10-26-18 what's this number 4 one row two horse cultivator

Just when you think the latest “What’s This?” object might remain a mystery, our readers come through.

George Albin of Hastings, Neb., sent the photo without knowing what the object was. “I’ve asked a lot of people. No one knows,” he said.

But it didn’t take long for that photo to show up online and be in print. I received a phone call a day before that issue’s cover date.

“That’s a one-row walk-behind cultivator,” Kenny Zoubek told me on the phone. The Milligan, Neb., farmer said the object as pictured was sort of upside down. The four shanks on the right of the photo should be pointing down. Shovels would be attached to break up the ground and control the weeds.

Just think of today’s equipment, powerful tractors with planters, tillage equipment and combines wider than a farmer could imagine 100 years ago. Yet this one-row cultivator needed two horses to pull what appears to be a quite simple piece of farm equipment.

The New Departure cultivator was invented by J.H. Pattee and patented in 1872.

John Rudolph of Syracuse, Neb., knew the New Departure name as well, as did James Collins from Bedford, Iowa.

“You would also need two wheels before you could get anything done,” Rudolph said.

Said Collins, “On the other end should be two walking handles.”

Jerry L. Anderson of Hay Springs, Neb, noted that the shanks didn’t necessarily need the shovels and could dig just as they are.

Glenn Thompson of Woodbine, Iowa, ought to know what he’s talking about. The 90-year-old farmer knows first-hand. “I ran one when I was a kid at home cultivating corn.

“This is a set of beams for a one-row two-horse cultivator. The beams in the photo are upside down. With a seat the four shanks below would have a set of four shovels, a handle for each beam, also a foot ring to guide the beams down the row. The one without a seat is called a foot burner.”