Snapshots with Mercury II Camera

My Father-in-Law gave me his dad’s old Mercury II camera a couple of years. His dad, John, bought this camera while serving in the US Navy in the late 1940s; it has his initials, serial number, and “USN” engraved on the camera. This one is a little more sophisticated than other vintage cameras I have used, but luckily I found a manual by doing a simple Google search.

I’ve had a fascination with using old cameras for a while. I’ve bought other vintage Kodak cameras that take 620 film (not something you can just go buy in the store). With this camera I can easily pick up a roll of 35mm film, load, and shoot. What is really interesting about it is that the photos are taken in half frames–two photos are taken in one frame of the film.

I’ve been snapping some pictures for that last two years, and I finally got the roll developed. That’s what I find so exciting about film cameras. We are so used to taking a photo with our phones and being able to look at it right away. I enjoy the surprise and anticipation of how it turns out. Before I take a picture I have to properly adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and focus. Which is pretty  much my best guess based off of the gauge on the back of the camera. Check out a few of my photos. Disclaimer– I sent this out to be developed through a Walgreens. I am guessing that I should have made a note that these were half frames. When I got the pictures back a lot of pictures were cut off. It was sort of disappointing, but now I know better for next time.

Do you enjoy using a vintage camera? What do you shoot with?

Faucet Fiasco


Hello again to my blog followers! Sorry for my brief hiatus from blogging. Life has been super busy with Molly and I buying a house and moving. Now we are pretty much settled in and the work begins! There are so many things to tackle, but our first project is to fix our 1920s Crane shower faucet.

  Crane “Concorde” Shower Faucet (Bathroom Machineries)

This is a pre-war Crane “Concorde” shower valve. The shower handle is hard to turn and hot water was not coming out. My dad and I pulled everything apart to see what it looked like and try to fix it. Unfortunately, our attempt to fix the valve was futile. We bought some rubber washers hoping it would help, but it was not the right thickness to allow any water to flow. It’s been a bit of a hassle to locate info and parts on this model mixer valve. I found a place in Chicago called the Chicago Faucet Shoppe that carries the parts for this shower faucet.

I gave the company a call, but the news was not reassuring. Although I was able to get the parts I needed now, some of the parts were no longer available. I am afraid that if something else broke on it I would not be able fix it. Molly and I decided to just replace it with modern faucet. Yes, this was a hard decision for me to make. I loved this piece in our shower, but it is just not practical for us.



Museum Progress

I created an Allis-Chalmers History Museum a few months back and have been making some progress on it. Right now it is just webpage powered by  I am hoping that it can be a major source of information for Allis-Chalmers enthusiasts. Instead of it just being solely about tractors or other products, I am trying to tell the stories of the men and women who worked there, and about the company. It may take some time, but hopefully the project will turn into a valuable source of information.

Some of the things I have put together so far are pages about the brief history of the company and a paged with some of the hard-to-find documents. I am working on scanning and uploading PDFs of documents to be viewed right on the site. Essentially, I want it to be an open library of information. These publications are hard to find and pricey when they do pop up from time to time. I want to be able to share these with everyone in hopes of preserving the history of Allis-Chalmers, the workers, and the products they made.

There are a few features I would like to add in the future:

  • Biographies- People who worked at the various plants, what they did, and for how long. ( Text & Audio)
  • Photograph Archive- Albums broken up into categories depicting work at the plant.
  • Patent Archive- I have started this but would like to eventually list out all patents in separate categories.
  • In-Depth Histories- Specific histories about labor disputes, special projects, company expansion, etc.
  • Film/Video- Adding original film reel segments or videos the company released.

It will take some time, but this is what I hope to accomplish with my little, online museum. Who knows, maybe in the future it will turn into a real museum with real exhibits. I am encouraging any interested historians to help me. I know there are other AC enthusiasts/historians out there!  Another possibility is getting some other historical societies involved to contribute. The West Allis Historical Society, Milwaukee County Historical Society, and LaPorte County Historical Society are a few that I have visited/contacted about AC history before. They, as well as others, could be a great source of information.

Contact me if you have information to share or would like to help!

Hometown AC Ads

Scanning through old newspapers can be a great source of local AC history. I found these local dealership ads in our area newspapers. Check your local library for newspaper microfilms. You can also access some newspapers on Google Newspaper Archive or Newspaper Archive. Addition sources may be available through local historical societies, universities, and libraries.


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.