Homestead National Monument
If you have been to Homestead National Monument of America you have seen that Monument staff is working hard to fulfill this legislation. You may have spent time at the Heritage Center in the museum, walked through the Farm Implement Room in the Education Center, or sat outside in the courtyard looking at the Monument’s collection of farm implements. Maybe you remember seeing similar tools and equipment on your grandparent’s farm, or maybe you used them yourself. You may have also noticed that some of these objects are big . . . really big. Collecting and preserving antique farm equipment takes a lot of space. Because of this, a lot of thought goes into what the Monument accepts into the collection.
Equally important to the collecting of farm implements is the collecting and preservation of brochures, manuals, and advertising of farm implements. “Many museums collect and display agricultural implements, as does Homestead, but we feel that it is also our duty to preserve literature related to this incredibly important aspect of American life before it deteriorates or becomes lost and forgotten,” says Homestead Superintendent Mark Engler. Because many farmers weren't near a big city, or didn't have easy access to a dealer showroom, catalogs and brochures were often the main way farming tool and equipment companies did their marketing. These catalogs and brochures featured specifications and pictures of the implements, testimonials from customers, and descriptions of their uses.
The Monument’s ever growing collection of this type of literature provides valuable information that may not be available through the study of the equipment itself. And the space requirements are considerably less. Homestead National Monument of America collects manuals, brochures and other related literature dating from 1862 through 1952 as this was the period of time when most homestead claims were filed. The availability of this literature has the additional benefit of aiding in the identification, repair and restoration of three dimensional farm implements in the collection.
Recently a Jayhawk Hay Stacker was donated to the monument. This wonderful piece of agriculture history is in pretty good shape considering it has been out in the Kansas weather for the last 80 years or so. Most of the metal is intact, though a few minor repairs will need to be made, but 95% of the wood has rotted away leaving many of the metal components no longer fixed in their designed location. Many are attached to what looks like pieces of rotting wood and others are no longer attached to anything. Fortunately, the donor of the Hay Stacker also donated a 1937 advertising catalog from the Wyatt Manufacturing Co., 1930 “Repair Parts Price List” for Jayhawk Hay Tools, 1941 and 1943 “Dealers Price’s” brochures, and (date unknown) “Instructions for Erecting and Operating the Automatic Jayhawk” including an inventory of what is shipped when a Jayhawk Hay Stacker is shipped.
So, the next time you run across a 1891 Norwegian Plow Co trade card, 1903 McCormick Farm Implement Brochure, 1917 Dempster Windmill Parts Manual, 1936 John Deere Model A Tractor Operator’s Manual, 1952 Allis Chalmers Corn Picker Operator’s Manual, or similar literature lying in the bottom of drawer or a trunk in the attic, think twice before throwing it out. Items that are donated to the Monument will be saved for the benefit of future generations so that they might better understand farming practices and the lives of people as related to homesteading.