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Collectors Love Ingenious Antique Planting System
Tom Billingsley of Buckeye, Arizona, believes the Planet Junior line of antique gardening equipment is an under-appreciated collector's dream.
  Billingsley would like to see more people join Planet Junior collector's group and help preserve these rare implements.
  "They're a lot cheaper to collect and a lot easier to restore than tractors," he points out. "And they work so well that you can use them in your garden today. They are simply ingenious examples of engineering, and they were made to last. There are probably still thousands of these things scattered on farms all over the country. People used them to plant large gardens and fields up to 80 acres."
  At last count, there were 576 members in the online Planet Junior collector's club, where much sharing of information, trading, buying and selling takes place.
  There are a multitude of different Planet Junior models, including 4 or 5 kinds of hand-powered garden planters, a cultivator that converts to a planter (with 3 sets of different cultivator teeth), a big wheel planter 2 1/2 ft. in dia., 4 or 5 kinds of rototillers, a small 4-wheel tractor and much more.
  The first Planet Junior planters were built in 1866 by S.L. Allen Co. in Pennsylvania. Many more products were to come, although the company changed hands and names over the years.
  "The "Jupiter Wheel Hoe" is what they called the cultivators after Cole Manufacturing bought out the Planet Junior hand cultivator sector," according to Billingsley. "Then, the name changed again to the "Jupiter Gardening System". There were eight different types of shanks for it for plowing, cultivating, furrowing, planting and weeding, etc."
  Billingsley says the Planet Junior is a simple, efficient method for hand planting a garden. You can plant anything with it cotton, corn and all vegetable crops - because it allows you to adjust seed spacing.
  In Hunt, N.Y., a company called Farmer Brown's Plow Shop makes wooden replacement handles. This company also does some buying and selling of Planet Junior equipment, parts and original sale catalogs.
  "Planet Junior is great for those interested in planting without bending over. If anybody wanted to really seriously get into Planet Junior, you could make a business out of it," says Linda Brown of Farmer Brown's Plow Shop. "The people who come to us looking for attachments are actually using the units in their gardens, particularly organic gardeners. They do work very nicely. The company was excellent - all the parts are labeled and numbered. This makes it easier for me to be able to find the part and help people out."
  According to Brown, there is also usually a full page of Planet Junior equipment for sale on eBay.
  Billingsley says he'd love to get all the sales catalogs/brochures and literature on them.
  "They were a beautiful system and I hate to see them pass on. With these tools, you could double food production in underdeveloped countries where they can't afford tractors and have an abundance of labor," he says.
  Billingsley has five complete units himself, plus a lot of parts, and he'd like to hear from anyone who also collects Planet Junior equipment. In his collection is a #4 planter that he estimates to be about 60 yrs. old, and four newer (approx. 30-yr.-old) planters. There is an attachment cradle on these newer ones for hooking them to the back of a tractor.
  "To restore these planters, I buy a rust remover and soak them in that, and then paint them and they look brand new. It's a neat way to do something simply," Billingsley says.
  Fellow collector, Myron Patrick of Winder, Georgia, says Planet Junior equipment was sold all over the world.
  "It was a great company that built quality things," he says. "My basement is completely full of Planet Junior gardening equipment. I probably have 15 tractors, 15 to 20 seeders, 30 to 35 wheel-hoes and plows, plus boxes and boxes of attachments for them. I've been doing this for many, many years, and have met just the nicest people. I've gone to West Virginia and Illinois to get stuff and I've had things shipped from New York."
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2005 - Volume #29, Issue #4