Monday, December 22, 2014

The Nebraska Prairie Museum – Part III

Continuing with our tour of south central Nebraska back in early September… The Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege was packed with lots of antiques, vignettes of how life used to be and all kinds of related memorabilia.  This segment will deal with some of the larger items on display…farm equipment and transportation.

As you can see, this display hall was packed with farm equipment.  There are tractors, combines, wagons, bailers, plows and much, much more to view.  We’ve seen larger displays of old farm equipment but the Nebraska Prairie Museum manages to cover the basic gamut of related equipment in a restricted space.

This impressive old Case Steam Tractor with its metal wheels is displayed with a long belt attached to another piece of farm machinery.

Steam tractors were used extensively in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The first steam tractors designed specifically for agricultural uses were just portable engines built on skids or on wheels and transported to the work area using horses.  Later models used the power of the steam engine itself to power a drive train to move the machine.  Reportedly, they were first referred to as "traction drive" engines…which eventually was shortened to "tractor".

This threshing machine or ‘separator’ is connected to the Case Steam Tractor with the belts.  The threshing machine is powered by the tractor via the belts.
Case was one of America's largest builders of steam engines, producing self-propelled portable engines, traction engines and steam tractors.  It was also a major producer of threshing machines and other harvesting equipment.  The company was founded in 1844.  The brand survives today as part of CNH Global, a division of the Fiat Group.  Today, Case IH is the world’s second largest brand of agricultural equipment. 

This photo shows a picture of a steam tractor and threshing machine at work in a field.  As you can see, it is a major operation requiring quite a few field hands.  Farmers would gather bundles of hay from the shocks scattered across the field, loading them on the on the horse-drawn hayracks.  Then they’d pitch the bundles into the separator/thresher.  Straw would be blown out the back into a pile and the grain would be fed into a grain wagon along the side of the thresher. 

Back in the days when steam tractors were being used, this was another necessary piece of farm equipment.  This is a Case Water Wagon…without water, you can’t make steam to power the tractor’s engine.

Laurie’s mother’s family name is McCormick so we couldn’t pass up this clunky looking tractor.  These less expensive, lighter, and faster-starting internal combustion (kerosene, petrol or distillate) tractors fully emerged after World War I, replacing the steam tractors.

The McCormick name in farm machinery dates back to Cyrus McCormick, who produced the first successful reaper in 1831.  McCormick's company was one of the many operations that eventually became International Harvester.  International renamed their new tractors as McCormick-Deering in 1923.  The McCormick-Deering name was used on standard (wide) front tractors for the next three decades.

This is a Weber Farm Wagon.  In 1902, the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company merged with four other harvesting machine companies (Deering Harvester Company; Warder, Bushnell and Glessner Company; the Milwaukee Harvester Company and the Plano Manufacturing Company) to form International Harvester Company.  In 1904, the company also purchased the Weber Wagon Company.  This particular wagon was sold to a local farmer by a dealer located in Holdrege.
If you’d like to buy one of these old farm wagons for your country estate, one is available for only $7,900 via the following website:

This piece of whimsy is an early golf cart…complete with some old golf clubs.  I didn’t pick up the name of the manufacturer but it was donated by a local family whose patriarch had used it for many years.  I’d feel a lot safer in today’s 4-wheelers!

This is a 1925 Model T Ford Delivery Van.  It was restored using a solid walnut body…probably the only one like it in existence.  The RCA sign was hand painted by an artist from Lincoln Nebraska. 

In 1925 a new Ford truck production record was established…with more than 270,000 vehicles coming off the production line!  You will note that the trucks and automobiles on exhibit at the Nebraska Prairie Museum are practical…they aren’t ‘hot’ or ‘exotic’ vehicles.  It does boggle my mind that they were donated and not just sold off in the marketplace.  Lots of restoration effort is evident as well!

This is a 1922 LaFrance Fire Engine.  The first fire department was organized in Holdrege in 1886 but the first fire truck wasn’t acquired until 1916.  It was a fire truck constructed on a Buick chassis!  This engine was purchased in 1923 and it stayed in service until 1947.  It originally cost $8,000…$109,000 in today’s dollars.

The American LaFrance Fire Engine Company was one of the oldest fire apparatus manufacturers in America. It was founded in 1873 by Truckson LaFrance and his partners.  Early on, the company built hand-drawn, horse-drawn, and steam-powered fire engines.  American LaFrance delivered its first motorized fire engine in 1907.  Over the years, American LaFrance built thousands of fire trucks including chemical engines, combination pumpers, aerial ladder trucks, Aero Chief snorkel trucks, and airport crash trucks.  The Company ceased operations in January of 2014.

This is a 1920 Federal truck.  It was restored by the son of the original owner and then it was donated to the museum.  The family farm was in Funk Nebraska. 

 The Federal Motor Truck Company was headquartered in Detroit, Michigan.  The company was founded in 1910 as Bailey Motor Truck by Martin L. Pulcher, who would later found the Oakland Motor Car Company. The last Federal vehicle made for the US marketplace was made in 1959.   Between 1910 and 1959, over 160,000 Federal trucks were assembled.  As of February 2004, only 183 of surviving Federal trucks had been located in an effort to build a registry of these vehicles.

As you can see by the sign on the running board, this truck is a 1914 Republic.  The Republic Motor Truck Company was a manufacturer of commercial trucks from around 1913 – 1929.  The company was based in Alma, Michigan.  By 1918, it was recognized as the largest truck manufacturer in the world. (i.e., the largest company manufacturing only trucks) At that time, it built one out of every 9 trucks on the road in the USA.  During WWI, Republic was one of the major suppliers of the "Liberty trucks" used by American troops during World War I.


·       Author Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of Tarzan) purchased a Republic truck in 1916 and drove it across the United States. His exploits were later published in the pamphlet "An Auto-Biography".

·       Republic had over 3,000 dealers across the United States, with additional dealers in at least 56 foreign countries and colonies.

As I said before, fancy doesn’t count in this museum.  It’s all about day-to-day life and the mundane or basic items that were used by residents of this prairie landscape.  This 1952 Buick Special was the first car sold in Holdrege by a local Buick dealership.  This 2-door hard top coupe model was first introduced in 1951.

This modified Dodge truck is “Dempster #2”… It was used for windmill installation or repairs.  Dempster Industries was in the business of selling windmills across the prairie.

After the Homestead Act of 1862 opened the door for settlers to claim free land across the United States, Charles Dempster saw an opportunity.  He founded Dempster Industries in 1878 in Beatrice Nebraska.  His company became the first windmill manufacturer in the country that also sold water pumps, cisterns and other tools for pioneer life.  The company expanded over the years with the company employing over 500 workers at one point.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Dempster refocused its manufacturing efforts into producing 1.5 million 90-millimeter shells for the war effort.  At one point the company was acquired by billionaire investor Warren Buffett.  He sold it later on to other investors and the company stopped manufacturing windmill parts in 2009 and it now appears to be in default.  Good news for those of you who want to buy a Dempster windmill or who need replacement part!  You can go to this website to fulfill your needs:

This 1923 Model T Ford Pick-Up truck was donated by the same family that donated the Federal truck that I posted earlier in this blog.  From what I could determine from a bit of research, the short truck bed is a modification that was made after the Model T came off the assembly line.  Ford apparently didn’t begin production of assembly line pick-up truck versions until 1925.

This nice looking 4-door automobile is a 1930 Nash.  It was donated by the same family that gave the museum the preceding Model T Ford and the Republic truck. 

The Nash Motors Company was based in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  The company began production in 1916.  Nash production continued under one corporate entity or another until its eventual parent company, American Motors, ceased production in 1957.   To learn more about Nash automobiles and to view a gallery of Nash Automobile photos, go to

This is another Model T Ford that has ‘pulled up’ in front of an early gas station for a little service.  Kids today wouldn’t understand the concept that attendants used to clean windshields, then check the tires and the oil…at no additional charge!

By 1914, the assembly process for the Model T had been so streamlined it took only 93 minutes to assemble a car!  That year Ford produced more cars than all other automakers combined... By the time Henry built his 10 millionth car, 50 percent of all cars in the world were Fords.  On May 26, 1927 Henry Ford and his son Edsel, drove the 15 millionth Model T out of the factory.  This marked the famous automobile's official last day of production in the USA.

The Nebraska Prairie Museum also has a large display of automobile related ephemera.  Oil cans, gas pumps, tools and signs set the tone for the area where the cars and trucks are displayed.  Many people collect these objects and eBay has pages of them listed for sale.

As I stated earlier, there is nothing fancy or 'high end' about the automobiles on display at this museum.  Still, this is a beautiful little car!  It’s a 1928 Model A Ford.  Note the ‘rumble seat’ in the rear.  Model A’s were built between 1928 and 1932.  Roughly 4,850,000 were built. (The tudor sold for $500, that's only $6,800 in today’s dollars)

I found another 1928 Model A for sale on-line for only $17,000!  Check it out (with lots of photos) at

Let’s not forget the horse and buggy days!  Along the balcony on one side of this big exhibit hall, a number of buggies donated by local families were on display.  The buggy to the right is a “One Horse Buggy” that was built by the Moon Brothers.  It’s all original!   I found a similar buggy for sale on line…although it needs some restoration.  You can have it for only $1,895.  Check it out at

And of course, what would any museum be that's located in an area that was molded by the railroads, without an old caboose?!  I liked this photo of the old farm house, the church and the caboose against the beautiful sunny early fall sky.
That’s about it for this ‘chapter’ of our visit to the Nebraska Prairie Museum.  The next and final chapter will be about a chapter of American history that I’d never thought about before…

Just click on any of these photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


  1. What a great museum and it looks like they had something for everyone. My favorite of what you've shown is the early golf cart. My dad was a big golfer and was the first to get an electric golf cart at our Country Club. I'm have a good time imagining the outfit the owner of that golf cart sported as he hit the links.

    Wishing you and Laurie a very Merry Christmas.

  2. I'm sure I would have enjoyed the museum. I like the old farm equipment and how it compares to what is used today. Of course they were pretty fantastic compared to a horse team.

  3. Hello, Hope you are having a wonderful December and will have a blessed Christmas… This is such a joyful time of year for so many—but it’s also the time when others experience a deep loneliness, and struggle during the holidays for many reasons. SO—today I ask you to stop what you are doing for a few minutes and say a prayer for someone you know who might be experiencing a hard time now… OR—better still, send them a card or give them a call. It will mean the world to them.

    I certainly enjoyed reading more from the museum... I certainly do remember the McCormick name when it comes to farm machinery.

    I recognized that Buick when the photo popped up. That's 'my' era... I learned to drive on a 1950 Pontiac and then Daddy bought a 1955 Oldsmobile... I liked the Pontiac better. That Olds was HUGE. ha

    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  4. Dear Dave, That 1952 blue Buick looks like a car that we had when I was little. These cars sure were built to last and last; and they had plenty of room!!
    Wishing you and Laurie a very Merry Christmas. Catherine

  5. The engines used in their machinery are mainly made by themselves but for certain machinery which requires less horsepower like 100Hp and below, John Deere uses engines from Kawasaki, Yanmar, and Briggs & Stratton. more about it