When antique tractor collectors hear the word Huber, thoughts almost immediately go to the Huber tractor. While it certainly is true Huber Manufacturing Co. made tractors, the first success that belonged to the founder, Edward Huber, was actually in the pre-tractor, horse-drawn equipment era.
Born Sept. 1, 1837, in Dover, Ind., Huber was the son of a wagon maker. At the young age of 26, Huber patented his first invention, the revolving wood hay rake, in 1863. This hay rake has beams made of ash and the rake’s tines are made of hickory.
The Ohio Memory Collection explained this hay rake was important because other rakes required farmers to stop their horses when the rake was full of hay. This effort took time – but with the revolving rake developed by Huber, the farmer only had to lift a handle, which caused a new set of teeth to gather the hay and allowed the farmer to continue working.
Advertising claimed one man using the revolving hay rake could do the work of six men with hand rakes. The rake sped up the process, allowing a farmer to cover three acres in an hour.
Huber Machinery Museum history offers insight into how the rake worked as the horse drew it across the field. The farmer would manipulate the rake over rocks and around stumps. When the first set of teeth filled with hay, the farmer lifted the handles which caused the teeth to stick in the ground, causing the rake beam to rotate.
This allowed the teeth, which were loaded with hay, to kick under and back and the entire rake moved over the hay, leaving it in a pile at the same time the second set of teeth were in a position to gather more hay.
Because the rake required ash and hickory wood, Huber made a move to an area where the wood was more plentiful, Marion, Ohio. He learned this type of wood grew in the area, thanks to his brother-in-law – Huber had married Elizabeth Hammerle, and her brother lived in Marion and operated a planing mill business.
The move was the start of Huber’s manufacturing era. After the move, he started building his hay rakes and over time, 200,000 were built and sold. In 1866 Huber and his brother-in-law had a chance to buy the planing mill where he had been creating his rakes.
They named the new company Kowalake. Before a decade ended, the company changed again and on Nov. 30, 1874, the Huber Manufacturing Co. was formed.
It was at this time Huber expanded and began production of steam engines and grain separators/threshers. He would go on to produce traction engines, tractors and the company would also be a successful construction company, as well – but it was the revolving wooden hay rake that started it all.
To see one of the original hay rakes, plan a visit to at the Huber Machinery Museum. Located at the Marion County Fairgrounds, it is open Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. or by appointment. Call 740-387-9233 or 740-389-1098 for more information.
Jane Aumann's and Cindy Ladage's new children’s book, My Name is Huber; a Tractor's Story, was released in January by Oaktree Press. The book focuses on a Huber tractor in 1927 that rolls off the factory room floor, and tells his story.
Huber works on his farm through the Depression and World War II, offering insight into farming practices of that time. After being replaced by newer, faster equipment, finally the farmer's grandson restores Huber to his former glory, and the tractor comes back to share his story with a new generation.
The Sly Fox bookstore in Virden, Ill., will host an authors' meet and greet March 2, from noon-2 p.m. My Name is Huber is also available at Nickorbobs Craft Mall at Booth No. 48 or can be ordered through Amazon.com and ShopOTPbooks.com