Horse Power Sweep


The Museum has three horse sweeps, one that has been rebuilt and is in use at the annual Threshermen’s Reunion and Stampede to drive either a baler or a hand-fed threshing machine. Two other sweeps are stored in the equipment yard in an incomplete condition. All three were donated in the late 1950s or early 1960s and came with the wooden components largely rotted away as they had been discarded outside many years previously.

About 1840, horse power sweeps were developed which could be used to drive machinery. Daniel Massey, an American who was then farming near Cobourg, Ontario imported a threshing machine and power sweep to drive it in 1845. Massey then started a machine shop and foundry and began to manufacture power sweeps around 1848. Massey went on to build other agricultural machinery and in so doing, laid the foundations of the Massey family involvement in agricultural machinery manufacture.

Horse sweeps were built in a variety of sizes from one-horse to eight-horse models. There were even models built which featured a built-in grain grinder or a stationary baler.

About 1875, Manitoba saw its first power sweep which was used to drive a threshing machine. Sweeps spread west with a power sweep and threshing machine being taken to Battleford, North West Territories (now Saskatchewan) as early as 1878.


The simplest description of a horse power sweep is that it is a right-angle gear box that sits on the ground with one shaft pointing straight up. The other shaft was parallel with and close to the ground. On the shaft that pointed straight up was attached an arm or a number of arms to which horses were hitched. The shaft that was parallel to the ground was attached to a long shaft lying on the ground. This shaft was long enough that it cleared the ends of the arms. This shaft drove another right angle gear box with a belt pulley on the output shaft of this gear box. A flat belt could then drive a threshing machine, circular saw, grist mill or other belt driven machine. The horse power sweep at the Museum uses this arrangement.

Power sweeps had some drawbacks. They were clumsy to move and because the machine took up a fair amount of room were impossible to operate in a building. In the winter or during cold weather, it may have been useful to operate the sweep inside a building to keep the horses warm and avoid issues with snow and ice. Sweeps also suffered from a built-in problem. While the horse was pulling on the end of the beam, the beam as it revolved, was moving off the line of draft. Overall, treadmills were more efficient than sweeps on a per-horse basis.

Oddly enough, horses were usually the only animal considered fit to operate a sweep. Oxen were a popular farm traction animal because the beasts, while slow, were powerful and did not require as much care as a horse. Oxen were also capable of eating lower quality forage than a horse. A further benefit may have been that, when the oxen became worn out, they were more acceptable for the stew pot than horses. However, oxen were not typically used to power a sweep because they were thought to be susceptible to becoming dizzy from walking in a circle. As well as horse sweeps, dog sweeps were also made. Dogs could power washing machines, cream separators, and similar light-duty equipment.

Horse power sweeps were common in pioneer Manitoba up to the 1900s but rare by the end of the 1920s. Gas engines and gas tractors by that time offered more economical horsepower.

A four-horse sweep in the Museum has been rebuilt with new wood components. This sweep has been examined however there are no markings present as to who manufactured the machine. When the machine was donated to the Museum in the late 1950s, there was no one who had seen the machine in operation so there are details of operation that the Museum is missing.

Tudhope Anderson Company Horse Mower

Tudhope Anderson Company Horse Mower at the Museum
Tudhope Anderson Company Horse Mower at the Museum
Tudhope Anderson Company Horse Mower at the Museum

The Museum collection includes a Tudhope Anderson horse mower which was donated to the Museum in the early 1960s.

Tudhope Anderson was a farm equipment manufacturer located in Orillia, Ontario. As well as manufacturing equipment,Tudhope Anderson also represented other North American equipment manufacturers in Western Canada. These companies included International Harvester and the Indiana Road Machinery Company.

Tudhope Anderson had its beginning in 1854 when William Tudhope set up a shop in Jarret, Ontario where he made iron hardware such as wagon parts. He then moved to Orillia where he opened a blacksmith and wheelwright shop. In 1890 William was joined by his five sons and they formed the Tudhope Carriage Company.

In 1902 one of the sons, J. B. Tudhope, formed the Tudhope Anderson Company with Harry Anderson.

Tudhope Anderson Company Horse Mower at the Museum
Tudhope Anderson Company Horse Mower at the Museum

Harry Anderson had immigrated to Canada in 1880, studied at the Ontario Agricultural College and took a homestead at Oak River, Manitoba in 1882. When the North West Rebellion broke out in 1885 he joined the 91th Battalion. After he mustered out he became involved in the farm machinery business in Manitoba with the John Elliot and Son Company and then with the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. He formed a partnership in 1889 with J. Bryan to act as agents for various manufacturers in Western Canada. The companies included the Emerson Company, Tudhope Carriage Co. and the Chatham Company. He then formed Tudhope Anderson with J. B. Tudhope and acted as the manager for Tudhope Anderson’s Western Canadian operations.

The Tudhope Anderson Company manufactured simple machinery like the horse mower in the Museum collection and distributed other manufacturers equipment. In 1911, Tudhope Anderson took over the manufacturing facilities of the Sylvester Company of Lindsay, Ontario after Sylvester encountered financial difficulties developing the “AutoHarvester.” Sylvester manufactured seed drill, grain binders, pumps, cultivators and gas engines. Sylvester managed to retain the gas engine part of their business.

Just when Tudhope Anderson wrapped up is not clear. There is some suggestion the Company suspended manufacturing in the early 1920s. In 1930s a company called OTACO (Orillia Tudhope Anderson Company) appeared and began manufacturing the Auto-Trac kit which converted a car into a tractor plus farm wagons and sleighs. With the advent of the Second World War, the Otaco plant was converted to war production and made aircraft landing gear. In 1948, Otaco obtained the license to from International Nickel to produce Ductalloy castings. While producing casting for other manufacturers, Otaco produced the Gold Tip plow share which it sold to farmers. Otaco was sold in the 1960s with the American owners finally closing the company in 1990.

The Tudhope Carriage Company was never part of Tudhope Anderson. This company was one of the first Canadian automobile manufacturers building the Everett 30 which later became known as the Tudhope. When the First World War started, the car plant was converted to war production and car manufacture never resumed after the war. Tudhope became involved in manufacturing specialty metal shapes. The Tudhope Carriage Company was wound up in the 1960s.

W. J. Ellard Root Vegetable Digger

Ellard Root Vegetable Digger as the Museum
Ellard Root Vegetable Digger as the Museum

The Museum collection holds a horse-drawn W. J. Ellard potato digger in its collection. This machine is a very unique one as it features a total of five forks at the back of the machine which spin in a circle so digging potatoes. Each fork has two tines.

The machine features a digging bit, a broad, heavy steel plate set at an angle. This bit when properly adjusted and the machine lowered to dig potatoes, runs in the earth just under the potatoes. As the bit has an upward angle to it so the dirt and potatoes are pushed upwards and loosened as the horse team draws the machine forward. The revolving forks then dig into the side of the row of potato plants and push the potatoes out the other side of the row on top of the ground. The dirt being loose falls through the tines of the forks and is left in the row. Of course this is in theory and while this may work in sandy soil, just how the machine would work in heavier soil that may be more prone to form clods is not known. As no modern machines use this method of digging action one can assume the W. J. Ellard digger was a blind alley in the development of potato diggers.

In the photos here, one can see the digging bit stored in the travel position, that is the bit is upside down in comparison to the position it would be in when ready to dig. One can also see a long lever which allows the operator to raise and lower the machine. When the machine was moving forward the operator could adjust the lever so lowering the machine into the ground. The forks appear to spin as the machine is moved forward with no means of shutting off or adjusting the speed of the forks revolve at. As one can see the machine is built largely of cast iron with the gears necessary to spin the forks being steel most likely. The forks are somewhat bent so it appears the machine did see use in the field.

There is very little information on the maker who may have been a blacksmith in the Ottawa area at one time. It appears there is at least one other W. J. Ellard potato digger in the hands of a private collector besides the machine in the Museum collection. It is not known whether this machine was suitable for digging forage turnips commonly grown to feed cattle in pioneer Manitoba.

T. Eaton and Company “Imperial” Wagon

Eatons Imperial Wagon
Eatons Imperial Wagon

The Imperial grain wagon in the Museum’s collection was donated to the Museum by Jim and Elmer Hellegards of Holland, Manitoba.

The T. Eaton and Company sold a very wide range of articles including wagons such as the Imperial wagon seen here. Harness, simple farm implements and tools were also sold. Eatons would not have made these items but would have contracted with a manufacturer to produce the items for Eatons.

Wagons such as this one were the tandem truck of the pioneer era. The box was able to carry a wide range of articles such as grain, livestock such as pigs, lumber and was even capable of hauling water if the box was fairly new and the joints tight. If not just line the box with a canvas tarp and that would hold the water. You could remove the box and fit the wagon chassis with a rack body to hold sheaves when threshing or hold loose hay. With the addition of a “Gatling Gun” seeder to the tail gate of a grain wagon you could broadcast spread seed. Once spread the seed could be covered over by a plow set to run two inches deep. The Gatling Gun seeder broadcast the seed by means of a spinning disc driven by chain and gear box off a rear wheel.  A small hopper above the disc metered the seed onto the disc. Someone had to ride in the wagon box continually filling the hopper from the wagon box while another person drove the wagon.

Imperial Grain Wagon Ad

The standard grain box held 60 bushels of wheat. The Imperial seen here has this size of grain box. Some grain wagons were fitted with a flared box above the wheels. These boxes would hold 90 bushels. But given the poor roads of the pioneer era, 60 bushels was as much as the farmer wanted to haul particularly if the farmer had a long haul to the nearest elevator. Many areas of the Prairies, when first settled, faced a 5 or 6 day roundtrip to the nearest elevator. There would have been no amenities along the trail and the most the farmer could hope for would be to find accommodation in the barns along the way for both himself and his team. Winter posed the danger of the weather “closing” in on the farmer and team while on the trail.

Grain wagons such as this Imperial were the primary farm transport vehicle until the late 1920s when trucks both became reliable and came down in price. With the arrival of the Great Depression in 1930, horses again became more economical to operate versus internal combustion engines and wagons regained their position as the chief farm transport. By the 1930s, economic conditions improved slightly but the Second World War and the conversion of car and truck plants to war purposes resulted in wagons remaining important farm transport on the prairies. With the end of the war, economical and reliable trucks were again available. Even more importantly road construction machinery was not only economical but had gained significantly in capacity. Wagons rapidly passed out of use on the prairies.

Horse-drawn Hearse

horse drawn hearse
horse drawn hearse

The Museum possesses a horse-drawn hearse in its collection. The hearse was donated in the late 1950s by Donald Roberts of Rathwell, Manitoba. Mr. Roberts was also its builder.

The hearse was built in 1911 and kept in service until December 1943. While Mr Roberts constructed the vehicle, it is likely that he purchased significant parts such as the hearse’s axles, wheels, and the elaborate trim pieces on its body. As the frame is more elaborate than most light carriages of the time, it appears Mr. Roberts built it. Note the how the frame is “goose necked” to allow the front wheels to turn in under the vehicle providing a degree of maneuverability usually not needed in more pedestrian vehicles. Probably this was done to allow the vehicle to maneuver in cemeteries.

At present, the hearse is equipped with black curtains in the glassed-in coffin area. However, it was customary to replace these black curtains with white curtains for the funeral of a child.

Hearses were probably not common in rural areas during the pioneer era because a small population was scattered thinly over a large area and there were more pressing needs for money. As populations built up and money became less scarce, hearses and undertakers would have appeared. In the pioneer era, a grain wagon or any other similar vehicle close to hand, would have been used to convey a coffin to the cemetery when necessary.

The municipal history books often contain pioneer family histories that discuss the use of wagons as hearses. In one such story, the death of three sisters from Black Diphtheria is discussed. Before the young ladies passed, each girl nominated a neighbour who was to convey her to the cemetery. Undoubtedly, the neighbour used a farm wagon of some sort to perform this sad task.

Horse Treadmill

horse treadmill
horse treadmill
horse treadmill

With the invention of farm machinery such as the ground hog thresher, came the need for farm power. Wind was one answer but the wind does not blow all the time so other means of generating power were needed. The treadmill was an obvious candidate as treadmills were well known in the 1830 having been around since Roman and Greek times. Both animal and people were used by the Greeks and Romans to power treadmills. 

Treadmills were used through the Dark Ages and on up to the 1800s to pump water, grind flour and even power cranes.  Treadmills were even in use in British prisons as a means of supplying the hard labour many prisoners were sentenced to. Prisoners could be on a treadmill for up to eight hours a day with a number of rest breaks. Treadmills were hated and feared by even the most hardened prisoners.

So as mechanized farm machinery was introduced, the treadmill was a logical choice as a power source. Treadmills had some advantages and disadvantages over power sweeps.  The treadmill was more compact and so could be operated in a barn however treadmills were limited to usually two horses so limiting its power output. The larger horse sweeps could accommodate 8 horses.  With a treadmill it was not necessary to apply the whip to the horses as the horse treadmill’s bed is inclined. Once the horses were brought on to the bed and the tread began turning, the horses naturally kept walking forward as the horse would find it unnatural to stop walking and yet be moved backwards due to the inclined bed. The downside to the treadmill was that if the belt connecting the treadmill to the threshing machine was thrown off, suddenly reducing the load on the treadmill, the treadmill would immediately gain speed. This could possibly throw the horses off their feet and perhaps breaking legs. A brake was fitted to treadmills and someone had to be in close attendance to throw the brake if the drive belt came off. Horse sweeps did not suffer this problem.

Oxen were not used on treadmills for the simple reason oxen will not back up. So once they were brought on to the bed they would be very difficult to get off the bed. As well oxen were never used on sweeps as it was thought the oxen would become dizzy walking in a circle.

The Manitoba Agricultural Museum has a horse tread mill in the collection. It was donated to the Museum in the late 1950 by Charles Nicholson of the Franklin district. Because of the danger to horses it is not operated. There are no markings on the treadmill as to its manufacturer. It is largely built of wood with a few pieces in the drive train made of iron.

Cockshutt JGC Riding Plow


James Cockshutt started the Brantford Plow Works in 1877 and built a number of different models of plows along with other products. However as Western Canada opened up to homesteaders in the 1880s, James Cockshutt found that plows designed for Eastern Canada were not completely suitable for the prairies with its blanket of tough wild grasses possessing a thick root mat. So Cockshutt designed a single bottom riding plow that possessed a stronger frame than eastern plows plus a moldboard with curvatures designed for prairie sod.

The best way for a plow to cut into sod or dirt while, at the same time, lifting and turning the material over through 90 degrees is with a moldboard that possesses a spiral curve across the face of the moldboard. The properly curved moldboard would result in reduced draft or tractive force necessary to move the plow and so result in economical plowing. To complicate matters a different spiral curve is required for the moldboard to efficiently cope with the different soil types, depth worked and working speeds encountered plus produce the appearance of the plowed field that the plow man desires. Differently curved moldboards were then needed for clay, sand, sod, corn and wheat stubble, the slow moving breaking plow and so on.

From the day of introduction the JGC riding plow was a success in Western Canada and was in the Cockshutt catalogue from 1884 to 1931. Only limited changes were made during this time such as using built up spoke wheels instead of cast wheels and a steel pan seat instead of a cast iron seat.

The Museum has a number of JGC riding plows in the collection including the early plow with cast wheels and a cast iron seat that is seen on this page. This plow was donated to the Museum in the mid 1950s by L. Smith of Brandon. Other JGC plows in the collection have pressed metal seats and / or different wheels.


Soon after the JGC was designed, James Cockshutt passed away due to tuberculosis, a very common illness at the time and one for which no treatment existed at the time, other than retiring to a dry climate. As the Cockshutt family had been aware of James illness, the Brantford Plow Works was reorganized into the Cockshutt Plow Company and one of James brothers took the helm of the company before James passed on. Cockshutt went on to build a large number of plow models, as many as 130 as well as a number of other tillage tools. Cockshutt began building swathers, tractors and combines after World War 2. Cockshutt branched out into other products such as wagons and truck bodies as well. It is interesting to note Cockshutt during World War 2 built undercarriages for aircraft, aircraft engine exhaust components and the moulded plywood fuselages for Anson training aircraft and for Mosquito fighter bombers.