Illinois man earned all-time
corn-husking mark in 1940
World October 31, 2007 by Steve
Mackinaw, Ill. - In 1922, Henry Wallace, editor of
Iowa farm magazine Wallace Farmer and later a USDA secretary for
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
Franklin D. roosevelt, was convinced that
competitive corn husking could become a popular rural
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
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
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.
Bauman shows how he shucked corn in later years after winning the
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
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
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
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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