Looking back to 1938 gives a glimpse into the past


From my Looking Back Department, comes this glimpse of farming in July of 1938 (I was almost five years old), as recorded in the pages of Successful Farming magazine. On the cover is a color photograph of a straw-hatted and bib overall clad farmer in front of his Farmall F-20 tractor enjoying a tin cupful of water from a crockery jug that his son and collie dog have just brought to him.

Get out and vote

The magazine, which was staunchly conservative, admonished readers to get out and vote themselves back to prosperity by reminding them the government cannot create prosperity. All the government can do is to refrain from passing the fool laws that prevent business from functioning normally. Good business comes from business, but bad business comes principally from the politicians and bureaucrats and telling them to get rid of the folks in Congress and the state capitals who had been running things for the last few years.

Steel wheels

An International Harvester ad shows a grain bed equipped International D-15 truck unloading grain from an IHC combine pulled by a McCormick-Deering W-40 tractor on steel wheels.

Best crop

A Chester County, Pennsylvania farmer reported that he mows alfalfa in the morning, uses a side delivery rake in the afternoon and loads it with a hayloader the following afternoon. He used a pailful of salt to every load and it saves all the leaves and the green color. In McLean County, Illinois, E.E. Crawford said he got 110 tons of alfalfa from 40 acres, mowing, raking and baling it with tractor implements, and sold it for $16 per ton, his best-paying crop.

Running water

A writer claimed: One reason why some farm homes are still without running water is because the men have read only about how many steps it saves the housewife. If the makers of water systems told the men how much money they could make with livestock and poultry by having running water, more farms would have it.
Under a photo of the current graduating class parading at West Point was the comment: Another crop of 2nd Lieutenants graduates at West Point. An army is an evil, but alas, still a necessary one.

Bus horns

Another tidbit reads: Motor buses stopping at Ottumwa, Iowa, have been equipped with smaller horns since a hatchery manager, a few doors from the bus stop, reported he lost from three to five baby chicks each time a bus announced its arrival. When the bus driver blew his air horn the frightened chicks rushed to one end of the brooder, trampling one another.

Berry recipes

To use up all the berries that couldn’t be eaten fresh, there were recipes for strawberry pie, strawberry meringue tarts, red raspberry frosting, red raspberry muffins (mmm, sounds good!), red currant ice, and spiced gooseberry jam (Mom made gooseberry jam, or maybe jelly, when I was a kid but I haven’t seen it since). Also for the ladies was an article on flower arranging and one on how to turn your home into an inviting tourist home, as well as hints on how to maintain your freshness and daintiness though the mercury soars. (This definitely was a problem while hoeing a half-acre garden, or maybe helping your short-handed husband in the hayfield).

Farm income

A previous issue had apparently carried an article stating that there had been a jump in farm income in 1938. A Wisconsin farmer disagreed, saying: How can you arrive at such a conclusion? He goes on: My milk has been reduced 46c per cwt. for fluid milk. Wool is now 16c per pound; cotton about 6c; pork, beef, lambs, everything is almost at 1932 levels wheat is 73c and will be down to 60c before September. Taxes and operating expenses are at a peak, and you say we are doing better.

At a farm town picnic in Iowa, organizers were unable to round up enough horseshoes for the horseshoe pitching contest contestants had to bring their own, while in Kerr County, Texas, a farm woman went to remove a broody hen from the nest and the offended biddy kicked one leg back striking the woman s hand hard enough to fracture a bone in the thumb.

Sweet corn

Stuart Bush from Livingston County, N.Y,, finished planting corn on June 6. Bush says he grows more acres of canning crops than any other individual. His 103 acres of Golden Bantam sweet corn will fill five million one-pound cans, and he grows 250 acres of beets, 160 of peas, and 25 of asparagus, as well.

Harvest prices

Lower threshing prices were in store in central Illinois. Ford County’s Brotherhood of Threshers set the price for oats at 2 º cents per bushel and five cents for wheat. Combine men set their price at $1 an acre and five cents a bushel, with a minimum of $2 an acre.

You could buy 40 acres of unimproved poultry land in Kansas for $175 with $5 down and $5 per month. A New York outfit offered 52 acres on an improved road with 75 fruit trees and about 3000 raspberries, a five-room home, 30X40 barn, two-car garage, and a cow and some tools, for $1100 with $25 down.

Among the movies reviewed were Robin Hood, with dashing Errol Flynn and Olivia De Haviland Even women will like; Peter Lorre in Mysterious Mr. Moto Thrilling thriller; You and Me with George Raft Preachy; and Gold Diggers of Paris, starring Rudy Valee and Rosemary Lane, “No gold in them thar hills.”


Successful Farming told readers that Now Is The Time To: Plant soybeans; Transplant Iris; Tatoo chickens; Remodel the old barn; Clip weeds in pastures; Fight tent caterpillars; Treat lambs for worms; Keep mash before layers; Move range shelters to new spot; Put strawberries in the cold storage locker; Make molasses silage from alfalfa or oats and peas; Check the cream separator to see if it s leaving fat in the skim milk; Try out the binding mechanism on your grain binder. Do it now not when grain is ripe. So seventy-six years ago much was the same and even more was different.

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Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules.



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