A reader of The Farmer’s Exchange passed along a few magazines of the Indiana Edition of Prairie Farmer. One dated April 28, 1945, caught our attention. It featured a picture of President Franklin Roosevelt, who had died earlier that April, on the cover with the headline “His work will live on.” A smaller picture featured the new president, Harry Truman, under the headline “Truman — farm boy to president.”
It’s an issue from a pivotal time in U.S. history, but it also proved interesting for other reasons.
One article was titled “150 bushels: That is corn yield from nitrogen use.” A 150-bushel yield was nearly unheard of in those days. The highest yield ever recorded in Illinois then was 196 bushels per acre.
This quote from Roger Bray from the University of Illinois may seem trivial today, but it was a big deal at the time. “Even at 50-cent corn, nitrogen probably can be used at a profit when supplementing good soil fertility practices,” Bray said. He added that the reason nitrogen had never been regarded as profitable in the Midwest was that large enough amounts had never been used. Farmers on rich prairie soils didn’t know they needed it. My, how times have changed!
Where did they go?
Perhaps most interesting in this 1945 issue were some of the advertisements. They represented state-of-the-art technology for that time. Here is a look at a few:
• Plasteel plastic-steel roofing. Offered by Indiana Farm Bureau Cooperative Association Inc., Indianapolis, the ad (shown below) featured a two-tone hip-roof red barn redone with shiny roofing. Plastic roofing in 1945 — that sounds cool. Why had I never heard of it before?
Here’s a clue. It was made by Plasteel Products Corp. An original 1950s brochure offered on eBay recently for more than $30 shows a cutaway of the roofing, with layers of plastic and asbestos over steel. Enough said. Indiana Farm Bureau Co-op didn’t survive in its 1945 form, either.
TRACK OLD ADS: Some products advertised in 1945 are still around today, in somewhat different forms. Some have disappeared. Those containing asbestos were chased from the market.
• Horn-draulic manure loader. The Horn Manufacturing Co. dates to 1909 in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and became well-known for making wagon box beds for Sears and Roebuck. It introduced the Horn-draulic loader, featuring twin hydraulic cylinders that used a steel cable to lift the loader, in 1947. Purchased by Avco Manufacturing in 1951, the Horn product line was absorbed by New Idea.
• Asbestos Silo Co. We’re not kidding! Silos were constructed of prefabricated, corrugated asbestos sheets. You could take three years to pay, and it was fully guaranteed. The company used a Chicago address. It’s not hard to figure out what happened to this company. Sometimes what we think we know doesn’t turn out to be such a good idea!
• Devoe paintbrush. You could buy a 100% horsehair Sta-Set paintbrush for $1.98. It was offered by the Devoe Paint Brush Factory, Princeton, Ind. Today you can find Devoe paintbrushes on the internet under “antiques,” but you likely can’t buy one for $1.98.
• Auto-Lite spark plugs. The ad promoted having spark plugs checked the “Plug-Chek way” by your Auto-Lite dealer. Founded in 1935, the Auto-Lite company sponsored the Dick Haynes radio every Tuesday night on NBC show in 1945, and promoted the show in the ad. Auto-Lite spark plugs are still made today. Ford bought the company in 1961. It was later sold to Bendix, which sold it to Allied Automotive, the current owner.