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Presque Isle: The Star City

Harvesting Potatoes

(Page 12 of 13) Print Version 

BARREL GRAPPLES

Hand Grapple, Presque Isle, ca. 1910
Hand Grapple, Presque Isle, ca. 1910

Item Contributed by
Presque Isle Historical Society
Potato Barrel Grapple, Presque Isle, ca. 1950
Potato Barrel Grapple, Presque Isle, ca. 1950

Item Contributed by
Presque Isle Historical Society

An early labor saving device was a hand grapple. The man on the back of the truck would clamp onto a barrel with this tool and pull the barrel onto the body of the truck. He was assisted by a man walking beside the truck. With this device, two men could load the truck. Like a lot of tools at the time, this hand grapple was made locally, probably from a digger lag.

Although it took two person to load a 160 pound (81 kg) barrel with the hand grapple, some strong-armed barrel loaders could do this alone. This was rare, but it was a feat of strength that gained an individual a reputation.

Because the hoist can swivel on a post, the operator must keep a firm grip on it. Many heads have been bumped by a swiveling hoist.

Usually the truck is moving while the barrels are loading and placed.

Three-Prong Barrel Hoist
Three-Prong Barrel Hoist

Item Contributed by
Presque Isle Historical Society

The grapples in the photograph on the right are the very same grapples in the Loading Potato Barrels photograph on page 12. Barrel grapples come in different styles. The grapples on the right will hold onto the barrel better than the grapple on the left. This type of grapple is more often used in potato storage houses. The grapple on the right, though, can be more easily tossed onto the barrel from the truck body, allowing for faster loading of the truck.

Like most tools on smaller family farms, barrel grapples were made locally, sometimes by the farmer himself.

Two persons could load the truck in 15 minutes if conditions are right. Rolling a barrel on a moving truck body is tricky.

The truck driver has to drive the truck very smoothly, no quick starts or stops. A quick start could cause man and barrel to fall off the back of the truck. A quick stop could result in a spilled barrel towards the front of the truck body.