Stories of Naperville

Apr 07

[ARCHIVED] Threshing About – A Blog about a Thresher

The original item was published from April 7, 2017 10:28 AM to October 16, 2017 9:21 AM


Hi, I’m Louise Howard, Chief Curator at Naper Settlement.

Welcome to Threshing About, a blog devoted to the conservation progress of our Wood Bros. threshing machine. The conservation work is being funded in part by a competitive Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. 

Stay tuned! This is the first post of this blog, which will run through the completion of the thresher’s conservation work, anticipated by June 2018

So, what about this Thresher?

A few years ago, the Wood Bros threshing machine was a
generous donation to the museum as a way to explore, embrace and present Naperville’s rich agricultural history to the public. The thresher will serve as a centerpiece within our exciting, new Agricultural Interpretive Center.

In operation for many decades, the thresher was used by local farm families to separate kernels of grains from chaff and stalk. The introduction of the threshing machine in the 18th century made the process of separating grain considerably less labor-intensive than it had been. The grandson of one of the thresher’s original owners noted that “the thresher benchmarks a certain time when the crop yield was fairly low and manual input was huge… conserving the thresher will show generations how far we’ve come.”

Combine harvesters soon became the equipment of choice to combine three separate harvesting operations — reaping, threshing and winnowing — into a single process. Obsolete, the iron beast (aka the thresher) was stored in a barn for many years, awaiting its unearthing and new purpose.

The Thresher has left the Barn!

Funding to conserve the thresher was received last fall from the Institute for Museum and Library Services and plans were put in place to relocate the thresher to a conservation workshop. As our conservation lab of choice, we selected the Kennedy Conservation in Mt. Carroll, IL. Objects Conservator Ralph Kennedy worked with specialty movers to transport the thresher safely from Naperv
ille to Mt. Carroll.  

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Review, Document and CLEAN!

Arriving in Mt. Carroll, work quickly began on researching the machine, evaluating and documenting its condition, and of course, its extensive cleaning! We found out that the thresher had become a temporary, but long-term, home (and bathroom) to many wild and furry friends! Can you say mice and raccoons?!

There’s still a long way to go, so check back frequently to see the latest developments on this fascinating machine!

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 Thresher review and beginning research. 

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Cleaning out dirt accumulation, nesting materials and fecal deposits from thresher’s animal inhabitants.

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