Museum Talk

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
The hand-cranked corn sheller is on display at Buffalo Island Museum in Monette.

This week as I was watching the big combine picking the corn by my house, I was reminded of the hand corn shellers at the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette. The picture is of a hand corn sheller that grinds the corn for chicken feed from the late 1800s, donated by Melda Strickland. The museum also has a cast iron 1903 Black Hawk #9 hand corn sheller

donated by Jack Newton.

I remember the corn sheller in my Grandmother Simpson's corn crib when I was a child. My brother and I thought it was fun to feed the ears of corn in the sheller, turn the crank, and watch the kernels of corn fall in the bin.

As I sat on my deck and watched the big combine fill hopper after hopper of shelled corn being loaded into several 18-wheelers, I was once again reminded of how much farming has changed throughout my lifetime.

Corn has always been considered to be one of the most important crops in the whole world. Some parts of the world still consider corn as their survival food.

The first corn sheller was invented by Lester Denison of Connecticut in 1839. These antique corn shellers were usually made of quality cast iron and were hand operated, and are very collectible today as many of them still work.

Corn picking in earlier days was hard work. After a frost in the fall, the corn was ripe and dry enough for picking. The farmer used a curved husking knife and walked down each row, cutting the corn from the stalk, opening the shucks and pulling the ear out and throwing it in a wagon, usually pulled by a mule. It was slow hard work. When the wagon was full, the corn was driven to the corncrib.

My Grandmothers's corncrib was a room in the barn with boards about an inch apart. This allowed air to circulate and dry the corn. Shelling the corn was done by a hand-turning corn sheller. In later years, a corn sheller used a power machine with sharp wheels to separate the kernels from the cob.

The shelled corn was used for animal and chicken feed, and what wasn't needed at the farm was sold for cash. Some even used the leftover cobs as fuel for the stove.

Visit Buffalo Island Museum and see the old farm tools. Admission is free.

Museum hours are Friday and Saturday 12:30-4:00. For more information and to enter our monthly mystery artifact contest, check out our Facebook page. For special tours please call Monette City Hall at 870-486-2000.

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