Community Engagement Certification reveals the value of local museums to their community

     The Heidrick Ag Museum and Event Center is proud to announce the completion of their Community Engagement Museum Assessment Program certification by the American Alliance of Museums. This certificate validates the completion of an in depth review of the museum’s purpose, mission, history and significance in theMuseum Certificate community by a third party team of museum experts. Among the pages of findings, suggestions, and accolades was the realization that, although the non-profit center is listed as the number one attraction in Woodland, California, drawing more than 10,000 visitors annually from around the world, majority of the surrounding community members have yet to discover this local gem. Read more…


In the News!

GoodDay Sacramento LIVE!

Click below for video of Heidrick Ag History Center staff and volunteers demonstrating the Monitor Rice Seperator. For more vintage tractors and agricultural equipment, come by the museum on February 9th from 12pm to 2pm for the Second Saturday Educational Series.

GoodDay Sacramento live at the Heidrick Ag History Center

Click here to view the Fox40 video, Know Your Neighbors.

The CAT 20 Exp is the newest addition to the Heidrick Ag Center tractor family                                         

Built in 1927 the Caterpillar Expo Twenty Tractor was uses as show piece at county and state fairs or other local events. This versatile machine was commonly used in agricultural applications, but also in road building, hauling airplanes, and other tough jobs. 

The CAT 20 Expo is owned by the Veerkamp family of Placerville, Calif. Collectors of antique tractors, the Veerkamps began the process of restoring the Expo Twenty in 2007. As they researched the machine, the owners discovered that the inaugural tractor had not been painted with the standard gray and red color scheme, which was typical of Cat products built in the late 1920s. Instead, it had received a unique white paint job featuring black trim with brass- and nickel-plated accents. The Veerkamps not only returned the tractor to its original appearance, but also restored its original purpose. Having come full circle from its days as a show machine, the Expo Twenty is back in the public eye.

 Engines Roar! June 13th Members Event

  Date/Time: June 13th, Tuesday, 6p to 7:30p

  Place: Center Courtyard,  Ag History Center, 1962 Hays Lane, Woodland, CA 

  Cost: Free to members. Join or renew anytime , or evening of June 13th.

 RSVP by June 8th, by email at or phone 530-666-6700.

On June 13th the Ag History Center unveils new technology that encourages you to dial your cell phone and learn about new scholarship researched and written by  Ed and Sue Claessen.  Their book  Making Tracks, the story of the Best and Holt collection, won first prize in the category of both biography and history at the Midwest Independent Publishers Association.  They will be at the June 13 to tell you more about their story and explore the culture of agriculture. 

 Nineteenth-century observers watched in awe as cumbersome steam tractors and giant combines worked their way across vast fields.  In the twentieth century, California farmers led the nation in the adoption of gasoline tractors, mechanical pickers, harvesters and dozens of well-known machines.  

We invite you to experience the story of agricultural mechanization in California as seen through the collection and visiting exhibitions.  Also joining Ed and Sue Claessen are guest story tellers Doug and Matt Veerkamp who will expand on the Caterpillar story. 

June 13th is an evening to enjoy light appetizers that feature the Center’s new culinary team, and taste the produce of Berryessa Gap Winery, Capay Valley Vineyards, Copper Hill Olive Oil, Lucero Oil, Putah Creek Winery, Seka Hills Wine & Olive Oil, Simas Family Vineyard, Z Specialty Food.


Heidrick Ag History Center

Join or Renew Your Interest in a California Story

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 Heidrick Ag History Center

1962 Hays Lane, Woodland, CA, 95776


A reliable source of water is an essential part of California farming.  In this year of extreme drought, many farmers have sought new sources of water to irrigate their crops.  Some farmers have also had to be flexible about which crops to plant, and when and how to irrigate them.

A century ago, California farmers often relied on water pumps and local wells for essential irrigation water. The Heidrick has two vintage water pumps on display in the East Wing dating to the early 20th century.  The 1921 Myers self-oiling “Bulldozer” water pump, powered by a Cushman gas engine, is a high capacity reciprocating pump, delivering water on both the up and down strokes.1  A 1907 Fairbanks Morse water pump and “vertical” T series gas-powered engine brought water to the Henry Morgue Ranch of Durham, California2.  

These pumps and motors, and other equipment essential to California agriculture, are on display at the Heidrick Ag History Center, Wed. – Sun. from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

 1Gift courtesy of Gary Nielsen, Modesto, CA

2Loan courtesy of Shannon Mlcoch and Richard Hunt of Clarksburg, CA


The 1929 Travel Air 4000 N3977, now on display at the Heidrick, served many years as a crop duster in the fields around Lodi.  Originally manufactured as a passenger plane, the N3977 was purchased and retrofitted when the four Precissi brothers (Lou, Augie, Joe, and Frank) established the Precissi Flying Service in 1945. To preserve its important contribution to agricultural history, the N3977 is now owned by the California Agricultural Aircraft Association, which loaned it to the Heidrick.

As a crop duster, the N3977 was mainly used to apply sulfur, a fungicide that helped control powdery mildew and pests on Tokay grapes, popular table grapes before the Thompson seedless variety.  The N3977 was also used to dust tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and sugar beets – all common crops in the 1950s.

To load the hopper, located in front of the cockpit, the crew piped the contents of 100-pound bags of sulfur (see photo).  When loaded, the N3977 could carry a payload of about 1,000 pounds.  As the plane flew over the ag fields, the sulphur was air driven through the distributor on the bottom of the plane directly onto the fields.  A glass window in the front of the cockpit allowed the pilot to monitor the amount of material left in the hopper.


Because the N3977 carried a fairly small payload, the Precissi brothers set up many small air strips throughout the Lodi area so the plane could land and be reloaded during a job.  A flagger was responsible for calling each pass that the pilot made, working with the pilot to coordinate the exact placement of chemicals or seeds (see photo).  Together, the flagger and pilot took great care to avoid unwanted drift onto irrigation channels or adjacent properties and to protect any people in the vicinity.

Contemporary ag planes typically include a GPS* unit to guide the drop. Ag planes seeding rice, for example, may seed several varieties in close proximity, each carefully placed by the pilot, with the help of GPS.

*Global Positioning System

Notes:  Thanks to Don Precissi for his assistance with this article, the Yolo County Archives for photographs of H.H. Weggers Airplane Seeding and Dusting, and “Serving Agriculture from the Air, the Story of Precissi Flying Service,” The San Joaquin Historian, The San Joaquin County Historical Society, 1990, Vol. 4, No. 1.

The Hey Day of Hot Rods

Nearly 150 hot rods and muscle cars cruised into the museum on Saturday, April 5, to launch Hot Rods: Wheels in Fields. More than 1,200 guests marveled at the new exhibits created by So-Cal Speed Shop of Sacramento, as well as Gus Gustafson, Rich Cleland, Bruce Woodward, Joe Heidrick, the Tuesday Volunteer Crew, and our dedicated staff and volunteers.  So-Cal Speed Shop of Sacramento engineered a historical replica of a garage and air tower like those found on rural properties during the 1930s and 1940s where amateur mechanics created hot rods. These high-performance customized cars reflect the qualities of innovation, resourcefulness, and independence we associate with the culture of agriculture. 

New cars were too expensive for many people during the Great Depression, so young car enthusiasts refurbished old cars rescued from junk yards, often swapping out engines, transmissions, and other components.  Innovations led to distinctive cars with more powerful engines and other improvements. 

Hot-rodding stalled with the outbreak of World War II, however, when many young men were drafted into the armed forces.  Gasoline was rationed and auto and tractor manufacturers turned from making peacetime vehicles to assembling tanks and warplanes. 

By 1946, decommissioned young men coming back from overseas brought the mechanical skills they had gained during the war, and returned to souping up cars in abandoned hangers.  Roadsters were all the rage, and by the late 1940s hot rods were popular.  1946-1949 is now considered the hey day of hot rods. 

See magnificent examples of this legacy at the Hot Rods: Wheels in Fields exhibit in the Heidrick Ag History Center. The East Wing is open to tours only so be sure to call in advance.  Watch for more surprises at the Heidrick Ag History Center!

From Gow Jobs to Hot Rods

When is a hot rod not a hot rod? When it was built in the 1920s and 1930s.  At that time, a hot rod was called a “hop-up,” “soup-up,” or  “gow job” (from “gowed up,” meaning intoxicated).1  The typical gow job started from a Ford 4-cylinder Model A (1928-32) or Model B (1932-34) that had been stripped down and performance enhanced for speed.  As one hot rod enthusiast notes, “Hot rods are built to burn rubber.”2

A Model A’s top speed was 55 to 60 mph.  To increase this top limit, a gow job mechanic would remove anything unnessary – fenders, bumpers, windows – to improve the power to weight ratio.  The roof could also be lowered or the windshield removed. 

The real action was under the hood (if it still existed). The mechanic intent on speed could choose specialty parts from a variety of SoCal manufacturers.  Stripped down, souped up, a Model A or B could go 80-90 mph, with the fastest cars topping 100 mph.3 

Farmers with a talent for mechanical ingenuity took their souped up cars out on country roads to race.  Later, meets were held at dry lakes where the cars could really be opened up and safety was less of a concern.  One of the earliest timed dry lake meets was held at Muroc Lake, Kern County (now part of Edwards Air Force Base) in 1931.  By 1938, the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) was operating time trial meets, and over 300 racers participated at Muroc Lake.4

Hot rodding still attracts numerous car club enthusiasts throughout California, and the SCTA still holds land speed trials at Bonneville Flats, Utah, where some of the fastest .

 See a slice of Hot Rod history at the new exhibit

HOT RODS: Wheels in Fields

 Sponsored by 

 1 Gow was derived from “yao-kao” – Cantonese for opium. 2 Vincent, Peter, Hot Rod An American Original, 2001, MBI Publishing, St. Paul, MN.        3Montgomery, Don, Hot Rods As they Were, 1989, AM Graphics, San Marcos, CA. 4 Vincent.vehicles in the world come to make their mark on history. 

The Russell Steamer, Adding the Finishing Touch (3 of 3)

In blog post No. 2, it was noted that the water tank and fuel storage bin at the rear of the Russell Steamer were fabricated as part of the restoration process.  As a finishing touch, the Russell & Company trademark, with its characteristic snorting bull and the words, The Boss, were painted on each bin.  The images were signed by Roy Martinez.*

The company went through several name changes before it was ultimately dubbed Russell & Company in 1878.  Likewise, the Russell & Company trademark went through several permutations.  Roy Martinez’ version was based on an image on page 51 of the August 1915 issue of The American Thresherman and Farm Power.

Roy Martinez’ version is similar in many respects to the beautiful Russell & Company trademark displayed as a water tank decal on the National Russell Collectors Association website.  The snorting bull and The Boss are recognizably similar.  However, there are at least a half dozen (or more) differences between the two trademark images. 

How many differences can you find?  The person who identifies the greatest number of differences will win a prize from the Museum!**

The Russell & Company trademark, interpreted by Roy Martinez

The Russell & Company trademark, courtesy National Russell Collectors Association

 *Who was Roy Martinez?  If you know, please comment on this blog post.  **Please note – differences in the pastoral background scene count as one difference.

The Russell Steamer, a Feat of Restoration (2 of 3)

The Russell Steamer on view at the Heidrick Ag History Center today was the result of years of painstaking restoration. Fred Heidrick acquired it in the 1960s, and he and Joe Heidrick took the faded hulk and turned it into a gem.  Their efforts combined careful research, fine craftsmanship, and a penchant for detail to create a fully operational, restored steam traction engine.

The steamer was mostly intact when purchased.  A photo taken around the time of the 1967 state fair shows Fred at the controls.  A photo of Celeste Burnham, State Fair Model, cheerfully perched atop the steamer, also gives a good sense of its condition prior to restoration.

Several important parts were missing, however, including a shade canopy and water and fuel bins on either side of the rear platform. The steamer also lacked the Russell trademark with its characteristic snorting bull. Documents in the Heidrick archives reveal the meticulous care that was lavished on restoration projects. A letter dated July 28, 1970 to Mr. Neil McClure of Colchester, Illinois, requests photos to identify “…the spacing of the rivets on the fuel storage bins and water tanks, the [tank] measurements and other pertinent details…” A hand-drawn diagram (shown below) details the replacement tanks that were to be fabricated.

Similar attention was given to replicating the original paint colors:  black for the body; red for the flywheel, nose, and parts of the engine; yellow for the wheels, and silver for the smokestack. The desired location of each color was carefully drawn on a diagram of the steamer before it was painted.  Gold and silver trim were added for a decorative flair. The finishing touch was the handpainted Russell trademark on the water tanks (the subject of Blog 3).

The steamer was restored to operational condition, but has not been fired up for many years.  Help us bring this remarkable piece of machinery back to life by making a donation for reconditioning.  Visit our website at and select the Russell Steamer option in the drop-down menu.


Sacramento museum, history, agriculture, tractors, hot rods, classic cars, horsepower, growers, collectors, antique, vintage, restored, woodland, California