Naper Notes Blog

Naper Settlement's blog will feature special events, historical happenings and interesting tidbits about Naperville's only history museum.

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Sep 13

Threshing About – A Blog about a Thresher: Part 2

Posted on September 13, 2017 at 11:15 AM by Emma Vodick

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Hi, I’m Louise Howard, Chief Curator at Naper Settlement.

Welcome to Threshing About, a blog devoted to the conservation progress of our Wood Bros. threshing machine. The conservation work is being funded in part by a competitive Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. 

Stay tuned! This is the first post of this blog, which will run through the completion of the thresher’s conservation work, anticipated by June 2018

On the Road again! – A visit with the thresher’s conservator

Back in late April, I had the opportunity to make a visit to Mt. Carroll, IL to review the status of the thresher’s conservation activity with lead conservator Ralph Kennedy of Kennedy Conservation.  I travelled with colleague Sarah Buhlig, the museum’s registrar and Wilbert Hageman, son of one of the thresher’s original owners.  Upon our arrival to Mt. Carroll, Ralph greeted us and walked us through the conservation treatment activities for the thresher. 

Let’s meet the thresher’s conservation team!

Ralph Kennedy serves as the lead conservator for our thresher project.  Kennedy is the Principal of Kennedy Conservation, and serves as an objects conservator and conservation consultant. He has over 50 years of experience in the field of conservation. His workshop has overseen many treatment projects ranging in media types, including furniture, ethnographic materials, transportation vehicles, textiles, household goods as well as other various historic objects. His impressive client list includes many historical agencies such as the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, Milwaukee Art Museum, Lakeview Museum of Arts and Science, Wisconsin State Historical Society, Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, National Park Service, as well as corporate and private collectors. We estimate his firm to spend approximately 875 hours to the conservation treatment of the thresher as well as participate in an educational workshop with college students on the treatment process. 

Principal of B.R. Howard & Associates, Brian R. Howard, serves as a consulting conservator on the project. Howard works as an objects conservator and conservation consultant located in Carlisle, PA (and, in case you’re wondering, no, we’re not related!).  Brian’s conservation projects focus on macro-artifacts, sculpture, transportation objects, military collections, historical industrial equipment, architectural elements and composite artifacts. Howard will serve as project consultant to Kennedy Conservation based on his extensive conservation work with macro artifacts, including threshing machines. He will provide telephonic and electronic communication on our project as well as some limited on-site consultation and review for scheduled project milestones, and participate in the project’s educational component and collaborate on the final project report.

Let’s meet Farmer Wilbert!

Wilbert Hageman is the son of Frank Hageman, one of the thresher’s original owners (the other original owner was Wilbert’s uncle, Herman).  Wilbert, a native Napervillian and third-generation farmer, enjoyed a long career in agriculture.  He was born in a two-story farmhouse off Plank Road, where his father raised five boys and a herd of dairy cattle on 128 acres.  He hauled and delivered milk for several years and then later earned his living through the Wheatland Feed Center, which began as a feed store for area farms but became a pet store that catered to suburbanites. According to Hageman family records, Frank, along with his brother Herman, purchased the grain thresher on August 1, 1928 for a price of $888.00, along with its belt for $60.00 and canvas for and additional $22.30.  

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Pictured above: Conservator, Ralph Kennedy & thresher sale notation.

What we learned on our recent visit:

Careful examination and microscopic analysis revealed that the metal of the thresher was never galvanized and was always intended to be painted.  The reddish-brown paint visible is the primer paint and was used to get the final finishing coats to adhere.  The gray paint visible was a rust inhibitor.  Paint analyses and oral history interview accounts indicate the current gray paint is not original and was likely applied in the 1970s.  However, the painted surface from an interior component on the thresher, seen in the far right image, above, is likely the thresher’s original paint color.  Ralph will match this color for the body of the thresher during the treatment process. 

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Pictured above: Kennedy also shared information about the thresher's feeder and chain drive.

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