1898 -- Corn shelling

LeMars Globe-Post
(Front page picture and article)
February 15, 1951

The process of shelling corn is familiar to everyone today, and only the older farmers remember the days when tractors and other forms of engine power were almost unheard of. Occasionally steam threshing machines were used for corn shelling, but as a rule the prototypes of modern corn shellers were driven by what was known as horse-power gears, or simply, horsepower.

This picture was furnished by Wm. Rees, sole survivor of the men on this job. The picture was taken in January 1898, in 20 below zero weather, by Ella Deegan, whose shadow is at the right. At her left is the shadow of her mother, Mother and daughter who still live at Sioux City.

The men in the picture are, left to right: Tom Rees, Ted Rees, Wm. Rees, James Deegan. Not in the picture are Will and Jack Deegan, who were also working on the job that day.

The old-time corn sheller in this picture was the 20 hole type, and power was provided by 4 horses. The horses pulled on long, spoke-like drawbars, going around and around a big cast iron gear, which meshed with a small gear. The small gear ran close to the ground, turning a long tumbling rod which connected to the driving wheel of the corn sheller.

The horses walked around and round, stepping over the tumbling rod at each turn, and like a present-day taxpayer, no doubt wondering if they were getting anywhere.

Modern self-feeders or drag feeds were unknown. All the corn had to be shoveled into the hoppers.

The price was 1 cent a bushel for shelling, if the owner of the sheller rig had to furnish the scoopers. If the farmer furnished his own scooper, the price was 75c a hundred bushels. The corn sold at 35c to 30c a bushel, leave the farmer 24c net.

Today’s shelling price is 2c to 2 ½ cents for under 500 bushels, leaving the farmers around $1.48 a bushel. However, the modern farmer has so many other expenses, especially taxes, while 50 years ago farmers were able to keep most of what they made. Also, in those days 25c would buy more of what farmers needed than a dollar will now.

The lesson seems to be that as fast as better machinery and improved methods enable farmers to earn more money, the politicians take their extra earnings away from by taxation and rising costs.


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