In 1870, a reader of the Prairie Farmer magazine submitted an account of the La Salle county fair, which mentioned the Dayton Woolen mill among the other exhibits.
After running down the list of animals (horses, cattle, swine, sheep, and poultry) and mentioning fruits and preserves, the cloth and needlework exhibits, and the races, the correspondent got down to what really interested him – farm tools and machinery. He reported agricultural implements, too numerous to mention, were ranged on the ground. Nathan Woolsey, of Waltham township exhibited something new in fences, being an iron post and board fence, the post in two parts, the part that enters the ground being of cast iron, shaped like a lance head, and two feet long, in the top of which is a bar of wrought iron about 1 1/2 inches by 3/8 inches thick, to which the boards are fastened by bolts. An excellent invention for the prairie, he thought.
However, the attention of all was centered first and last on Dr. Hull’s curculio catcher, exhibited by J. E. Porter, of the Eagle Works, Ottawa. The plum curculio was a beetle that attacked plums, peaches and other deciduous fruits. It ruined the fruit and various methods were tried to get them off the trees. At one point a bounty of $20 for 5000 was offered.
The difficulty of removing them by hand led to various schemes to shake them out of the branches, called jarring. Striking the tree limbs with heavy sticks was fairly effective, as the beetles would fold their legs and fall to the ground when disturbed. However, when on the ground the curculio would roll up into a small ball which was hard to find and remove.
The curculio catcher, illustrated above, solved this problem by catching the beetles before they hit the ground. It is easy to see why this exhibit would have attracted the attention that it did.
Although modern chemical poisons have made the elimination of these pests easier, they have also made the process much less colorful.
To read the full account of the 1870 fair, including the reference to the Dayton Woolen mill, see this.