Pride of Machinery Hall

1893 Columbian Exposition Poster(Chuckman's Collection)

1893 Columbian Exposition Poster
(Chuckman’s Collection)

The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition was a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the New World, and the achievement of a city. Countries all over the world, businesses across the United States, and inventions were among the featured showcases at the exposition. Among the showcased industrial firms was the Edward P. Allis Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Map of Fair Grounds(More or Less Bunk)

Map of Fair Grounds
(More or Less Bunk)

On May 1, 1893, President Grover Cleveland addressed the multitude of people who were  attending the opening day of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The president pulled a lever that engaged  the 3,000 horsepower quadruple expansion Reynolds-Corliss engine, built by the E.P. Allis Co, nicknamed the “Pride of Machinery Hall.” The engine powered two dynamos that could power approximately 20,000 lightbulbs and other equipment for the duration of the fair. The engine took up 3,000 square feet of floor space in Machinery Hall. The whole engine weighed an astonishing 325 tons, and its flywheel was 30 feet in diameter. (Read more here)

Exposition at night
(Sustainable Chicago)

To learn more about he exhibits at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition read the fair’s official guide.

Roto-Baler Serial Numbers & Production

For those of you who own a Roto-Baler, do you want to know what year your machine was made? First off you need to find the location of the serial number on your baler. If you have a manual for the machine it tell you where to find the number. For those of you who don’t have the manual this picture should help guide you.

Serial # is below the roof on the back, right side of the machine.

The number will be stamped into the metal. Sometimes the metal will be rusty, so take a wire brush or steel wool to clean the surface if the numbers are hard to read. The number can be as short as three digits (XXX) and as long as five digits (XXXXX). Once you have that number you can cross reference it to the year it was made. If you have Norm Swindford’s book, Allis-Chalmers Farm Equipment 1914-1985, he has the listed serial numbers and year associated with the number, this is located on page 299. For those of you who do not have the book, I have taken the time to transfer the information from the book onto a PDF.  Click the picture below to view the list in a larger window.


I’d be interested to catalog and share the number Roto-Balers that are still left out there (out of approx. 78,000 built). If you would kindly take the time to fill out the form below, I will compile the information and post the findings. If you need any help setting up your Roto-Baler, or if you have any other questions feel free post a comment below. I also have some connections with people who are very good with these machines, I would be willing to pass your questions along to them.

Roto-Baler Safety

The Allis-Chalmers Roto-Baler is arguably one of the most complex farm machines ever devised. The machine was ahead of its time, and the company advertised it as the “turning point in hay history.” Although the Roto-Baler was a revolutionary farm machine in its day, there were and still are dangers in operating this baler.


Roto-Baler Ad 1948

I have been doing some research the last couple of days on accidents specifically associated with the Roto-Baler. Although I have run across a few newspaper articles, there are no concrete numbers of deaths or injuries related to the machine. In the articles I found I realized the stories were similar. The operator got off of a running tractor with the PTO still running to adjust or work on the baler while it was powered. Articles of clothing or limbs were caught in the moving parts and pulled the operator in. The end result was usually the loss of limb(s) or even death.


Warning sign on Roto-Baler

One story I was able to uncover, which ended only with injury, was an incident where a farmer got his hand and both legs caught in the machine. He had been baling with a Roto-Baler ( he refers to it as “roll baler” ) and it was giving him all kinds of trouble, which is not uncommon for this baler. He stuck his hand near some moving parts when his arms was suddenly pulled in. He tried to brace himself with his feet, but his feet were also pulled into the baler. Luckily for the man his neighbors heard his screams and came to his assistance. (Read the full story here)

There have been many accidents since the introduction of the Roto-Baler. A question that was raised during Roto-Baler injury court cases was who was to blame? Do operators bear the responsibility of understanding the dangers of operating farm machinery; warning labels on the baler and in the manual explicitly explain safety precautions. Was Allis-Chalmers to blame for building a machine that was too dangerous? In one Federal case one owner stated that the company built a faulty machine that did not protect the operator from injury (DE EUGENIO v.ALLIS-CHALMERS MFG. CO.).  Who is to blame?


Deutz-Allis letter to Roto-Baler owners

Some farmers and AC collectors still use Roto-Balers, and improperly operating one is still deadly today. Allis-Chalmers updated the baler over the years to try to make it safer. Shields were added to the top of the conveyor to prevent accidents. The 1970s production of Roto-Balers had updated shields covering the gears and belts on the sides of the machine. When Deutz-Allis was formed the company sent letters to baler owners in the late 1980s, warning them to be safe and follow guidelines in the updated manual.


The National Safety Council has a document that details proper farm equipment practices. It is important that everyone is safe when using old machinery like this. Always remember to disengage the PTO before approaching an implement. It could mean the difference between life and death! When you are working with any farm equipment it is important to be careful.

How To Run Your Roto-Baler

If you would have bought an Allis-Chalmers Roto-Baler back in the day, you would need something to understand how the machine worked. The buyer would have received his operator’s manual, but I am not sure of the circumstances a buyer would have received this small booklet. This booklet has some information about the Roto-Baler setup and a troubleshoot section. I happen to have one, so I thought it would be helpful for some current Roto-Baler owners to have this information to set up their machine. Maybe, if there is interest, I will upload a full copy of a Roto-Baler manual and parts diagram (Click the picture to view the booklet).


Going Underground…What Would You Bring?

Ivy Mike Hydrogen Bomb – 10/31/1952

Imagine a world where you live in constant fear of being annihilated by nuclear weapons. You are going about your day, and in the late afternoon the neighborhood sirens blast, your radio and TV switched to emergency messages saying terrorists are launching a nuclear attack on the United States. You have 15 minutes before the bomb hits, and you need to get into the fallout shelter you have built under your backyard.

Private Shelter

Family Fallout Shelter
(“Fallout Protection: What to know and do about Nuclear attack” -1961)

The shelter will not protect you from the intense heat that is emitted from the blast. If you are within 20 miles of the blast, you will be severely burned. If you escape the blast, you worry about the deadly fallout radiation that will settle afterwards.  You have to pack your shelter with enough supplies to last until the danger of radiation passes, approximately 2 weeks. What are you going to pack to ensure your survival? What do you think you will need to stay in a dank, claustrophobic shelter for up to two weeks? Comment on what you think should be in the shelter, and what you could not go into it without? You might be surprised of what the U.S. Government recommended in 1961.