“A Flair for Mechanical Devices:” Allen A. White

Our current exhibit, Fathers of Invention, features inventions by local people. An earlier post featured Michael B. Adams. Another inventor featured is Allen A. White.

Allen A. White

Born August 27, 1912, Allen A. White grew up on his parents’ farm in Harvey County and attended Newton High School where his favorite classes were Public Speaking and Vocational Agriculture.  He married Edna Horst September 27, 1936, the couple had six children—5 boys and one girl.  White also served as a minister in the Mennonite Church.

White had a “flair”  for mechanical devices and by age 25 he obtained his first patent for a variable-speed wind charger.

“There had to be a better way. . . “

In 1946, White’s “flair” to improve the way things work led him to his next invention.  White observed a man jacking up a car to repair a flat tire with both an axle and a bumper jack.  He thought “there had to be a better way.”  In a shop he set up in his garage, he began experimenting and eventually developed the “White Triangle Chain Jack.”

Sales from the new jack paid for White to attend college at Hesston College and Friends University. He continued to  invent and improve everyday objects for the rest of his life.

Son, Roger A. White, with the White Triangle Chain Jack on exhibit.

After a few years living and working in Wichita, White moved his growing family to a farm near Peabody, Ks.  He lived the rest of his life in the Peabody—Hesston area.  He established White Industrial Lab in Peabody, Ks. In 1952 he began working with the Hesston Manufacturing Company, Hesston, Ks as an engineer and inventor.  Over the 25 years of his employment at Hesston Corp, he was issued 41 patents, including one for the Baler Model 4800 in 1978.

Service Manual for 4800 Baler

In 2003, Agco, formerly Hesston Corp,  produced the 25,000th of the large square balers designed by White twenty-five years earlier.

Other Hesston Corp Projects

White at a demo. Photo courtesy Kauffman Museum, N. Newton, Ks

Turn Dry Rake. Photo courtesy Kauffman Museum, N. Newton, Ks

Sickle Drive. Photo courtesy Kauffman Museum, N. Newton, Ks

He retired in 1980.

Even in retirement  he continued to look for ways to help people through better tools.  He had four patents of his own. One of last inventions he worked on was the “Tool for the Application of Elastic Stockings” to help those who had difficulty putting on support stockings.

Photo courtesy Kauffman Museum, N. Newton, Ks

Prototype. On loan from Kauffman Museum, N. Newton, Ks

White died in 2003.  The writer of his obituary noted that he was  “a gifted man. He helped build equipment and machinery with his family and was always willing to help others.”

Thank you to Kauffman Museum, N. Newton, Ks for loaning a collection of White’s prototypes and photographs for the exhibit, Fathers of Invention.  Our thanks  also to Roger White for loaning a Triangle Jack for the exhibit.
The exhibit, Fathers of Invention, is up through May 2018.
  • Allen A. White Papers 1924-2001, MS 537, Mennonite Library & Archives, N. Newton, Ks
  • Allen A. White Collection on loan from the Kauffman Museum, North Newton, Ks.
  • Patents by Assignee Hesston Corporation.  http://patents.justia.com/assignee/hesston-corporation
  • “Allen A.White” obituary.  Mennonite Weekly Review 28 April 2003, No. 17, p. 2.
  • “Service of Worship in Memory of Allen Andrew White,  Life Sketch” Whitestone Mennonite Church, Hesston, Ks 18 April 2003.  HCHM Curator Biographical Files.
  • “25,000th Large Square Baler Celebrated in Hesston, Ks.” Author Anne, May 17, 2013. http://blog.agcocorp.comtag/large-square-balers

“Tinkering:” Inventor Michael B. Adams

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Meet the Inventor

Our latest exhibit, Fathers of Invention, features men from Harvey, McPherson & Marion Counties that invented tools that provided a safer work environment, increased efficiency and improved lives.

Thank you to the family of Michael B. Adams for providing stories about their dad, a Harvey County inventor.

“Our father was always mechanically inclined and a problem-solving engineer who took great pleasure in “tinkering” – usually with engines and cars, making adaptations to better serve practicality – or on a whim or fun-loving idea.”

Michael B. Adams was born on July 16, 1916 to Walter G. and Blanche A. Bartley Adams He grew up in the family home at 514 E. Broadway, Newton.

Michael B. Adams, age 3. Photo Courtesy Jean Adams Tonoli

Michael B. Adams, age 3. Photo Courtesy Jean Adams Tonoli

He attended Newton schools and graduated from Newton High in 1934.  He  met his future wife  Florence Hiebert, while attending Bethel College, N. Newton. After two years, he transferred to Kansas State University and graduated in 1939 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Michael B. Adams, NHS Sr 1934. Photo courtesy Jean Adams Tonoli.

Michael B. “Bartley” Adams, NHS Sr 1934. Photo courtesy Jean Adams Tonoli.

 Shortly after graduation, Adams served in the Army Air Corps.  During WWII, he was stationed at Dum Dum AFB in Calcutta, India where he worked in aviation maintenance servicing the airplanes which flew over the Himalayan mountains.



“Santa Fe All the Way”

Michael B. Adams, Trainmaster.

Michael B. Adams, Trainmaster.

Following his time in the military, Adams returned to Kansas and continued his career with Santa Fe Railroad in Topeka.  During the span of his career he worked with the railroad’s transition from steam engines to diesel power.  As a result of his job, the Adams family lived in several different states including Texas and California.  While in Chicago, he was the Chief Mechanical Officer for the Santa Fe Railroad.  In the 1970s, to address changing fuel needs, he collaborated with a team to develop the Fuel Foiler—10 Pak.  The  lighter, more efficient Fuel Foiler was developed in response to the fuel shortages and increased cost of fuel in the 1970s. The invention improved the transport of  freight by rail.


From the initial idea by a few Santa Fe engineers, this rail transportation concept improved the efficiency of the Santa Fe’s growing freight transport business, and beyond that, the rights to the design were eventually sold to other companies for further development and manufacture.



Adams’ inventiveness and ingenuity was not limited to his career. A favorite story involved “Emily”, his first love, a Model T Ford that was “named after Emily Post, (because the car was so well mannered?!)” In one instance, to solve the problem of a missing radiator cap,  he used a tomato juice can.

“When the car overheated or the road was rough, he enlisted the help of his passenger, with a long stick to reach forward and keep the can in place.”

In addition to ‘Emily,’ Adams enjoyed working on unusual cars, including  two early Studebakers, two Peugeots and a Renault. He enlisted the help of his two sons in one project.

“A lengthy and special project was the overhaul of the Peugeot engine in the garage of our home. We completely dismantled the engine, cleaned and rebuilt with new parts, and learned first hand the workings of the internal combustion engine. We recall one little bit of ingenuity we needed. Since we didn’t have an engine hoist, usually used for this task, we removed the entire front axle and steering gear from the car to get access to the bottom of the engine.”

His children also recalled

 “a creation of Dad’s to solve the classic problem of 3 kids in the back seat of a car during road trips. He built a wood platform on the floor to cover up the hump in the floor of the 1957 Dodge so the three of us could sleep back there, one on the floor, one on the seat, and one on the back hat shelf. This of course was long before child car seats became popular, much less the use of seat belts!”

Throughout his life, Adams enjoyed do-it-yourself projects.  He shared this love of creatively inventing with his children from building a Soap Box Derby race car to overhauling car engines in the garage.

Michael B. Adams and diesel locomotive.

Michael B. Adams and diesel locomotive.

Adams died 24 March 1983.

For the exhibit, the Adams family  loaned the museum a model of the Fuel Foiler 10 Pak invented in 1980.




  • E-mail correspondence with Mike Adams (jr), 26 August 2016; Jean Adams Tonoli, 26 July 2016, 21 August 2016, 24 August 2016;  Jim Adams,  30 August 2016.