Irvin Bauman - Corn Shucker from Woodford County, Illinois 
story submitted by  Charles Steck


Illinois man earned all-time corn-husking mark in 1940
Farm World October 31, 2007 by Steve Wiegand

Mackinaw, Ill. - In 1922, Henry Wallace, editor of Iowa farm magazine Wallace Farmer and later a USDA secretary for President

Shuckers pose on a wagon during a national contest. The "bang board" behind the men was there to sotp the ears of corn from overshooting the wagon. From left, the men include a wagon driver, name unknown; Ray Rechkemmer; Irvin Bauman; Elmer Bauman; and the gleaner, name unknown.

Franklin D. roosevelt, was convinced that competitive corn husking could become a popular rural sport.

Wallace believed it would help increase the efficiency of all corn huskers. The typical Midwestern farmer grew an average of 50 acres of corn in the 1920's. High-yeilding hybrid seed was not available, so even an outstanding field of an open-pollinated variety rarely yeilded more than 60 bushels an acre.

Bauman was only 27 when he set the all-time record high for corn husking, which exceeded the previous record by more than five bushels. He could husk like a machine - with speed, endurance, precision and smoothness - for 80 minutes. Many believe Bauman's mark will never be broken.

There were no halftimes or timeouts. Many huskers would go the entire 80 minutes without stopping for even a drink of water rather than waste one of the 4,800 seconds allowed for the contest.

Only one of the national contest, 1940, took place as early as October. That one had all the breaks - good weather, record attendance and a record net load.


Husking corn was the farmer's most time-consuming chore: thus, many often hired extra help. Any man who could husk 10 bushels per hour was regarded a good husker, and their typical pay was 3-5 cents per bushel, or $5 per day.

Irvin Bauman shows how he shucked corn in later years after winning the championship.

Husking bees became popular at county and state levels. The first National Corn Husking Contest was in November 1924 in Iowa, with huskers from Illinois and Nebraska also participating. The contestants started at the county level, two winners from each county advanced to the state contest, and the top two huskers in each state went on to compete at the national contest.

By 1938, 11 Midwestern states were included in the competition. As the sport grew in popularity, as many as 160,000 people would watch the national contest and many more listened at home as WLS broadcasted the start and progress of the competitions.

Yields and weather conditions varied year to year and, therefore, there was a variance in the number of bushels the winner shucked each year.

Huskers would start at the sound of a dynamite blast and picked for 80 minutes, throwing their shucked ears into a wagon. The total load was weighted, with deductions of three pounds for every pound of corn left in the field, and a one-percent deduction for each ounce of shucks over five ounces per 100-pound sample of ears. That weight was then divided by 70 to equal their bushels harvested.

In 1940 contest field was planted with two-row horse-drawn planters, dropping the seeds in the hills 40 inches apart by means of check-row wire.

The champion husker with the all-time record was Irvin Bauman of Woodford County, Ill. He won the county and state titles in 1935 and 1939, and he was second in the national contest both years. Bauman won the national title in 1940 in front of a crowd of more than 160,000 people near Davenport, Iowa. His winning load was 3,350 pounds. He left 20.7 pounds of gleanings behind him, for a deduction of 89.1 pounds.

He had no deductions for husk, leaving him a net of 3,260 pounds, or 46.71 bushels - which averaged close to one ear shucked per second.

In 1940, the last national corn husking competition took place due to the new corn-husking machines and the beginning of World War II in December of that year. While it lasted, though, the interstate competition was one of the nation's great festivals.

Bauman's son, Don, was four when his father won the national contest. Today Don, 71, his grandson, Ron, 45, and great-grandson, 22, don't let the dust settle when they're combining corn. They harvest with a John Deere 12 row combine with air-conditioning, GPS and guidance programs, along with all the other amenities available today.

They harvest more than 200 bushels of corn per acre at 5 mph, harvesting more than 3,000 bushels of corn in an hour - compared to Bauman's 46.71 bushels in 1.33 hours.


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