Spring 2011 West News

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Western region newsletter S P R I N G

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Spring Focus ~ Machinery SPECIAL POINTS OF INTEREST:

Meeting New Friends at Fort Nisqually

“Living History” the art of a magazine cover

Living History Recipes

Annual Conference and Meeting: Jackson’s Mill

Newsletter Submission Guidelines

Mechanized Agriculture: Power for the Farm Steve Iverson When the new millennium began eleven years ago, many of us in the museum field recognized, somewhat suddenly in some cases, that the twentieth century was now history. The last century’s technological innovations for factories, farms, transportation and communication were increasingly appropriate for interpretation at historic sites. The growing prominence of, and dependence on, farm machinery completely changed the history of food production, family life and rural social organization. Understanding the context of twentieth century farm development is a broad topic, but one way to begin is to look at the history of the power sources employed in the fields.

Farmers traditionally depended on animal power to supplement human labor. Horses, mules and oxen allowed American farmers to expand their tilled acreage, providing additional income for commercial exchange.

including Cyrus McCormick’s reaper and its descendants, and a plethora of horse-propelled wagons, seeders, mowers, rakes, binders and balers. The steam engine was the first artificial power source to be applied to agriculture. Beginning in the 1850s, With an expanding inventors sought to adapt population and export steam power to farm needs, potential, the advantages of with varying degrees of fossil fuel power were not success. By the 1880s limited to factory and transportation sectors. The steam traction engines, era following the Civil War pulled to the field by horses, provided ample opportunity were attached to long belts to experiment with that powered stationary agricultural mechanization. threshing machines, In the nineteenth century separating grain from straw several varieties of and chaff. By the 1890s machinery were put to use these huge, heavy steam in the service of agriculture, machines could travel under their own power, and some were capable of pulling plows. Their large size, however, proved to be a liability; they lacked maneuverability, they required sensitive maintenance and their



The Rumely OilPull, introduced in 1910, used kerosene for fuel and oil – run through a cooling tower in front – for cooling. Rumely’s popular model 16/30, produced from 19181924, rated 30.1 horsepower on the drawbar and 46 on the belt in the 1920 Nebraska Tractor Test.

weight compacted the soil. Nevertheless, as stationary machines they continued to provide important power for threshing crews even through the 1920s. As the twentieth century dawned, American, Canadian and European inventors sought to create reliable, lighter weight power sources for farm use. The internal combustion engine provided the breakthrough. It was incorporated into what came to be called “tractors” – machines designed to provide mobile or stationary power – with various configurations of wheels and weight distribution. The experimental and competitive energies of manufacturers led to the opening of dozens of factories to make machines for agriculture. From 1900 to 1920, many early tractors were underpowered, lacked reliability and broke down




frequently. Traveling salesmen sold inadequate machines to unsuspecting farmers, creating a demand for some form of quality testing. In 1920 the Nebraska Tractor Tests began evaluating the products of many manufacturers and publicizing the results, providing prospective purchasers with uniform information by which to make informed choices. The most common ratings during the era were for horsepower on the drawbar – indicating pulling power – and on the belt wheel, which later included the power take-off. Those horsepower ratings were expressed as a pair of numbers: for example, 10-20 or 30/60. The system had been used earlier on steam engines, but the tractor tests provided a more reliable indicator of power.

gasoline-powered machines. Most steam engine manufacturers did not survive the Twenties; others did so only after merging with other farm equipment companies. Examples of the latter include Avery, Advance, Aultman-Taylor and Garr-Scott. In 1918 Henry Ford entered the tractor market with his Fordson tractor, powered by a Model T motor. Ford’s mass production achieved cut costs significantly, and in the tractor wars that followed the Fordson soon outsold all other brands combined. Many manufacturers went out of business, but the survivors created better models in response.

Most tractor manufacturers were headquartered in the upper Midwest, but the Recognizing the limitations of productivity of California’s San Joaquin Valley also steam traction engines, stimulated innovative inventors and farm equipment makers worked to designs. One example is the advance tractor design. Early Samson company of Stockton, whose Samson experimenters tried various Sieve-Grip Tractor fuels: the Rumely OilPull tractor, produced in LaPorte, (originally rated 6-12, and later 12-25) proved quite Indiana, from 1910 through popular. The Samson was a the mid-1920s, ran successfully on kerosene. Like gear-driven, gasoline, threewheeled tractor with open many other makers of steel wheels. In 1918 tractors, this company had General Motors, in an produced steam traction attempt to compete with engines. Another steam Fordson, purchased Samson producer, the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company and moved the factory to Wisconsin. By 1923 they of Racine, Wisconsin, had given up the project. introduced its own line of




By the 1920s tractors with gasolinefueled internal combustion engines had captured most of the market, though a few kerosene models maintained a small share. Not until the 1930s was a reliable diesel-fuel engine perfected by Caterpillar. Tractors of the late teens through thirties were often built around a four-wheel configuration with wide front stance, and sat on steel wheels with lugs for traction. The salesleading Fordson was such a design. Other makers came up with new concepts that enhanced productivity and enticed farmers to replace their draft animals with tractors. International Harvester’s 1921 Model 15-30, for example, was built on a sturdy framework that permitted a power take-off (PTO) to be mounted on the rear. The PTO provided power to attached equipment such as mowers, binders and side rakes. By 1928 John Deere’s Model D included an independent PTO, which could be shut off when the operator desired. Then Allis-Chalmers’ 1932 Model U was the first tractor mounted on pneumatic tires, providing both comfort and traction. The conventional tractor with its wide front wheels was particularly good for plowing, discing and sowing fields, but somewhat clumsy to maneuver through row crops. International Harvester’s 1924 design for a tricycle tractor, dubbed a general purpose machine, made cultivating easier. High clearance and a narrow nose, aided by the typical independent brakes for each of the drive wheels, gave it maneuverability between rows, knocking down weeds while sparing the crop. Other companies followed with general purpose tricycle models, which became an industry standard through the 1950s.



Despite all the improvements, early farm tractors won no beauty prizes. Then in 1935 Oliver Hart-Parr introduced its model 70 Row Crop tractor with a sleek, appealing sheetsteel body. Almost immediately, International Harvester hired industrial designer Raymond Loewy to add style to its machines, and the John Deere Company hired Henry Dreyfuss to upgrade the appearance of models A, B, D, G and H. Both designers were men of international reputation. By providing a clean new look, the old steering column and radiator grill were hidden and the rear end and driver’s seat area became less machine-like. One other tractor configuration was especially important in the early twentieth century. In areas where soft soils were unable to support heavy tractors, crawlers – tractors with treads – offered a solution. Two California farm equipment manufacturers pioneered the use of crawlers. C.L. Best and Benjamin Holt were rivals in the field from 1908 until their two companies merged in 1925. Holt’s name for the gasoline-driven crawlers was Caterpillar, and it is the name that stuck. These machines became the basis for military tanks during World War I, and when Caterpillar introduced diesel fuel in 1931, it set a precedent for the standard farm fuel of today.

Right: The 1935 styling of the Oliver Row Crop 70 introduced aesthetics to tractor design.

Three pivotal tractors: International Harvester (also produced as McCormick-Deering) 15-30 pioneered the power take-off; the John Deere model D had an independent shutoff PTO; the Allis-Chalmers model U, introduced in 1929, was the first production tractor offered with pneumatic rubber tires.




Seed Catalogs It is gratifying to know that some things never change, or only change slightly. The

there is something about being able to look through a catalog that is extremely satissubject in question being the fying. Now, of course, you can’t beat ordering on line and winter seed catalog which before the advent of the inter- getting your seeds within a few days, but drilling down net was something that was through several levels on line waited for with great anticito find what you are looking pation by our agricultural minded fore fathers. Although for just doesn’t feel as good as flipping pages and being able the seed companies have a major presence on the World to compare varieties on the Wide Web, they still mail out printed page. their catalogs to whoever wants them, and in some Hopefully this is what brings cases to those that don’t want visitors to our museums and them. Whatever the case, the historic sites, the lure of the arrival of the winter seed physical object. Virtual reality catalog still stirs the latent is interesting, but most of us gardener in this curator. are tactile individuals with a As handy as the internet is,

desire to feel and touch and

see the real thing. A picture of a steam traction engine is nice, but can’t compare with the artifact itself, especially if it is fired up, dripping water and exuding steam. What our sites and museums do is provide the third dimension to the light produce images on the internet. We have what can never be replicated electronically, the presence of the real.

As handy as the internet is, there is something about being able to look through a catalog that is still extremely satisfying.




Announcing: Western Regional Meeting

The Presence of the Real: Artifacts and Interpretation Save the Date “Prescott: Where It All Began” will be the host city for the 2011 ALHFAM Western Region meeting. The host site is Sharlot Hall Museum. The dates: September 8, 9 and 10.

Adventure is the Museum’s sixteen year old living history program that features both first person and third person interpretation. For more information on the Museum go to: www.sharlot.org.

The program is still in the More on this as it develops, works, but one thing can be but put these dates on your counted on, you will calendar and make plans to experience “The Arizona be in Prescott, Arizona for History Adventure” on Sat- this year’s regional meeturday the 10th. The Ariing. zona History

Western Region on Facebook! Join us on facebook! And help keep us connected with living history, current research and more via the discussion on the page.

http://groups.to/ alhfamwesternregion/






Stamp Mill at Bodie State Historic Park Visitors to California’s Bodie State Historic Park east of the Sierra Nevada are familiar with “panning” for gold, or placer mining, but often do not realize most miners in Bodie worked as “hardrock” miners, going underground to blast out quartz rock containing gold and silver. To process the rock, a “stamp mill” was required. Bodie’s peak population was between 8,000 and 10,000 and the town boasted close to 2,000 buildings during the boom years, 1877 to 1881. Bodie’s rapid growth began after a mine collapse revealed a rich ledge of gold ore, attracting the interest of investors in San Francisco and New York. In July 1877, the new Standard Mining Company built a stamp mill for crushing quartz rock and extracting the gold and silver. The Standard seemed destined for success, having bought the mine that started the excitement in Bodie. The company’s innovations would keep it alive into the next century. The Standard’s first innovation was in December 1877, with construction of an aerial cable with iron buckets to transport 45 tons of ore in eight hours from the mine 2500 feet above. The patent on the heavy woven cable was held by a fellow named Andrew Hallide. Most remember him for a more famous project - the San Francisco Cable Car System. At the mill, ore was sorted over grates called “grizzlies.” If you imagine a cattle guard tilted on one of its ends, this gives an idea of a grizzly’s appearance. Ore too large to go through the grizzlies rolled off onto a breaker floor where the ore was reduced further, with a “jaw crusher”, so named for its similarity in function to a human jaw. Then, properly sized-ore was ready for the mortar boxes, which contained the stamps. The Standard’s mortar boxes, solid pieces of cast iron, weighed about 3 tons. At this point, water was introduced, allowing the material to flow between the moving stamps and the die in the bottom of the box. Each box contained five iron stamps, weighing about 1,000 pounds each, going up and down 90 times a minute. The Standard was a 20-stamp mill, so four boxes stood side by side with slanted tables extending from the front opening.

Stamp Mill at Bodie State Historic Park


Before the crushed ore left the boxes, it passed through a metal screen to ensure the muddy mixture was 40 mesh -- finer than most screen doors. The slurry continued downward over copper plates coated with mercury or “quicksilver.” Gold and silver, with their affinity for mercury, were held behind. The “amalgam,” was scraped up and taken to a retort furnace and heated to 700 degrees. This vaporized the mercury, which was recovered and cooled for reuse. The gold and silver went to the smelter for melting at 2,000 degrees and pouring into molds. Finally, the bars, a gold and silver mix called “bullion,” were shipped to the U.S. Mint for the final separation of the gold from the silver. As Bodie’s boom ended in 1881, the Standard would stay afloat, just barely. After lack of ore essentially shut down the mill for five years, a new manager, Arthur Macy, a graduate of Columbia School of Mines in New York City, got the company back on track in 1890. Macy did away with Hallide’s aerial cable system, choosing now to transport ore to the mill from a nearby horizontal shaft. He also ordered new treatment equipment, including concentrators, which shook material exiting the amalgamation process in order to separate heavier material from lighter waste. It was known that the amalgamation process only recovered 60-65 percent of the metals. His improvements resulted in lower milling costs and better yields of gold and silver. Macy’s successor, fellow Columbia alumni Thomas Leggett, chose to electrify the mill. Bodie’s biggest expense was wood to fuel the boilers of the steam engines at the mines and mills. At the Standard, $22,000 worth of wood was required annually. Wood was transported to town at great expense as no trees grew nearby. After consulting with the Westinghouse Company, Leggett chose an alternating current system. His decision was dictated by the distance the power had to travel from the hydroelectric plant nearly 13 miles away at Green Creek in the Sierra Nevada. Leggett’s project was fraught with setbacks. It was hoped the electricity would be running the mill by December 1, 1892. Hopes were so high that the Standard ordered a minimum amount of wood as winter arrived. As months rolled on, one newspaper writer termed the project “Leggett’s Folly.” Finally, on July 15, 1893, Leggett invited a few people in town to witness the electrical start-up, including James S. Cain, who had lived in Bodie since 1879. Cain worked in banking, mining and lumber, a lucrative business in Bodie. The $38,000 electrical installation was a success, but a boiler and steam engine remained for back-up. About two years later, Leggett completed installation of an electric hoist and a lighting system for the Standard Mine. He wasn’t done yet. The new buzz in mining circles was use of cyanide to dissolve gold and silver. It was said this process could recover almost 100 percent of gold and silver from the crushed ore. By late 1894, the Standard had built a cyanide treatment plant.

On October 4, 1898, an accidental fire burned down the mill. New construction began immediately, and in just four months, a second Standard Mill, with galvanized metal siding, sparkled in the sunlight. A new assistant manager, Stanford University graduate Theodore J. Hoover, arrived in June 1903. Hoover was charged with the task of recovering gold and silver from thousands of tons of tailings (crushed material) below the mill. These tailings, called “slimes,” for their excessive clay content, did not respond well to current cyanide processes. After much study and experimentation, Hoover renovated the cyanide plant and brought in a “tube mill” for fine grinding of tailings before treatment. Hoover claimed the tube mill was the only one outside of South Africa at the time. In 1904, Hoover became manger and continued with improvements. By the end of 1905, the company paid dividends to its happy shareholders. Hoover actually had some leisure time and hosted his sister-in-law and famous mining engineer brother, who would later become United States President Herbert Hoover. After Hoover’s departure, the company continued through the first decade of the 1900s, but mines were clearly playing out. The Standard ceased operations in 1913 and completely dissolved in 1915 after James Cain, witness to the electrical start -up, successfully sued the Standard for taking ore out of his nearby Midnight Mine. Cain acquired the mill and all the mining properties and began operating them on a lease basis. In 1935, the Standard Mill saw the last ore pass through its now 10 stamp mill. Today, park visitors can see the stamp mill on guided tours and marvel at the mining equipment and techniques that resulted in the Standard producing $18 million in gold and silver – almost half of the district’s recorded total of nearly $34 million. These figures reflect historic gold and silver prices of $20 an ounce for gold and about $1 an ounce for silver. The stamp mill and the 200 buildings in Bodie remaining owe their existence to James S. Cain and his descendents, who hired a series of caretakers to protect the town until it became a California State Park in 1962. Bibliography: Piatt, Michael H. The Mines Are Looking Well, The History of the Bodie Mining District. El Sobrante, CA: North Bay Books 2003. Johnson, Russ and Anne. The Ghost Town of Bodie: As Reported in the Newspapers of the Day. Bishop, CA: Chalfant Press, 1967. Billeb, Emil. Mining Camp Days. Berkeley, CA, Howell North Books, 1968 Hoover, Theodore J. Memoranda: Being a Statement by an Engineer. Hoover Institute, Stanford University, 1939 Leggett, Thomas Haight. Electric Power Transmission Plants and the Use of Electricity in Mining Operations. 12th Annual Report, Office of the State Mineralogist, 1894



ALHFAM National Meeting and Conference

June 4-8, 2011. The Farmstead at WVU In today’s tumultuous times, historians and museum professionals continually face the challenge of finding innovative ways to keep the past alive. Visiting new places, experiencing new opportu-


nities, and sharing our individual successes and failures are valuable parts of that process.

We’re pleased to welcome the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums to West Virginia for its annual meeting



Jackson’s Mill has a very rich history as an 18th and 19th century rural economic hub, the boyhood home of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and the first state 4-H camp in the nation. 2011 marks 90 years of operation by the Extension Service of West Virginia University.

Growing Living History: In Good Times and Bad