1840: Joseph Barr to William E. Lukens

The identity of Joseph Barr, the author of the letter, is difficult to nail down since he makes no mention in this letter of family or friends. He wrote the letter from La Port, Indiana but told the recipient  to direct a return letter to him at Valparaiso so I’m guessing he was a farmer in Porter County, Indiana who may have sold these machines as a side business. There was a farmer named Joseph Barr living in Porter County in the late 1830’s who was also a trustee for the First Presbyterian Church in Valparaiso where a church building was erected in 1840.

This letter was addressed to William E. Lukens (1807-1888). He married Margaret Cooper (1814-1888) in 1836 in St. Clairsville, Belmont County, Ohio. Lukens parents were Moses Lukens (1763-1839) and Sarah Tompkins (1768-1829) of Harrison County, Ohio.

The year of the letter is missing. 1840 is an educated guess.

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[Addressed to William E. Lukens, Georgetown, Harrison Co., Ohio]

La Porte [Indiana]
February 26th

Mr. W. E. Lukens

Dear Sir —  With respect to matters between you and I, I would say that the time when my note falls due will soon have expired. Your money is now ready and I am at a little of a loss how to transmit it so as to secure its safety. I could purchase a draft at probably two 1/ prct. Whether it would sell for the same or as much with you, I know not. You will please prescribe the way that you would prefer having it sent and I will forward it immediately.

I have disposed of all the machines that I had on hand and will want two as soon in the spring as they can be forwarded. I want them early on account of rigging them to carry off the straw & clean the wheat. This will require all the time that we will have from say middle of May till harvest. If you see proper to lend me two machines of the same kind (that is the round eye kind) the same amount of entries at the same price on six months time with interest, you can do so and at the expiration of that time you may depend on the money.

There is one great objection to this horsepower – [and] that is it requires the horses to walk or rather trot too fast. This must be remedied by either the five feet master wheel or the large pit wheel. I would prefer the five feet master wheel if you can get a round eye of that size. I find the large shafts are apt to brake between the wallower and the journal. They will not bare five and six horses. They are stout enough every other point. This may be remedied by either staving or selecting larger shafts. It requires six horses to run the machine, straw carrier & fan.

I wish you to give me a particular discription of the rake drum & fan mentioned in the deeds that we got when we used to purchase patent rites. Draw me a draft of one and show me how the power is applied and whether they will operate well &c. &c.

With regard to shipping, there ought to be some pains taken to bargen for a certain price. The last machine I received was marked 1500 cost $45 including your bill for halling. Now three dollars pr crat[e] ought to ship one to Liverpool and back. This is too great an advantage to give them of us. The propper way would be to bargen with them for a certain price, then take a bill of lading and forward to me. Then I can meet them with the bill and it will be impossible for them to over charge.

Yours respectfully, — Joseph Barr

Write to Valperaiso, Porter County, Indiana


This is the machine that is described in the letter:

LIST OF PATENTS ISSUED IN OCTOBER 1835, FOR IMPROVEMENTS OF MACHINES, &C. TO BE USED IN AGRICULTURE. With remarks, by the Editor of the Journal of the Franklin Institute.

  • For a Horse Power; Asa Trahern, Henry Heberling, William E. Lukens, and John Heberling, Short Creek, Harrison county, Ohio, October 28, 1835This horse power is of the well known kind in which the animal, walking in a circle, is geared to a lever extending from a vertical shaft; at the lower end of this shaft is a crown, or bevil, master wheel, gearing into a pinion, or wallower, on a horizontal shall, even with the ground. We cannot find any thing new in the affair; but the patentees claim “the eye of the master wheel and shaft, and the moving pinion, by which means, wood, pot metal, and iron, and consequently, cost, are saved, and its utility greatly increased, whilst it is rendered much more portable.” We are told that the master wheel “has a round eye, and runs on a round shaft.” And the pinion by which the power is communicated at the outer end of a horizontal shaft, runs in a frame which may be moved round, so as to cause it to stand on any part of the periphery of the wheel which drives it.
  • William E. Lukens had an earlier patent, granted 26 March 1834, which was a machine for hulling clover seed.

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