Blast From The Past: Steam Pageant Discoveries (Part 1)

I love old tools, machines and devices from our agrarian past. That allure drew me and my two youngest sons yesterday to the 47th annual Pageant of Steam in Canandaigua, N.Y. It was a sunny, hot, Wednesday in August, and the first day of the four day event.In short, we had a really good time. It was so good, in fact, that we all decided we should go again next year.

There were several different attractions at the pageant. First, there was the flea market and I felt it was an exceptionally good one. I went hoping to find some old but still useful agrarian tools, and I wasn’t disappointed. As always, I was on the lookout for another garden hoe to add to the small but useful selection I already have. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: A gardener can never have too many good garden hoes. They are a fundamental and essential agrarian tool.

As Providence would have it, I found the exact hoe I hoped I would find. It was the hoe of my dreams... a Planet Jr. wheel hoe... For 15 dollars... in decent working condition. If you are familiar with the Planet Jr. low-wheel hoe, you know it is probably the handiest, most efficient, and easy to use garden hoe ever invented. It is indispensable if you are a market gardener or just growing a big garden for your family.

The Planet Jr. company went out of business but Lehmans Hardware sells a modern reproduction of the tool for a mere $389. Here’s the link: Lehman’s Wheel Hoe

Another tool I went to the flea market hoping to find was a good old buck saw. There were many to choose from, ranging in price from $12 to $32, but I found a very nice one for $5. The guy I bought it from actually had three alike for $5 each. I wish I had bought them all. I have three sons and each of them needs a buck saw. They may not think so but I do. I could give them as Christmas gifts. But I have plans for this saw before Christmas arrives. By the way, Lehmans sells a good buck saw for $47.95. Here’s the link: Lehmans Buck Saw

Amongst all the tables and tents of old tools, parts, books, and other assorted stuff, I also discovered a lot of wonderful mystery implements. Things like this:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The S-shaped blade on this long-handled tool is hand-forged. I asked the vendor what it was and he told me. I never would have guessed it. But it made sense when I heard it. This was a tool used by farmers in the 1800’s. Before I tell you what it is, I’m going to see if anyone reading this can guess what it is.

I could have bought this tool for $26. The guy would have taken less. I came close to getting it. But as much as I appreciate and enjoy old wood-and-iron farm tools, I need to restrict my acquisitions to tools that I can actually use or, at least, utilize as inspirational “investments” for new Whizbang Book projects. Collecting only for the sake of collecting is a pastime for people with money to spare and the room to store their collection. I have neither.

So how about it? Can anyone tell me what the old agrarian tool shown above was used for? Post your answer here and when (if) someone gets it right, I’ll let you know. If no one guesses after a couple weeks, I’ll reveal what it is.

I haven’t yet told you about the steam part of the Steam Pageant. That’ll be my next blog installment. Stay tuned for Part 2


Anonymous said...

I am going to take a wild guess, I really don't have a clue??? Is it a "straw chopper"?

Anonymous said...

the original version of the garden claw!

Anonymous said...

A potato harvester! Just jam it into the dirt, twist, and up pop the potatoes!

Sounds like one of those "made-for-TV" ads, doesn't it? *shrug* Hey, it was worth a shot...

Anonymous said...

I don't have a clue, either, but I was thinking it would be used to stir or mix something.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious: were there any demonstrations of horse-drawn power while you were at the Steam Pageant? I was perusing their website and saw a picture of someone baling hay using a contraption pulled by two horses. True "horse power" (as it were) fascinates me, so I was just curious. Perhaps this is an event I should look into, if they did...

Herrick Kimball said...

It is not a potato harvester.

It is not a stirrer or mixer.

It is not an original garden claw.

It is not a straw chopper (but this answer is getting warm)

countrygoalie.... I did not see any horses at the steam show.

Any more guesses?

Unknown said...

A mangel chopper! HA! HA!!!

(I hope I'm right... heehee)

In Christ,


Anonymous said...

Hay rake?

foutfolk said...

A hoe of sorts that creates grooves (rows) for plants like strawberries. When drug through the dirt, it leaves a raised bed.

TNfarmgirl said...

My boys have had fun with this one - here is what we came up with...
Chopper for "mash" or silage
Part of large butter churn
HUGE brand for cattle :)

PS we found our own strange tool at an auction....will post after we find out what it is

Herrick Kimball said...

Okay, it is a chopper.

Not for hay, not for mangles, not for silage.

It was used to chop a vegetable that I'm told was commonly grown to feed cattle in the 1800s. This vegetable needed to be chopped because it was otherwise too big for the animals to eat. This vegetable is still grown but I don't think anyone feeds it to their cattle.

I once grew this vegetable and a friend of mine who had pigs took all I didn't want. The pigs loved it.

So any further guesses?

Grady Phelan said...

Pumpkin Chopper? Watermelon?

I read your article and decided to go to the Steam Pageant myself...What an awesome show. I looked for the tool but didn't find it...I was going to ask the owner so I could give a awesome answer...No such luck.

Grady Phelan

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Grady,

You got it. The tool is a pumpkin chopper. At least that is what the vendor told me. He seemed like a knowledgeable person and I do know that pumpkins were commonly grown by farmers as cattle feed.

I have a collection of old farmer's almanacs, many from the 1800s, and one of them discusses the growing of pumpkins for feed.

I'm glad you enjoyed the show.

Marci said...

That is very interesting. Pumpkins are so good for your animals, especially if they get the seeds.

Ozark Nick said...

I just recently purchased a bucksaw for sawing logs into firewood lengths for my wood stove.

I was wondering if you would write a little bit about how to use a bucksaw. I've gleaned a couple of tips that've made my sawing much much easier and I'm sure there must be more such tips out there.