Photo of a manure spreader in Montana

Weekly Gem #254, The word "contraption" comes to mind

Published 4/10/21

Location: This Hidden Gem is located 'out in the country' in western Montana (see the Clue Me! Map). 

The word "contraption" comes to mind.

Somebody must have had a good reason to invent this thing and all of its moving parts. Yes, my friend, it was a good reason... 

In the 1890's a schoolmaster named Joseph Oppenheim noticed that boys would have to miss several days of school to spread manure on the fields. It was time consuming, and incredibly hard work. Manure is heavy, gloppy and smelly. It had to be loaded onto the wagons, carted to the fields, shoveled off the wagons, and then declumped and spread out. 

One day while Oppenheim watched the children play a ball game, he noticed how the ball glanced off the paddles in all directions. He suddenly had a new idea! By using angled, rotating paddles on the back of a wagon, manure could be dispersed over a wide area. He and his oldest son built a model of his idea using, among other things, a cigar box and the drive wheel of his wife's sewing machine. The model worked! He decided to have a couple of these machines built and tested. 

When neighbors saw these paddle-device manure spreaders, they called them "Oppenheim's new idea." All the farmers wanted one. Oppenheim opened a shop to make and sell these devices, and called his company "New Idea." 


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


Regarding #1 and #2


An old New Idea manure spreader

Why It's Interesting

This incredible piece of machinery was invented by a school teacher named Joseph Oppenheim. While watching children play "tom ball" with a ball and paddles, he realized that manure could be dispersed in a similar widespread pattern using rotating paddles. A welcome change from having to shovel and spread by hand.

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