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New Idea-Horn hydraulic loader was versatile tool

Curt Arens Massey Ferguson tractor
LATEST LOADER: The roots of the New Idea-Horn hydraulic loader — promoted in 1956 in Nebraska Farmer magazine — live on under the Agco equipment brands lineup, including Massey Ferguson, although new loaders and tractors have become more sophisticated over the past 65 years.
Then and Now: New Idea started out manufacturing manure spreaders, but expanded into many other implement lines.

Editor’s note: In our column, Then and Now, we look at farm technologies, strategies, equipment, livestock, crops and treatments from our back issues of Nebraska Farmer, and discuss how things have changed and how they have stayed the same.

The Jan. 21, 1956, issue of Nebraska Farmer had a very special cover. On Jan. 6 that same year, longtime editor and publisher of the magazine Samuel R. McKelvie, who also served as governor of Nebraska, died.

The magazine dedicated several pages to McKelvie’s memory and what he meant to Nebraska Farmer readers and staff. On the inside front cover, there is an ad for a snazzy 1956 Bel Air Sport sedan by Chevrolet. But what caught our eye, outside of the interesting coverage of McKelvie’s life and accomplishments, was a short new products article, not unlike the articles our editors write about new products they find at Husker Harvest Days or Farm Progress Show.

This particular new product write-up covered the benefits of the New Idea-Horn hydraulic loader. With models available in single or exclusive double-ram hydraulic cylinders, the loader boasted up to 2,500 pounds of breakaway power at or below ground level.

It was touted for manure and material hauling, and the photo featured with this short article shows the loader attached to a Farmall H tractor, loading manure into a New Idea manure spreader, no doubt. The story says the loader can fit almost any brand of tractor on the market.

New Idea story

Online auctions today still feature the New Idea-Horn loader that was featured in the 1956 Nebraska Farmer. But the New Idea brand got its start in the 1890s selling manure spreaders. Joseph Oppenheim built a small frame factory on land he owned near the railroad station west of Maria Stein in Ohio.

Oppenheim invented a new manure spreader design that consisted of an additional toothed cylinder that was above and ahead of the main cylinder. This helped to crush the material or manure. He also added a row of rotating wooden paddles that were set behind the main cylinder that distributed material more widely across a field.

Unfortunately, Oppenheim died at age 42 of typhoid fever in 1901. His widow was determined to keep the New Idea spreader works alive. Eventually, the company built an assembly plant in nearby Coldwater, Ohio, in 1908.

Farm ProgressNebraska Farmer magazine article from 1956 about the New Idea-Horn hydraulic loader

BIG SCOOP: As touted in a short article in Nebraska Farmer magazine in 1956, the New Idea-Horn hydraulic loader was versatile, could be mounted on several brands of tractors, and could handle heavy loads of manure or other materials.

Over the years, New Idea acquired numerous equipment manufacturers and added the industry’s first successful two-row corn picker in 1928, along with the Sandwich Manufacturing line of corn shellers, portable elevators, side-delivery rakes and hay loaders.

The company also manufactured horse-drawn mowers, farm wagons, transplanters, one- and two-row corn pickers, husker-shredders and hand corn shellers. In October 1945, New Idea was sold to Avco Corporation, and it became Avco New Idea.

Ezee Flow Corp. fertilizer spreaders were added to the equipment brand family, along with the Horn hydraulic loaders, stalk shredders and wagon boxes. The Uni-Tractor self-propelled all-purpose harvesting machines were purchased from Minneapolis-Moline in the 1960s.

In the 1980s, the company became White-New Idea, and all production of White tractors was moved to the New Idea assembly plant in Coldwater. Even after Agco bought White and moved production, White-New Idea equipment continued to be manufactured at Coldwater.

In midsummer 1999, the company celebrated a century of operation. By fall, the Coldwater plant was closed, although the New Idea name stayed on several implements including hay rakes and tedders, balers, harvesters and even manure spreaders until 2005.

Innovations today

Today, the New Idea-Horn loader heritage lives on in loaders sold under the Agco umbrella, like the high-horsepower front loaders and the utility and midrange loaders sold by Massey Ferguson. The FL Series loaders, for instance, are a little different from the 1950s models. They have optional mechanical or electric multifunction joystick control, with additional transmission functions such as forward-reverse and speed change.

This joystick even includes a third function, which enables the operator to open or close, grab or tip, or crowd an implement at the same time. It is mounted simply — something that was also boasted by the old New Idea-Horn loaders. A SoftDrive shock absorption system, which is standard on the FL Series loaders, helps reduce wear and tear on the loader and the tractor.

There is also a complete line of loaders for utility and medium-sized tractors that are more akin to the size of that old Horn loader. These loaders also boast ease of removal and attachment, among other benefits.

In the end, the loaders of yesterday were considered a huge jump from having to pitch manure, rock or dirt and other materials with a scoop shovel by hand. Automating this backbreaking work seemed like a dream for many veteran farmers of the day.

Now, we see joystick control functions on the new loaders that make operation almost like a video game. These new loaders take that old idea of convenience, time-saving and safety for the farmer to a new level, far beyond that of 1956 and the reliable New Idea-Horn loaders of the day.

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