Cedar Valley Auction attracts collectors to purchase pieces of Charles City history
By Kelly Terpstra, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerry Hegtvedt’s tongue-twisting cadence reverberated throughout the building on Saturday at the Cedar Valley Auction Co.
The longtime local auctioneer was on top of his game.
Hands were raised, items were bid on and timeless pieces from Charles City’s past found a home.
Collectors and sellers came from near and far to attend the farm collectibles and memorabilia auction on Saturday put on by Hegtvedt, owner of Cedar Valley Auction.
The room was filled with antique reminders of Charles City’s history as one of the nation’s first tractor and farm equipment manufacturers.
“It’s unusual to have an auction this big with this many Oliver and White historical items at it. It’s a big deal,” said Chad Kloppe, a collector who traveled from West Des Moines.
Toy tractors, pedal cars, parts, accessories, literature and dealer implement signs were just some of the pieces that represented what Charles W. Hart and Charles H. Paar first invented in 1901.
The first successful American tractor using a two-cylinder gasoline engine was built by Hart-Parr in Charles City. The Hart-Parr Gasoline Co., founded on June 12, 1901, later became Oliver, which then transitioned into White Farm Equipment in 1960.
“I look at it kind of sentimental because my grandfather was here, my uncle was here and my dad worked at the plant,” said Daniel King, who made the long ride from his home in Atlanta, Georgia. “It’s a little piece of community history that I grew up with.”
White maintained business in Charles City until the last tractor came off the assembly line on July 29, 1993.
King graduated in 1991 from Calvary Baptist Christian Academy, a private school in Charles City.
He said he worked at Swartzrock Implement – a White dealer – from the age of 14 into his early 20s. King’s father, Duane King, was one of the final crew members on that last day in 1993 when White Farm Equipment closed its doors.
“He was one of the final dozen guys that worked there. Even just the final closeout as they were selling off the factory part by part and chopping it up piece by piece,” said Daniel. “It was maybe like a death – the final stages of a death. It was tough.”
King’s grandfather and uncle also worked at White Farm Equipment.
Daniel King said he looks for one-off collector pieces like employee pins or bills of sale, which were some of the unique items that were sold on Saturday. He also bought several Oliver toy tractors. He said the antiques are more than just cherished mementos that sit on a mantlepiece.
“It’s a footprint that, hey, this is part of us here as a community,” said King. “It’s the roots here that makes it special.”
King said he comes back three times a year to Charles City, often to the Cedar Valley Auction.
“I’ve never missed a Christmas here,” he said.
Collecting historic artifacts is in his family’s blood. His father owns an antique shop in downtown Floyd.
“The things that you can pull from local community that connects it back to my dad and grandpa working at the factories — it’s kind of like I’ve got a piece of them through being able to make some purchases,” King said.
Chad Kloppe was raised on a farm just outside St. Louis and restored a 1975 Oliver 1655 tractor. He likes collecting sales brochures and catalogs from Charles City’s pioneering tractor company.
“It’s collecting a piece of history, but then it’s also an investment,” said Kloppe. “There’s one sign in there that can bring more than two or three tractors that are restored from that same era.”
And boy did it ever.
An Oliver vintage dealer sign from the early 1930s sold for $7,000. The reflective sign is composed of cobalt glass, or “smalt,” and glows in the dark when headlights shine on it.
The sign was purchased by a group including Wayne Wiltse, who will donate it to the Floyd County Historical Museum.
Wiltse, who was born and raised in Charles City and now lives in Racine, Wisconsin, was also high bidder on a Steel King Burnham coaster wagon that went for just over $2,000. The wagon will also be given to the museum.
Burnham Manufacturing Co. was an early 20th century farm equipment maker in Charles City that made hayracks, milk cooling tanks and in the offseason built wagons, usually wooden ones. Wiltse said Burnham even made a special run of coaster wagons for the Chicago Daily News for paper delivery boys.
“This about local history and preserving local history and making sure that things get to the museum where everybody can enjoy them rather than just getting stuck in private collections,” said Wiltse.
Wiltse said Hart-Paar was an international company that started shipping tractors to Canada, South America and Cuba in 1906. The term “tractor” was coined by Hart and Parr.
“They were tractor builders in the forefront of export,” said Wiltse.
Out-of-state collectors came from as far away as Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio to attend the weekend auction put on Hegtvedt. Bidders were vying for pieces of history that can be passed down so a younger generation can also appreciate Charles City’s past.
“It’s the unique pieces that kind of bring it alive,” said Daniel King.