Bruce Black of the Brandon area has allowed the Manitoba Agricultural Museum to copy negatives of photographs taken around 1920 on the farms operated by the Black family. The photo above shows a sheaf loader. The handling of sheaves was a large enough problem that a number of pieces of equipment were developed to ease this. The Steward Sheaf Loader was one such machine and offered the ability to load sheaves on a wagon faster and with less physical labor. It was a fairly simple machine — ground driven and operated with a four-horse team. The machine had a slatted chain pickup that gathered the sheaves off the ground and carried them up to a cross elevator that was also fitted with a slatted chain. This cross elevator carried the sheaves higher and dropped them into a wagon. The frame of the Steward Sheaf Loader was made of square steel tubing and flat iron. Galvanized steel sheet formed the floors of the elevators with wooden boards forming the sides. In the photo, it appears the upper part of the high side of the sheaf wagon was made of page wire rather than wooden boards, perhaps to reduce the weight of the body.
The Steward Sheaf Loader Company Ltd. owned an office and plant in Winnipeg operating sometime between 1910 and the mid-1920s.
It has been suggested that many veteran sheaf pitchers who loaded wagons by hand did so in a pattern so the pitcher would know where to stand when pitching sheaves into the thresher and not be attempting to pitch a sheaf that he was standing on. With a wagon loaded by a Steward, the sheaves were loaded helter-skelter onto the wagon so the pitcher could have more work unloading the wagon.
The museum has three Steward Sheaf Loaders in the collection including one early machine which features a wooden deck on the pickup elevator. Because they were built with a frame of square steel tubing and flat iron, they would have been a very handy source of useful steel for repairs when the machine was no longer needed. So for three machines to have survived intact for donation to the museum indicates Steward Sheaf Loaders were sold in respectable numbers.
The Manitoba Agricultural Museum is open year round. For location and hours of operation go to ag-museum.mb.ca.