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Germantown Is Home To Two Tobacco Setter Manufacturers

By John Henderson

Cities and towns all across Kentucky boast of what they are most famous. I suppose Germantown, located in Bracken and Mason Counties, Kentucky, would qualify as the host of the Old Reliable Germantown Fair. This Union Agricultural Society Meeting started in 1854. It became the Germantown Fair and may not be the oldest, but is “right up there” as one of the oldest continuous ger copyrunning county fairs in our fair state.
However, most people in the area do not know, or care, that Germantown is also famous, or should I say, not so famous, for being the home of two tobacco setter (jobber) manufacturers. In 2013 there is one place to buy gas or a gallon of milk inside the city limits, yet in the early 1920s there were two tobacco setter makers. The competition must have been fierce.
Harry Galbraith made the first “hand planter” in Germantown around 1922. I can find records showing the price in 1923 being $8. In 1925 there was a flyer sent out stating the jobberwas “$6.50 Postpaid,” so they must have had a sale going on at the time.
Harry Galbraith started making jobbers in his tin shop in Germantown on Hungry Hill. His building is standing to this day and still has some parts left inside. There are handles and a stack of jaws up in the loft as a reminder of production days past. One must keep in mind that Germantown had five hotels, five maybe six churches, two funeral homes, several restaurants, and many stores ranging from creameries to appliances.
The new Perfection Hand Setter boasts: 1) “It is the easiest to operate.” 2) “It is a pleasure to operate it. The drudgery of getting a crop out is gone forever.” 3) “Our boys take to it kindly and become skillful operators in little time.” 3) “The water reservoir is of large capacity and will set 150 to 200 plants with one filling.”
The other manufacturers of setters or jobbers in Germantown were twin brothers. Local folks called them the Woodard brothers. Their names were Earl and Orville Woodward (locals dropped the second “w” in pronunciation of the last name). The brothers ran a tin shop at the intersection of Bridgeville Road and Highway 616 or Woodward Road. Earl and Orville came on the scene a bit later but came up with the “double barrel” tobacco setter. This patent allowed a farmer to “set twice the amount as their competition.” I wonder what “our boys,” as mentioned previously, thought about carrying twice as much water for this thing?
I have a new never-been-used double-barrel setter with the price of $6.50 written on it, so apparently it was competitively priced. I can find no published information on the Woodwards’ setter.
I have been collecting junque for 25 years, and very
seldom could one attend a farm auction that didn’t have at least one of these types of tobacco setters. Nearly, if not every time, the auctioneer held one of these up, someone would moan or groan about having to help Dad or Grandpa use one of these things. I don’t understand why they complained, the directions said “a skilled operator could set nearly two acres a day!” One fellow said to me, “Yeah, you didn’t have to pack the water for the thing!” That is why I opened the article with “not so famous.”

John Henderson, 166 Bridgeville Road, Germantown, KY 41044, shares this article with our readers.

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