by Noel Ditmars of Pickrell, NE
I particularly enjoyed your “Setting Up A Binder” article in the last Small Farmer’s Journal (Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 33-39). I noticed that the Champion binder has an IHC auto-steer tongue truck. I’m wondering if you know when that Champion binder was manufactured. There are many clever designs in the old horse machinery, but I have long admired how that tongue truck turns shorter than the tongue so a team can sidestep around a corner to line up for the next swath. We had one of these tongue trucks installed on a #9 mower back when Dad (Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 50-51, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 62) was still alive and farming. I still have a couple stashed in my windbreak.
Just for fun I’m attaching some scans from a circa 1920 (right after IH acquired the P & O line) IHC catalog reproduction. In the catalog there are both McCormick and Deering grain binders, mowers, and corn binders, but no Champions. According to International Harvester Farm Equipment by Ralph Baumheckel & Kent Borghoff (pp. 51-52), Champion was one of the five lines of binder sold by IHC after it was started in 1902. Apparently by 1920 only the McCormick and the Deering remained. The fact that the Champion in your article has the tongue truck that continued makes me wonder if it was a Champion invention or something IHC shared through all its lines.
I have to agree with your suggestion in the article that the binder made a significant change in farming. I think the Allis Chalmers All-Crop 60 made an equally significant change with the introduction of a combine most farmers could afford. This thought comes from having experienced both binding/threshing and combining first hand.
In 2010 our 2 tillable acres were in wheat after 8 years of alfalfa. With harvest time approaching, I asked the president of our local Blue Valley Antique Collectors club if he knew anyone with a small pull type combine. He thought a few moments and then said “We’ll bring the binder and threshing machine up.” He and a couple other club member did show up with a late model John Deere PTO binder with transport wheels converted to rubber to allow it to be pulled behind a pickup. By the time I got home from a half day at work, they had it hooked to my Model 50 John Deere and the field well started. My wife and I spent evenings shocking but never did get the whole field shocked. After about a week of (fortunately) rain-free weather, club members showed up again with the case threshing machine. Since the 50 was then my only tractor and belted to the threshing machine, a couple of us hauled bundles with my friend’s rack behind my Jeep Cherokee and my flat trailer behind my pickup. After a long hot afternoon the bundles were all shocked and there were about 100 bushels of wheat in the gravity wagon I had borrowed from my Dad. I still had to rake out windrows and bale round and round the straw stack, so the whole harvest process took most of a month.
In 2019 the alfalfa had again played out and the two acres were in wheat again. Over the previous winter I had found 2 recently run All-Crops listed for sale on Craigslist. They were only about 20 miles straight north of me. The seller wanted $500 for both or $450 for one, so I ended up with 2 combines. A couple weeks before harvest time I had a hip joint replacement, so I had to rely on a gracious neighbor who squeezed his enormous IH axial flow into my little field, got the wheat harvested, and then sold it in my church’s name rather than accepting it as well earned payment. (Another neighbor with JD 2 cylinder hand clutch experience from a restored family heirloom JD B came and plowed the field for me with my JD 50 and trip lift pull type 2-14 plow – real farmers can be excellent neighbors.) This summer I had about ¾ of an acre in oats and finally got to use an All-Crop. This harvest was many times easier. In a couple hours the oats were all on my pickup and I have a thorough appreciation of combines.
My Dad was 10 years old when my Grandpa traded his threshing machine in on his first combine, so I didn’t hear stories about my family binding and threshing. The dealer is said to have valued the traded in IH threshing machine at more than the new combine in 1941 so he also provided a new hammermill in the trade. Dad said the first round in a field of heavy oats where they had to take a full swath was too much for that first combine and wiped out all the single chain driven sprockets on one side of the machine. It was traded in on the next year model that had two chains driving things on that side. I’m assuming that my Grandpa threshed for at least other relatives in the area and then probably combined for them too.
I’m attaching photos of Grandpa’s first combine, my binding and threshing, and my combining.