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Muscles to Motors on the Farm

At the Ticonderoga Historical Society we strive to provide a diversity of programs, exhibits and events through- out the year to reflect the interest of our members and the community at large.  This Friday, May 15th at the Hancock House Meeting Room at 7 PM we are presenting a unique program ~

“From Muscles to Motors on the Farm ~ Henry Ford and the Great American Tractor Wars, 1910-1930”

Dr. Milton Sernett’s will speak on the Fordson, the first mass-produced farm tractor in 1918.  This motorized tractor gave farmers an affordable source of mechanical power.  Henry Ford’s entry into the tractor business sparked a conflict in the farm machinery industry that had long-term consequences for American life on and off the farm.  The transition from horse power to tractor power, from muscles to motors, took place during an era of rapid social change in American life.  Farm families were trying to adjust to new marvels everywhere airplanes, automobiles, electricity on the farm, telephones, radio, consolidated rural schools, indoor plumbing, rural free delivery, better roads, and refrigeration.

Dr. Sernett’s lecture will use rare images from the archives of the great tractor manufacturers and depictions of the season of agricultural work before the factory farm replaced the family farm.  These visual cues will encourage the sharing and preservation of memories of farm life among all members of the community.

In our archives we have a collection of John Milholland papers.  Mr. Milholland was once the Editor of the Ticonderoga Sentinel and later found fame and fortune in New York City.  He also own a farm in Essex County at Lewis.  From the archives we found this newspaper article written in the Sentinel and dated December 28, 1922:

“Tractor Demonstration at Farm of John Milholland”

“A test and demonstration was held at the farm of John Milholland, Lewis, N.Y., in which a team of horses weighing 3300 pounds plowed and harrowed eight and three quarters acres, seven inches deep in thirty-five and a half hours at a cost of $10.65, exclusive of man labor.  A Fordson tractor plowed the same area in 14 1/4 hours, using 22 1/2 gallons of kerosene, costing $3.15 and one quart of gasoline, costing seven cents, three quarts of oil, costing 60 cents, a total cost exclusive of man labor of $3.82.  This does not consider depreciation of the tractor.  — Farm Bureau News.

Dr. Sernett, Professor Emeritus, taught at Syracuse University for over thirty years.  He has published eight books and numerous articles and essays.  His current book project is a history of the great tractor wars and the influence of Henry Ford on American farm life.  He has also published books on other topics as diverse as a history of cheese making,a study of the origin of the Holstein breed of dairy cattle, and an overview of the changes in American farming with the master farmer Jared Van Wagenen, Jr. as guide and mentor.

This program is the second program we have presented – last month on Adirondack Quilts – that was made possible with a generous grant from the New York State on the Humanities. Since its launch in 1983, the Council’s Speakers in the Humanities program has brought distinguished scholars on a wide range of humanities topics to audience across New York State.  All speakers events are free and open to the general public. 

The Hancock House, home of the Ticonderoga Historical Society, is an imposing Georgian mansion, a gift of philanthropist Horace Moses, and houses a significant collection of regional material in its archives, along with an important research and large genealogical library.

The Hancock House will re-open for the season on May 20th, and will be open Wednesday through Saturday until December from 10 AM to 4 PM.  As this is the 90th anniversary of the laying of cornerstone for the building, a replica of the original which once stood on Beacon Hill, Boston, the Society’s will have on display original building and equipment items and photographs from the cornerstone laying ceremony.  Our feature presentation will be the 70th Commemoration of the ending of World War II.  We look forward to seeing you.  

Tractor Flyer jpeg

5/12/15 wgd

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