Revolution in Farming – and in Pleasentville

From the Daily Reporter May 11, 1949

In late 1947, Monroe Auto Equipment Company purchased the Newgren Equipment Company. By the spring of 1949, officials from both Monroe and Newgren were on the road demonstrating the Monroe lift and the complete line of Newgren implements to farmers across the Midwest. (See Clint Dixon’s Monroe articles.) In the summer of 2017, while searching for information on Newgren implements, we came across the above ad. The “event” was to include equipment demonstrations and, as stated in the ad, “free movies.”

The Greenfield newspaper also published three related articles and these included, among other things, the names and titles of company officials expected to attend. One article included the following:

Suddenly we had an actual movie title to go with the ad. We had assumed that such a movie existed. In 1950, Monroe had produced a movie to promote the introduction of the Monroe lift for the Dodge Power Wagon. So the search began.

The search

A quick Google search came up with one reference to the movie on the eWillys site back in 2012. After further searches failed to produce more information, the ad and articles went into the “to be researched” folder. In March of 2019, Barry was doing newspaper searches for information on the Love lift and saw the demonstration ad still in the folder. He decided to look for other Monroe ads and articles and did find a few.

Knowing that searching by the film name wasn’t going to be productive, he began to contact any organization that listed promotional films archives. Then something magical happened. One of those contacts paid off. Jeffery Knapp, the Larry & Ellen Foster Librarian for Communications at Penn State University sent the following email note –

Hi Barry,

I’ve only located a single print of this film. A 16mm copy appears to be for sale from this French website: https://www.bd-cine.com/fiche.php?id=15709

The translated Web page

The Big Questions

Barry was speechless. A quick click on the link and there it was. Then the questions began; what was it doing in a film shop in Paris and could we really purchase it? What about the copyright and how could we view it?

With the help of Fred at Bd-Cine and Google Translate, we were able to purchase the movie and have it shipped to the US. Then came the wait, first for the movie to arrive and then to have the 16mm film digitized. We enlisted the help of an Indianapolis firm for the latter activity.

We went back to Fred for help in tracing the history of this copy of the movie. Fred told us that he had purchased the film as part of a private collection and the seller had no information on where the various movies had come from. We know from our experience with Newgren lift history that Jeep lifts were sold in Europe and it is possible that a dealer in France had received a copy of the movie. We speculate that the dealer kept the movie, until at some point they disposed of it. Miraculously, all the owners kept the film in the proper environment and it is in excellent condition. We are certainly glad they did so and we see it as our duty to take care of this little piece of Farm Jeep history.

The next questions involved copyright and what we might be able to do with the film. We aren’t lawyers. We are lucky enough to have Indiana University close by and they have a free intellectual property clinic. So we have taken our legal issues there and this will be a student project for the summer. We will await the findings of the legal research before making further plans for the film.

The Big Moment

It had been almost a month between Jeff’s email and the time we were able to view the digitized copy. Until the two screens below appeared on our first viewing we were reluctant to let the word out. We had actually found the movie!

And the verdict

This is a great find. The movie, which runs about 25 minutes, tells the story of a returning GI who tries to farm with his surplus military jeep and goes searching for better solutions. While it is clearly what we now call an infomercial, the film contains more product use information than most promotional films. There is a good introduction and demonstration of the Monroe lift and a long segment on plowing with the various Newgren plows and demonstrations of other Newgren implements.


Coming to a theater near you

While we can’t share the movie just yet, neither could we wait to let the world know we had found it. Under the “fair use” copyright laws, we do believe we can screen the movie if we don’t charge a fee. So we will be hitting a couple of Jeep gatherings this spring. So stay tuned for more announcements.