Heidrick Ag History Center unveils 45,000 sq. ft. rental space

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The Heidrick Ag History Museum and Event Center excitedly announces the addition of a fourth rental facility, the East Wing, now available for event rental and tours. With a temperature controlled floating space of up to 45,000 square feet, 16’ by 16’ roll-up doors, an onsite full-scale commercial kitchen, and 30-foot tall ceilings, the non-profit event and cultural destination facility can comfortably accommodate the most populous events. Provide your dignitaries a grand entrance into the event seated in a Model A, or maybe even a 1925 fire engine, through an edifice adorn by treasures of California’s rich artifacts. The venue is now available for trade shows, large-scale conferences, and personal special events, with customized accommodations to make every booking completely unique.

With four unique event spaces available including a large banquet hall, unique agricultural equipment museum, beautifully manicured garden courtyard, the Heidrick Ag History Center has been Yolo County’s premiere event venue for nearly 20 years, hosting a range of events from conferences and corporate parties, to weddings and quinceaneras and personal parties.

“Little do most folks know about the treasures that line our walls.” explained Executive Director Lorili Ostman, “Alongside our rare tractors, our collections include classic cars, a vintage airplane, army vehicles, and more, ranging from barn fresh to meticulously restored artifacts.”

Clients looking for a venue outside of the standard four-white walls can host their guests in a stress-free affair, with attention to detail and superior service, alongside an array of amenities available onsite.

“By hosting events here, our clients can incorporate our lovely collections into their theme, photos, and event atmosphere,” she added.

The Heidrick Ag History and Event Center is conveniently located just off of Interstate 5 in Woodland, only eight miles from the Sacramento International Airport. The addition of the East Wing has given Woodland the opportunity to become an event destination, with the facility already booked for a variety of events in 2015, including the Yolo Outdoor Expo in March, as well as the Last Call Car Show in October.

The Heidrick Ag History Museum has been working to cultivate an appreciation of the rich agricultural history, not only in Yolo and its surrounding counties, but throughout California, since founding in 1982, expanding the museum into a banquet facility in 1997. This expansion has worked to manifest a community relationship, as the home of the rarest collection of tractors in the nation.

The museum winter hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., with docent tours available. Call 530-666-9700 to make special arrangements for larger groups. Visit www.aghistory.org for more information, and search “Heidrick” on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Contact: Lindsey Hickman, Marketing Specialist

Phone: (530) 666-9700 x 101

 

World War I Exhibition, November 1-30, 2014

In commemoration of World War I, the Heidrick Ag History Center is proud to exhibit a rare collection of WWI vehicles vital to the evolution in military machinery, November 1st- 30th.  To memorialize the events and honor side -1918 USA ''Liberty'' Standard Type B Flatbed 3the servicemen and women of World War I, museum guests are invited to contribute non-returnable photos, documents, and items to be displayed in a temporary World War I Memorial installation hosted on-site.  Plan your visit to this special exhibition and learn about World War I advancements through technology.

World War I

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War was a global war centered in Europe that began on July 28, 1914 and lasted until November 11, 1918.  More than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war.  The casualty rate was exacerbated by the belligerents’ technological and industrial sophistication. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, paving the way for major political changes, including revolutions in transport and weaponry.

Holt 120 HP 1917 WWI

Holt 120 HP, 1917, 6-cylinder, 26,500 pounds, gas
It is said that the Holt 120 was the model that set the new world record for tractor pulling in 1914 (about the time of World War I) at Fremont, Nebraska.
By: F Hal Higgins “The California Farm Observer”

The home front of the United States in World War I saw a systematic mobilization of the entire population and the entire economy to produce the soldiers, food supplies, munitions and money needed to win the war.

The war came in the midst of the Progressive Era, when efficiency and expertise were highly valued. Therefore the federal government (and states as well) set up a multitude of temporary agencies to bring together the expertise necessary to redirect the economy and society into the production of munitions and food necessary for the war, as well as the production of ideas necessary to motivate the people.

Holt Fills War Orders

The Holt Manufacturing Company produced tractors used for every power need in 1917.

They were used in agriculture, mining, lumber, snow removal, road building, industrial and military. The Holt Manufacturing Company’s initial products focused on agricultural machinery and were distributed internationally. The traction machines were built at Holt’s plants in Stockton California, and Peoria Illinois.

Holt 120 HP 1917  6 cylinder  26,500 pounds Gas

Holt 120 HP detail 
1917
6 cylinder
26,500 pounds
Gas

During World War I, Holt tractors were used to replace horses to haul artillery and other supplies. The Quartermaster Corps also used them to haul long trains of freight wagons over the unimproved dirt tracks behind the front.

By 1916, about 1,000 of Holt’s 120 horsepower Caterpillar tractors were used by the British in World War I.  “We have been shipping two Caterpillars per day to the British government for the past eighteen months,” said Pliny E. Holt of Stockton.  “All of the motors are manufactured in Stockton.  We ship them to our Peoria plant, where the Caterpillars are assembled.  We have no direct knowledge of the purpose for which they are to be used. They are shipped as agricultural machinery.  Of course, we have representatives in England, but they are sworn to secrecy.  If the Caterpillars are armored, that is done after they reach England.  We have sent some to France and some to Russia.  So far as I know, the tractors were used only to tow big guns.”  (Stockton, San Joaquin County, Ca—Tuesday, September 19, 1916)

Until recently, these Caterpillars were designed for modern farming, but in WWI they were transformed into fighting machines.  The way they hurdled trenches, crawled over shell craters and through swamps and marshes surpassed the horse drawn age of the tractors predecessor.

The 1915 World War I relic was sent to the Fred Heidrick Ranch in Woodland where it was renovated for exhibition with other tractors.  It is currently displayed in the West Wing at the Heidrick Ag History Center.  Originally, the gasoline powered rig was shipped to France where it was expected to haul big cannons around the Western Front. (Daily Enterprise, Bill McKenna)  But for reasons unknown, the tractor never left the dock in France.  After the war, the tractor was returned to the United States and it was used on the Hedrick Ranch near Sunnymead from 1920 to 1932.  The tractor was a real workhorse.

10 Ton Artillery Tractor

10-Ton Artillery Tractor 45 HP 19,000 pounds Model of 1917 4 cylinder Built in Peoria Illinois

10-Ton Artillery Tractor
45 HP 19,000 pounds Model of 1917
4 cylinder
Built in Peoria Illinois

The 10-ton artillery tractor was developed for WWI because of the mortality rate of horses.  This vehicle is currently on view in the East Wing at the Heidrick Ag History Center.  These tractors solved transportation problems that were too stiff for animals or motor trucks.  “Since the British army adopted the Holt engine, the horseshoer’s have had a lot less to do.” (Caterpillar Times for March 1915, “Our Page of War News”).

The standard U.S. 10-ton artillery tractor was one of the most advanced and most efficient tractors in 1917.  It is a self-propelled track-laying road vehicle.  The advantage of this type of tractor for military purposes lies in its ability to negotiate soft or uneven surfaces.  The general design and construction of the 10-ton tractor use differs from that of the modern motor truck because the tractor is designed to pull ordinance equipment, not carry a load.

Holt tractors were also the inspiration for the development of the British and French tanks, which profoundly altered ground warfare tactics.

WWI Ambulance Hupp Motor Car Company U.S. Army Chassis No. 30128

WWI Ambulance
Hupp Motor Car Company
U.S. Army Chassis No. 30128
The Hupp Motor Car Company, was a Detroit, MI, known for the “Hupmobile,” first introduced in 1909.  Hupmobiles were used in WWI as staff cars, to visit front lines, and as ambulances.  Hupp continued production of newer models of the Hupmobile through 1940, ultimately producing a half million vehicles.

side - Holt and Swinton Stockton

Holt and Swinton, Stockton, CA

On April 22, 1918 British Army officer Colonel Ernest Dunlop Swinton visited Stockton while on a tour of the USA. Swinton publicly thanked Benjamin Holt and his workforce for their contribution to the war effort.  During 1914 and 1915, Swinton had advocated basing some sort of armored fighting vehicle on Holt’s caterpillar tractors, but without success. Although Britain did develop tanks, they came from a separate source and were not directly influenced by Holt machines. After the appearance of tanks on the battlefield, Holt built a prototype, the Gas-electric tank, but it did not enter production.

After the war ended, Holt focused less on agricultural machinery and more on producing road-building equipment.

The Russell Steamer, a Feat of Restoration (2 of 3)

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The Russell Steamer on view at the Heidrick Ag History Center today was the result of years of painstaking restoration. Fred Heidrick acquired it in the 1960s, and he and Joe Heidrick took the faded hulk and turned it into a gem.  Their efforts combined careful research, fine craftsmanship, and a penchant for detail to create a fully operational, restored steam traction engine.

The steamer was mostly intact when purchased.  A photo taken around the time of the 1967 state fair shows Fred at the controls.  A photo of Celeste Burnham, State Fair Model, cheerfully perched atop the steamer, also gives a good sense of its condition prior to restoration.

Russell pre-restore w Celeste Barham 1967 comprRussell pre-restore w Fred Heidrick 1967 compr

Several important parts were missing, however, including a shade canopy and water and fuel bins on either side of the rear platform. The steamer also lacked the Russell trademark with its characteristic snorting bull. Documents in the Heidrick archives reveal the meticulous care that was lavished on restoration projects. A letter dated July 28, 1970 to Mr. Neil McClure of Colchester, Illinois, requests photos to identify “…the spacing of the rivets on the fuel storage bins and water tanks, the [tank] measurements and other pertinent details…” A hand-drawn diagram (shown below) details the replacement tanks that were to be fabricated. Russell Water Tank Design compr

Similar attention was given to replicating the original paint colors:  black for the body; red for the flywheel, nose, and parts of the engine; yellow for the wheels, and silver for the smokestack. The desired location of each color was carefully drawn on a diagram of the steamer before it was painted.  Gold and silver trim were added for a decorative flair. The finishing touch was the handpainted Russell trademark on the water tanks (the subject of Blog 3).

The steamer was restored to operational condition, but has not been fired up for many years.  Help us bring this remarkable piece of machinery back to life by making a donation for reconditioning.  Visit our website at http://www.aghistory.org/support-us/donate/ and select the Russell Steamer option in the drop-down menu.

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Who was C.L. Best?

Dan Best (front), Ed Claessen, and Sue Claessen sign a copy of Making Tracks

Books and Beer here at the Heidrick Ag History Center on September 23 gave attendees the chance to meet Ed & Sue Claessen, authors of Making Tracks: C.L. Best and the Caterpillar Tractor Co, and Dan G. Best II, grandson of former Caterpillar Chairman of the Board C.L. Best.

Ed, Sue, and Dan gave attendees a look at the painstaking research that went into discovering who C.L. Best was, his innovative ideas, and the formation of the Caterpillar Tractor Co.  The research for the book really began in 1973, when Ed Claessen purchased a Caterpillar Sixty Tractor with bonds he received from the State of Minnesota for serving in Viet Nam.  Since that time, Ed has been dedicated to researching and restoring tractors.  He convinced his wife Sue to assist him with doing research, they formed a friendship with Dan G. Best II to learn more about the Best family, and their research has finally culminated in a book that tells a comprehensive story about C.L. Best, Best tractors, and the genious that continued the development of tracks suitable to work California terrain.

Here is a short excerpt from Making Tracks that really makes you want to find the answer to “Who was C.L. Best?”

Every company can trace its beginning to an idea, a concept, a dream. In the ensuing years of growth and prosperity, the early story of who, what, where, and when sometimes gets misplaced. When you’re dealing with men who are secure with who they are and with what they can do, the need for personal recognition pales. They are satisfied to let their achievements speak through the years. But should they have been? When a man has patent designs that continue to be used in products for nearly one hundred years and are now considered the industry standard, shouldn’t he deserve recognition? When the company he was instrumental in founding in 1925 has $48 billion in sales in 2008 and employs over one hundred thousand people worldwide, shouldn’t his name and the names of his inner circle of advisors be known? And what if this company is an international giant with products recognized around the globe? Shouldn’t the early journey leading to that success be acknowledged?

Ask people what they know about Caterpillar Inc., and most will think of huge yellow machines moving and sculpting the earth. Depending on where they live, some will think of machines preparing the soil and planting crops; some will picture forests being harvested; some will recall huge trucks moving vast amounts of ore from open-pit mines; some will think of the engines that power the trucks that move a nation’s goods; some will think of the power units that keep the hospitals functioning when the power grid fails; and a few will even think of the Caterpillar name on clothing and boots. Ask about the beginnings of the Caterpillar Tractor Co., and a few will have heard about Benjamin Holt and perhaps Daniel Best. But who was C. L. Best? What could this man have accomplished that he should be remembered and revered for?

Learn the answers to these questions and more in Making Tracks, available in the museum gift shop at the Heidrick Ag History Center.  The book is also available through from Beaver’s Pond Books.  Thank you to Ed & Sue Claessen, Dan Best, Sudwerk Brewery, Heidrick Ag History Center volunteers and staff, and all of those who came out to support Making Tracks.

A Time for Family Fun in Woodland

Check out our Family Day feature on the Yolo County Visitors Bureau’s new website!

Tractor rides are included in admission to the Heidrick Ag History Center's Family Day!

On October 2 from noon to 3, the Heidrick Ag History Center in Woodland will be the center of  tractor rides, crafts, and a good dose of fun for the whole family.

The Heidrick  is the world’s largest and most unique collection of one-of-a-kind antique agricultural equipment. The Center will host crafts, face painting, tractor and truck rides, and much more, in addition to showing the normal museum collection.  Listen to stories about California farming, take your picture on an old-fashioned fire truck, and see what it’s like to ride an antique tractor.  It’s a great time to bring the family to the museum and have fun while learning about California agriculture.

Admission to the museum is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for kids 5-12, and free for kids 5 and under.  The event is also free to current Heidrick Ag History Center members.  Tractor and truck rides are included in admission.

For more info, contact the Heidrick Ag History Center at 530 666 9700 or aghistory@aghistory.org

Making Tracks now available!

Making Tracks by Ed and Sue Claessen is now available from Beaver’s Pond Press!

Making Tracks: C.L. Best and the Caterpillar Tractor Co. is now available from Beaver’s Pond Press!

Making Tracks follows the story of C.L. Best, the California man who helped to forever change tractor designs.  C.L. Best went from designing equipment powered by horses to imagining equipment powered by the sun. His improvements to the track-type tractor concept allowed the Caterpillar Tractor Co. to become the world’s road builder and so much more.  The book follows his life from working for his father as a young man through starting and operating his own company and finally to being chairman of the board for the Caterpillar Tractor Co. for twenty-six years.

Come see some of C.L. Best’s tractor designs at the Heidrick Ag History Center and meet authors Ed and Sue Claessen at BOOKS AND BEER on Friday, September 23 at 5:30pm.  Complimentary Sudwerk brews will be available for attendees 21 and over.  The event is free to Heidrick Ag History Center members and those purchasing books at the event; $5 for all others.  Contact the Heidrick Ag History Center at aghistory@aghistory.org or 530 666 9700 to RSVP!

A Tractor Experiment

Caterpillar Model Expo 20; Caterpillar Tractor Co., 1927; 7000lbs. Heidrick Ag History Center.

The Caterpillar Twenty tractor has the distinction of being the first tractor designed by the Caterpillar Tractor Co.  It is easily recognizable as an early Caterpillar because of its grey color. (Many people today associate Caterpillars with their yellow color, but in the first few years after the 1925 merger between the C.L. Best Tractor Co. and the Holt Manufacturing Company, Caterpillar tractors were actually grey.  In 1932, the company offered either grey or yellow, but in December of 1932 the Best company decided they would only produce tractors in the standard yellow color. This little tractor might not be yellow, but it does hold an important place in Caterpillar history as a machine that combined the expertise of both Best and Holt.

Caterpillar Twenty Tractor Manual, Capterpillar Tractor Co., San Leandro, CA: 1927. Heidrick Ag History Center Archives.

Design on the new Caterpillar Twenty began in 1926.  The design was supposed to introduce a smaller, more affordable tractor, and was meant to replace the “2 Ton Caterpillar” previously produced by Holt.  Advertisements about the Caterpillar Twenty lauded the tractor as being “new in size, new in rating, new in price, [and] new in that it embodies the latest accumulation of the many years of “Caterpillar” experience.”  But how did Caterpillar use the accumulated knowledge of both the Best Tractor Co. and the Holt Manufacturing Company to create such a “new” tractor?

By letting a teenager try to run it into the ground, of course.  In 1927, two experimental Caterpillar Twenty tractors were produced with the sole purpose of testing them for flaws. One of these experimental Twenty tractors was given to Caterpillar Chairman C.L. Best’s teenage son, Dan. Fifteen year old Dan was told to drive the tractor anywhere and everywhere on the grounds of Caterpillar’s San Leandro factory.  After stressing the machine as best he could, Dan reported back the faults that he noticed.  Production on the Caterpillar 20 began in 1927, and was successfully produced until 1933.

Caterpillar Model Expo 20: Caterpillar Tractor Co., 1927, 7000 lbs. Heidrick Ag History Center.

Although the Model Twenty had flaws and was not ready for production, the experimental tractor was used for a few years at C.L. Best’s Diamond B ranch in Livingston, California. The tractor was later saved from the scrap piles and given to C.L.’s grandson, Dan Best II, to be used on his Woodland farm.  After being parked on the Woodland farm for some time, the one-of-a-kind Caterpillar Model Twenty found its home at the Heidrick Ag History Center.

Read more about the Bests and the formation of the Caterpillar Tractor Co. in Ed and Sue Claessen’s new book, Making Tracks: C.L. Best and the Caterpillar Tractor Co.  Both authors will be at the Heidrick Ag History Center on Friday, September 23 for a book signing; RSVP to the event by emailing aghistory@aghistory.org or by calling Rocio at 530 666 9700.

A Tractor that Walks?

The Fageol 9-12 “Walking” Tractor, 3500lbs, 1919. Heidrick Ag History Center.

Our collection here at the Heidrick Ag History Center includes this little tractor.  Nestled in a line of other comparably sized tractors, you might first notice its because of its brown color.  But what really makes this tractor distinctive are its back wheels.  These back wheels are oddly shaped with grousers that look like spikes, and differ from the wheels of any other tractor that we have in our collection.

Notice the spiked or wedged legs on the Fageol Walking Tractor. These kept the wheel rims from touching the ground, and made the tractor seem like it was "walking" on it. Heidrick Ag History Center Archives.

When farmers began working the fields in California, they quickly realized that the tractors they had been using on the East coast and in the mid-West were not suited for the soft California soil.  The rims of the wheels of many of these tractors sunk into the ground, and were difficult to get out once stuck.  First manufactured by the Fageol Motor Company in 1917, the Fageol 9-12 was an early attempt at trying to prevent tractors from sinking into the soft California soil.  The spiked grousers, or legs, prevented the tractor from sinking into the soil, and in fact made it seem like the tractor almost floated above the soil.  The wedged grousers ensured that the wheel rims never even touched the ground.  The way that the tractor moved above the ground made some people think that the tractor was actually “walking” on the soil, thus earning the Fageol 9-12 the nickname as the “walking tractor.”

Fageol Walking Tractor in use at a home orchard. No date. Heidrick Ag History Center Archives.

The Fageol 9-12 “Walking” Tractor design was unique not only because of its “walking” wheels, but it was also small enough to navigate small orchards and vineyards.  Advertisements for the tractor celebrated its “Tom Thumb” size, and marveled that at 3500 pounds it weighed only as much as a few horses.  The wheel design and size worked well on California’s orchards and vineyards, but its price tag of $1575 was too expensive for small farmers for the tractor to really catch on.  Even though the “walking” tractor design was discontinued by 1938, this unusual tractor is a great piece of California’s agricultural history!

Come learn more and see a Fageol 9-12 Walking Tractor in person at the Heidrick Ag History Center!