Farm Jeeps at Corn Harvest Time

1947 Country Gentleman Ad

It is corn harvest time here in southern Indiana. Huge combines fill the county roads. We are big fans of Cole the Cornstar and have learned much about modern planting and harvesting techniques. But long before there were giant 14 row machines, there was a role for the Farm Jeep. The picture above was taken from a 1947 ad and shows the Jeep pulling a corn picker. Our interest in this role for the Farm Jeep was really peaked when our friend David Linebaugh sent us a video of his CJ5 pulling a corn picker. More on that later.

Corn Picking History

Mechanical methods of picking corn didn’t appear until early in the twentieth century. The first corn picker machine was introduced in 1909. It wasn’t until 1954, when corn “heads” were available for combines, that the complete harvesting process could be done in the field. In 1900, one person could shell about 100 bushels of corn per day. By the end of the century, a combine could shell 100 bushels in less than 5 minutes.[1]Agricultural Mechanization-History Part 3

Between 1909 and 1954, powering corn pickers was an important task on the farm. This video shows a good sampling of tractors and corn pickers used during this period –

Farm Jeep Corn Picker

As seen in the first photo, the first civilian Jeeps were put to work towing corn pickers. By 1951 Jeep was selling its own corn picker.

1951 Jeep Corn Picker brochure courtesy of
1951 Jeep Corn Picker brochure courtesy of

Note under visibility that the “Left-hand design places picker points in full view of the operator.” This design clearly has advantages and it brings us to the note we had from David.

Recently, David sent us a video clip of his CJ5 towing a 1940s era CO-OP one row corn picker. The picker was made at the National Farm Bureau CO-OP plant in Shelbyville, Indiana, (Shelbyville is just down the road from Farm Jeep’s Columbus home.) David was testing the rig in hopes of taking it to the Half Century of Progress Show shown in the video above.

After watching the video, we asked David for more information, including how the Jeep performed –

“The corn picker was made by the National Farm Bureau Cooperatives in Shelbyville In. I don’t know the year of it. I was borrowing it from a good friend and I only know the history of it from about 1987 to current. When my mom and dad moved into the current property this picker was in the barn and dad did use it a few times then traded to my uncle for Moline parts and my uncle sold it to the current owner. 

The Jeep really didn’t know the picker was back there till the wagon got full and started to spin out on the corn stalks.  My governor came apart on the Jeep so I had to hold the throttle to keep engine speed. I also had to swap the gears in the PTO gearbox at the back of the Jeep to get the picker to spin fast enough in relation to ground speed. The corn was yielding 180-200 bushel I’m guessing. So the picker did a good job considering it was made when 100 bushel corn was excellent.”

While David didn’t mention the left-hand design of the CO-OP picker, it would have been, other than the Jeep picker, a great choice for a Jeep owner. We also noted the Jeep pulling the “Jeep” brand picker was using tire chains. A similar problem with a full wagon and “slippage” or just showing the Jeep working in foul weather?

Our thanks again to David for keeping the Farm Jeep alive and working on the farm.