Just before the outbreak of World War 2, Massey Harris engineers had a breakthrough: the invention of the self-propelled combine. While the Model 20 combine was heavy and expensive, it represented a revolution in grain harvesting. The company saw the incredible potential of this invention and invested considerable resources in improving the first model. Just before war broke out, the Model 21 began production.
Then everything changed. Wartime production needs, rationing, and the shift of able-bodied men to the fighting forces put huge pressures on the Massey Harris company (and others like it). At the same time, the few farmers that remained were tasked with feeding the world. As famine swept across Europe and those on the home front faced strict rationing, grain crops in North America reached record highs. The trouble came in finding enough workers and equipment to bring in the harvests.
This is when Joe Tucker, sales manager for Massey-Harris USA, had a stroke of genius. He convinced the War Production Board to authorize the production of 500 brand-new Model 20 combines. He persuaded the board (which was in charge of manufacturing and related rationing) that the Massey-Harris Model 21 was the best in the world, capable of harvesting more grain with less fuel and less manpower than any other implement. The board agreed, and authorized the production with one catch: each purchaser must sign a contract to harvest at least 2,000 acres of grain. The deal was struck, and the Massey-Harris Harvest Brigade was born.
The Harvest Brigade was a huge undertaking. The 500 combines, purchased by independent operators, fanned out across the grain belt. Cutters started in Texas and followed the harvest north into Canada. The massive, coordinated effort involved a network of dealers, repair teams, and even company airplanes to monitor the operation. By the time the harvest was brought in, the brigade harvested more than one million acres of grain.
The brigade was such a success that the War Production Board authorized the production of 750 more combines the following year. It achieved national press coverage, too – catapulting the Massey-Harris brand combine to market dominance.
Here’s my favorite advertisement from the era – a 1945 recruitment poster for the harvest brigade. It makes me want to jump on a combine of my own!
Last year only 500 capable, determined Harvest Brigade operators with new Massey-Harris Self-Propelled combines saved over a million acres of America’s grain. Much of this grain might never have been cut had it not been for the tireless effort of these operators and the outstanding performance of the Self-Propelled combine.
Yes, the Brigade achieved a famous victory in 1944, but another emergency must be met in 1945. The need for grain is still great – the supply of new machines and labor still small. A new Brigade is forming and we want the finest operators in this territory to purchase the 1945 Brigade Self-Propelled Combines. If you are an experienced operator capable of harvesting 2,000 acres in 1945, or a farmer whose needs justify the allotment of a Self-Propelled combine, get in touch with your Massey-Harris dealer below.
Sweeping over the entire length and breadth of America’s great grain belt, the 500 Brigade operators averaged 2039 acres per combine in 1944. Never before was so much grain harvested by so few men and machines in so little time and at such low operating cost per acre. Ask your Massey-Harris dealer to show you the operating record and see for yourself the dollars and cents advantages of Self-Propelled combine ownership.
For more information, see http://www.farmcollector.com/company-history/harvest-brigade.aspx?PageId=3