CHARLES EDWIN KNUDSON
Necessity is said to be the mother of about every useful invention. To recognize the necessity for a machine or process for a given scientific or mechanical plarpose, one must be intimately acquainted with the present methods for the work involved and their shortcomings. Edison, the great wizard in the realm of electricity, gained his first experience of that mysterious force as a telegrapher; railroad men have been the most prolific originators of railroad inventions and farmers have produced many inventions adapted to their own uses. One of the most remarkable of the latter class of inventions in recent years is that of Charles Edwin Knudson, of Washington township, Brown county, Kansas, for taking the corn crop off the ground; an invention which has been developed to the verge of absolute success and which will doubtless soon meet the expectations of Mr. Knudson and his friends.
Charles Edwin Knudson is a representative of one of the progressive, prosperous and favorably known families of Brown county, and was born where he now lives, in Washington township, December 29, 1873, a son of Ulrick Knudson, one of the most substantial and independent farmers and strong unswerving Republicans in that part of the county. Ulrick Knudson was born in Valders, Norway, February 14, 1837, one of the ten children of Knud Knudson, six of whom are living: Ole, in Manitowoc county, Wisconsin; Annie, widow of Gulick Gigstad, Atchison county; Mary, wife of Ole Dovre, of Valders, Norway; Ulrick; Benedick, one of the wealthy farmers of Brown county; and Julia, wife of Nels Nelson, of Lyon county, Minnesota. Ulrick Knudson left Norway in April, 1857, sailing on the Gangerolf from Bergen to Quebec. He reached Manitowoc, Wisconsin, July 4, following, and came to Kansas soon afterward. In 1861 he drove across the plains to Colorado, thus employed en route for his board and transportation. and worked in the mines about Gregory for nearly four years. He returned to Kansas with six hundred dollars and with this began his career in Brown county. His progress has been constant and his accumulations steady. He has improved his present home farm, one of the finest in the state, most substantially and elegantly. He married Bertha Strand in 1870. Their children are: Charles F., Rosa E., Annie M., Edward O., Benhard, Julius A., Clara A. and Henry Adolph.
Charles F. Knudson was reared upon his father's farm and was educated in the district school. He decided to engage in railroading when well toward his twentieth year, and went to Sedalia, Missouri, where he learned telegraphy. After completing his course he became operator at Rennick, Missouri, and was there when the order of railway telegraphers called a strike on the system on which he was employed. Not being a member of the union and not having the experience required to join it, he though it expedient to quit the service. He returned to Kansas, expecting to get a position with the Rock Island Railway Company, but his father made him a good proposition to engage in farming, which he accepted.
Mr. Knudson's reputation as an inventor exteuds throughout Brown and adjoining counties, and the people generally, who recognize the utility of his machine, believe he will speedily make it completely successful. For a number of years he revolved in his mind an idea that a machine could be made that would take the corn crop off the ground more cheaply than it can be harvested by the present method; and then, with characteristic energy, he imposed upon himself and undertook the task of planning such a machine and bringing it into existence. His first device consisted of a binder-wheel with its canvas and rollers in such a position that they could be attached to the rear of a wagon. The process was to snap the corn and load it into a hopper of the machine above the husking rolls. As the wagon and machine were drawn over the field the latter did its work fairly well and elevated the corn into the wagon. It was found, however, to require too much work to keep the hopper filled to admit of the profitable operation of the machine. The original idea was therefore abandoned.
In 1897 Mr. Knudson called many farmers of his own nationality together and explained to them what he proposed to dO and what he had accomplished. His process, as then planned for taking corn off the stalk, seemed so plausible that a company, called the "Farmer's Aid Association," was formed, which raised enough money to enable Mr. Knudson to go to Washington in person and patent his invention. The conditions of the public donations, which constituted the fund, were that if the machine should prove a success the subscribers were to be reimbursed in double the amount of their subscription; but if the invention turned out impracticable the money given was to be considered an absolute donation. The officers of the association ere Rev. B. A. Sand, president, John Thorson, secretary, and H. C. Olson, treasurer. Besides these gentlemen, the other members of the association were B. and U. Knudson, H. J. Peterson, L. Severtson, K. G. Gigstad, Eli Turkelson and Jacob Knudson. In 1898 Mr. Knudson raised more money with which to build an experimental machine, by agreeing to a division of the proceeds of the sale of the first one hundred machines in case it should prove a success, pro rota, as per each subscription; but if the machine should not prove a success the amounts contributed were not to be returned to the subscribers. He took his drawings and went to St. Joseph, Missouri, where for four months he was engaged in the construction of the machine. It was tested in the fall of 1899 and was found to be nearer the thing desired than the first invention, one of its principal deficiencies being the skipping of the "downears." Mr. Knudson is now planning to apply new principles to the construction of some of the working parts of the machine and confidently expects, ere long, to overcome all obstacles to its perfect operation.
Mr. Knudson was married, in December, 1896, to Ella M. Anderson, daughter of Gilbert Anderson, of Scandia, Kansas. Their children are: Charles U. Gilmore, born in 1897; Esther Olivia Beatrice, born in 1899, and Luther Arlington, born in 1899. Mr. Knudson is, like his father, a stanch Republican, and has served on the county central committee. He resembles his father also in his public-spirited encouragement of all measures having for their object the advancement of the general good. Though not caring for office for himself, he is an active and intelligent party worker and wields considerable political influence in a local way.