Farm Auction Sale Bill from 1912 - My How Things Have Changed

Machinery Pete Facebook follower Luke Unruh sent me this pic today…August 26, '12 farm auction sale bill for his great great grandfather in law in Wellington, KS.

That’s 1912.

Nearly 109 years ago.

Hmm, I don’t see link to online bidding…

Actually, I don’t even see a phone number listed…

No Tractors. Nope. 6 Horses got top billing on the sale. Lead item under “Farm Machinery”…Farm Wagon.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think we all kinda take for granted all the advances we’ve seen throughout our lifetimes. It’s like we wear blinders to the past. Until something comes along like an almost 109 year old sale bill and hits you over the head like an anvil (don’t see any anvils on this sale).

Imagine the conversation Luke, or any of us, would have if we could snap our fingers and talk directly to W.E. Oldenburg from 109 years ago in Kansas…

“So, Mr. Oldenburg, the sale went well? What did the highest selling Horse go for? If you don’t mind my asking, what were the total sale proceeds from your auction? And that figure enough to set you up in retirement? Yes. Gotcha.”

“Just curious Mr. Oldenburg, again, if you don’t mind my asking…ballpark figure dollar-wise what do suppose your farm’s annual expenses were your last couple years of farming in 1910, 1911 and 1912?”

“And you raised how many children on your farm?”

After answering all our questions, and sensing our efforts to conceal our amazement, which is hard to understand, Mr. Oldenburg from 109 years ago in Kansas would now like to ask you a few questions…

"May you show me your lead horse on the farm?"

Sure, come this way, out to our new machinery shop…

"Excuse me, did you say this…building…is your…shop?"

Yeah, we built it few years back, needed more space. Nice bathroom/showers, satellite TV (to watch Machinery Pete on RFD-TV), bar, wash bays…

"TV? Bathroom?"

Ah, yeah, we’ll get to that, sorry Mr. O. Some things have changed since 1912. Sorry, I should be explaining them better. But you asked about our lead horse. Here it is…2019 model John Deere 9620RX with 300 hours on it. 620 Horsepower. Machinery Pete reported he saw an older 2018 model 9620RX with 623 hours sell for $407,000 on an online farm auction in northeast Illinois back on June 19, 2020.

Mr. Oldenburg, Mr. Oldenburg…are you ok sir? You tipped over there and hit your head pretty good on our shop’s cement floor.

"I’m alright, but please, tell me again about the bathroom in your shop. I guess I am a little light headed, excuse me. For moment there had visions of a gigantic green and yellow machine with huge tracks on it. Ah, there it is, I wasn’t dreaming. And you said it does the work of 620 horses? That would be LOT of hay."


"But Johh Deere isn’t in the tractor business, are they good sir?"

Oh geez, I suppose back in 1912 when your auction was they weren’t Mr. Oldenburg. John Deere actually got into the tractor biz 6 years years later, in 1918, when they wrote a check for $2.5M (million) to the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company and presto, they were now in the Tractor biz. Here, I’ll grab my cell phone and pull up a link to the whole story you can read on how John Deere got into the Tractor biz: The True Story of the Waterloo Boy Tractor

"Did you say…cell…phone?"

Ah, yeah, sorry Mr. O. I keep forgetting you’re from Kansas in 1912. These things we call our cell phones are pretty amazing. Anything I want to know…it’s on here, 24/7. They say there is more computing power in any one of our cell phones than all the computers used to send man to the moon back in 1969.

Mr. O., Mr. O…you ok? Geez, you tipped over again. Hope that noggin of yours is ok. Maybe you’re not drinking enough water. Here’s a bottle of H20 for you.

"…ah, er, hmm…what say you is this now? Water, but…in…what manner of containment vessel on God’s earth is this?"

Plastic, sir. Plastic bottle of water there Mr. O. Sorry, another history/science lesson we’ll get to.

Anyway these cell phones, when I’m out in the field in our John Deere 9620RX tractor and the autosteer…I’ll explain later…I like to watch Youtube videos. Stuff like Minnesota Millenial Farmer ( or Machinery Pete videos:

"Tell me more about this…Machinery Pete you speak of."

Oh yeah, sorry Mr. O. Machinery Pete is an older guy, also up in Minnesota, must be something in the water up there, 10,000 Lakes I guess, but anyway Pete started compiling auction sale prices on farm machinery like 31+ years ago or something. Like I said, he’s pretty old. But his videos of auctions, machinery prices and tractor stories are pretty fun. He’s been reporting here lately that Covid-19, this 100 year pandemic we’re stuck in now has really pushed forward the whole online auction space, auction prices are really, really strong.

"100 Year pandemic you say…and you said we are in the year 2021 today, right?"

Oh yeah, geez, sorry Mr. O., I guess the truth is when you zip back to Kansas 1912 you’ll have to wait 6 years for your version of the 100 year pandemic, the Spanish Flu of 1918. Yeah, that’s true…same year John Deere got into the Tractor biz.

"I believe it is time for me to head back to Kansas 1912 now good sir. I have…enjoyed…our conversation. I fear this is simply a bad dream however. Shall I attempt to relay my strange dream to my fellow farmers back home in 1912 Kansas, I fear they will not believe me…bathrooms in machine shops. But I appreciate your kindness good sir. Now, if you can kindly direct me on how I might find my way back home to Kansas 109 years ago."

Ah, well, let me see…you got any ruby slippers by chance?

" crickets "

No, no, I don’t suppose, Wizzard of Oz movie didn’t come out until 1939. Well how about just stand up straight and tall, feet together, and click your heels together 3 times repeating after me…There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.

Machinery Pete Tip: you younger folks out there. Take those cell phones in all your pockets and, when you are able to safely do so, go straight to your grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, aunts and ask them questions…“What was it like on the farm back in ____? What do you remember about growing up?” Do not wait to do this. Some day…our loved ones will no longer be with us. You will miss them. The time to talk with them is…NOW. Do it. Learn from them the great lessons of their lives. We’ve all skinned our knees along the way. Listen to their words of wisdom to help us avoid skinning our knees going forward.

Charging full force ahead into change, the future is awesome…

But much to learn from our past. If we remove our blinders.

Machinery Pete