Friday, October 3, 2008

The Holmes Little Giant

The Holmes Tractor Company, Port Clinton, OH
by Curtis L. Holmes

In the early 1900s the horseless carriage was so rare that everyone would turn and watch as one drove by. At that time George Hiram Holmes was employed as a mechanic at the Garfield Paper Company in Garfield, New Jersey. George became fascinated with this new mode of transportation. During the next few years the popularity of these automobiles grew rapidly. A relative of George’s in the Midwest interested George in purchasing a garage in Port Clinton, Ohio. In 1910 George quit his job at the Garfield Paper Company and moved his family and belongings to Port Clinton.

George became the Manager of the Port Clinton Garage, or the Garage in the Fruit Belt as he called it. George repaired the early cars, sold gas and operated a parts store for automobiles.

The garage business went very well for George and he hired other mechanics to assist him. This gave George some free time to work on a project that would be very useful in this part of the country.

The land around Port Clinton was well suited for growing fruit. The temperature and the rainfall were more than acceptable and Lake Erie would temper the spring weather and help prevent a late frost from killing the emerging buds on the trees. In the early 1900s the land was covered with fruit orchards and apples, peaches, pears and grapes were grown in great abundance.

Tractors of that day were tall cumbersome and had limited maneuverability; not at all suited for orchard work. George [pictured here] designed and built a tractor that would solve many of these problems. It was small and maneuverable and could turn in a twenty-four foot circle. The driver sat behind the engine so that the overall height was only 54 inches. George completed the first tractor in 1911. This was the birth of the Holmes Manufacturing Company of Port Clinton, Ohio. Post cards were printed and advertisements were distributed all around Ottawa County. The Holmes Little Giant appeared to have a great future in the fruit belts of the Midwestern United States.

On September 21, 1911 George wrote a post card to his father, Robert J. Holmes, in West Avon, Connecticut telling of his tractor.

Dear father:

I have stole a few days from the garage this week and am showing my tractor at the Sandusky County Fair. Perhaps it will not pay but the tractor attracts lots of attention and I hope someday to get an order or two but not until I have shown people what it can do. GHH

An article about the tractor was printed in a local paper about the same time and appeared as follows:

A Little Giant is the Holmes Tractor

On exhibit for the first time, the Holmes Gasoline Farm Tractor is receiving merited attention. Farmers of all classes are interested in the little giant and the exhibitors will be kept busy making demonstrations and answering the many questions that are asked about the machine. A mere description of the machine will not do it justice. It differs from the ordinary tractor in many ways. It is a low built machine and can turn in a 24-foot circle. Its width is 6 feet and the extreme length 11½ feet. The total weight is only 4,000 pounds. Power is generated by a double cylinder opposed gasoline motor developing 13-brake horse power. Ignition is from battery and non-vibrating coil. The motor is equipped with a 14 inch belt pulley for driving farm machinery. A very good feature of the tractor is that every speed and brake is controlled from the seat. It has two speeds ahead and one in reverse. The low build of the machine, and the amount of power that the motor develops, together with the easy steering and small turning space makes it a remarkably well adapted tractor for general farm work and orchard purposes. It is manufactured at Port Clinton and the exhibitors will always be ready to give demonstrations of their machine and take orders for future delivery.

The price is $1,200 and the machine that is being used in the demonstration will be sold at the fair grounds. This display is one that will prove particularly instructive to farmers and fruit growers and no doubt many will see the practical use of the tractor and place an order for one of them. Some idea of the machines performance may be gained from the record that it made previous to its arrival at the fair grounds. It has been running seven hours continuously and its motor was still cool to touch. The consumption of fuel and oil is very low when the power and speed of the tractor is taken into consideration.

The first tractor was sold to a local farmer. After the initial success a second tractor was started and completed a year later. George wanted to sell this tractor back in Connecticut. The tractor was loaded onto the train and George with his oldest son, Frederic, headed east for Avon, Connecticut. The tractor was quickly sold in Connecticut. This turned out to be the last tractor George was to build. A salesman called on George and convinced him that for the tractor to be really successful it had to be mass-produced. If George would give him the plans and specifications he would have the tractors built by a large company and George would receive the royalties. George gave the salesman all the plans, drawings and papers and the salesman disappeared forever. No one appears to know if any more tractors were ever built but most certainly George never received any royalties.

In 1918 George returned with his family to New England, where he and his wife were born, to be nearer their friends and relatives, thus ending the story of the Holmes Little Giant.

[Curtis is descended from Robert & Delilah Holmes through James Holmes & Mary McRoy>Robert James Holmes & Martha Camp>George Hiram Holmes & Amy May Colvin>and Frederick Colvin Holmes & Katherine Lane Spinney.]

Old Irish Naming Patterns 1700-1875

Nowadays, parents who lose a child by death are not inclined to use its name for a subsequent child, but this is a comparatively recent development.

1st son was named after the father's father
2nd son was named after the mother's father
3rd son was named after the father
4th son was named after the father's eldest brother
5th son was named after the mother's eldest brother

1st daughter was named after the mother's mother
2nd daughter was named after the father's mother
3rd daughter was named after the mother
4th daughter was named after the mother's eldest sister
5th daughter was named after the father's eldest sister

A break in the naming pattern could be caused by death. A century or so ago it was not unusual for at least half the children to die in infancy. If a child died young their name was then used for the next child of the same sex, thereby keeping the name of the relative who they were "named for".

But what if the naming system produced a duplication of names? In that case, the name was taken from the next on the list. For example, if the eldest son was named John after the father's father, and the mother's father was also John, the second son could not be named after him and was, therefore, named after the father!

If the father remarried after his first wife died, the first daughter born to this new marriage was often named after the deceased wife and included her whole name.