding a couple each year. During my visit,
I could sense his love for these old cultivators and he was pleased
to know that after all these years, they are often still being used
and appreciated by their owners. He told a story about a time when
he went to a local auction and was bidding on an original Hollar
cultivator. When bidders realized who he was, the bidding stopped
at ten dollars and of course he ‘bought it.’ Afterward,
Leonard approached the auctioneer and apologized for such a low bid
on the cultivator which would have possibly sold for considerably
more. Today, Leonard still works his garden with his father’s
favorite small cultivator.

For the many just plain folks who are interested in antique farm
and garden equipment, we admire the vision of men like F. H. Hollar
who inspires us to be hobbyists, restorers, and collectors of
Americana. The fact that ‘old iron’ is around in so many
forms is a testament to man and machines.

Meeting and talking with Leonard about the Hollar cultivator and
sharing his memories will be long remembered. Between my neighbor
Fred Brown and I, we own six Hollar cultivators and plan to take
them to Singers Glen shortly for a visit. The thought that Leonard
could have welded or bolted these together more than 50 years ago
adds to their own story. More importantly, I thank him for sharing
his story and this important piece of history with us. Thanks,
Leonard.

About The Author: Al Minutolo got the
‘bug’ from his friend and neighbor Fred Brown of Crozet,
Virginia. Both collect and have interest in all types of powered
single and two-wheel garden cultivators and tractors, especially
those factory produced or locally manufactured in the Mid-Atlantic
region.

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