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Pioneer sale offers historical insight

Farmer and politician William D. Staples sold up in 1916 due to the war

The ad seen here appeared in a fall 1916 edition of the Canadian Thresherman and Farmer magazine.

William Staples, Dominion grain commissioner, was selling his farm equipment as his son was on active service with the Canadian military. Staples senior therefore needed to discontinue his farming operation.

William D. Staples was a pioneer farmer from the Treherne area and later a local and national politician.

William D. Staples was a pioneer farmer from the Treherne area and later a local and national politician.
photo: House of Commons

William Staples was born at Fleetwood, Ontario on Nov. 10, 1868, son of James Staples and Jane Evans. He attended school at Fleetwood and Lindsay, Ontario and Winnipeg, and then became a farmer at Treherne, Manitoba.

In 1892, he married Nellie May Metcalfe of Treherne. They had three children. He was a councillor and reeve of the Rural Municipality of South Norfolk, was elected to the House of Commons for Macdonald in 1904, beating J. Riddell, and was re-elected in 1908 and 1911. He was appointed a grain commissioner for Canada in April 1912. William Staples passed away in Elm Creek in 1929.

Oddly, given he was a reeve of the municipality and, later, MP, William Staples does not have an entry in the municipal history book prepared for the RM of South Norfolk. Such an entry would have given us more information on him. It does appear his son, James, survived his service with the Canadian military in the First World War as he seems to have passed away in 1956 in London, England, but it also seems he never returned to farm at Treherne. Perhaps the family having long since left the Treherne area is why there is no entry in the municipal history book.

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As the ad demonstrates, W.D. Staples had quite a lineup of equipment for sale. The most interesting piece was Diamond 40-70 gas tractor. Diamond gas tractors are extremely rare today with only one known example existing and that one is lacking the proper engine. Very little is known about Diamonds. The one existing example has three-speed, sliding-gear transmission. This was very advanced for a tractor at the time.

It is known that the Diamond Iron Works entered its “America” 40-60 tractor in the 1912 Winnipeg agricultural motor contest in Winnipeg. However, the tractor, during the brake test phase of the contest, seems to have developed nowhere the horsepower claimed for it and consumed more fuel than the other tractors while in the brake test. The tractor’s performance in the plowing phase suffered from this lack of power. It came seventh in a field of eight tractors in the class it was entered in. And the seventh place perhaps resulted from the eighth tractor being withdrawn from the test before it completed the test.

The 40-60 appears generally similar to the 40-70 with one significant visible difference. The 40-60 had the operator positioned at the front of the tractor as the designer claimed that with the tractor being able to reach the speed of 3-1/2 miles an hour, the only possible place for the operator was at the front in order to properly control the machine at this stupendous speed. One obvious drawback to this position was that the tractor then had the engine cooling system located at the back of the tractor and so visibility to the rear was non-existent. The “America” like many other tractors of the time was fitted with a radiator cooled by exhaust-induced draft. The photo of the “America” shows a large vertical tank at the back with the exhaust pipe running into the cone forming the top of the tank. Probably the tank had tubes running through it and an exhaust-induced draft sucked cool air up through the tubes.

The 40-70 followed a more conventional layout with the operator at the back. Cooling was now accomplished by a front-mounted horizontal tank probably with tubes through it and operated by a fan. The engine in the 40-70 appears similar to the engine in the America tractor, however, details of the engine are not known. One would think that Diamond by 1916 had addressed some of the engine issues made apparent in the 1912 tests.

There is some suggestion that the tractor designer D.M. Hartsough was involved to some extent in the design of the Diamond America tractor. Hartsough was a very early designer beginning work on tractors in 1899 and was a prolific designer involved with the Big 4 tractor, the Bull tractor, Happy Farmer tractor, Lion tractor, possibly the Minneapolis Ford tractor, and the LaCrosse tractor, all within 20 years.

There is also suggestion that Diamond Iron Works built under contract some Big Four tractors, some Bull tractors and was also perhaps involved in the Lion tractor fiasco. Down payments were taken on Lion tractors but none were ever built and the down payments were lost.

The lack of information on Diamond’s activities and products points out a problem facing museums and historians. Few records have survived of early farm machinery companies and there are a large number of companies that appeared, operated briefly and then disappeared leaving no record except for some photos of their machines, some advertisements in farm papers and, at times, one or two tractors or other pieces.

About the author

Contributor

Alex Campbell is a dedicated volunteer and Member of the Interpretation Committee at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum. http://ag-museum.mb.ca/

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