When we started this group in 1998 we had some idea of the interest it would generate, but no idea of the time and money it would take to sustain it. We are very appreciative of all of you that joined as Charter Member’s not really knowing what to expect. Our membership reached over one-hundred owners and enthusiasts in that first year. I hope all of you were satisfied with your certificates and the value of the information found in the five or six newsletters we published.
Our first campaign came to its peak at our homecoming event in 2001. Many of you traveled across the country to see the nine traction engines, two gas tractors, threshing machine, water wagon, and a large collection of Russell memorabilia. All displayed at the site of the original factory. We toured historic fourth street and the Massillon Women’s Club, one of many homes built by the Russell family. We wrapped up with a reception at the Massillon Museum. All in all, it was quite a weekend. We have to assume that everyone enjoyed themselves because all we have heard since is when are we going to do it again?
Do it again? I thought to myself, “we can’t even get a newsletter out on time.” At that point in 2001 we were operating on a generous individual's personal funds because the membership money had been exhausted after about the third newsletter. We didn’t feel right going back to the membership for more dues and we had cashed in every favor ever owed to pull off the homecoming event. Just as things were starting to roll, the couple of us at the heart of this thing were burning out and uncomfortable proceeding with things as they were.
In that same time period we here in Ohio were dealing with the aftermath of a terrible boiler explosion at a county fair. Many of our local members became involved with the state of Ohio to develop a program to educate and test steam traction operators. This continues to be an on-going and very important process.
While as an association we may have seemed dormant to the outside world, many of us continued individual projects, both for ourselves and the group. Ken Diehl and Earl Scheetz have put together a very comprehensive history of the Russell gas tractors. Mehl Young has continued to develop what was once a list of owners, started by his father, into a database that we have incorporated into this website. Other local members have acquired, began to build and or rebuild traction engines. And still others have continued to attend auctions both locally and online, acquiring interesting artifacts of Russell history. We have even been fortunate enough to acquire some original factory build records, which should prove to be a real asset in determining when some of these engines were built and other facts yet to be discovered.
Knowing we could not continue to function as we had originally planned we needed to reconsider our vision of an association with card carrying members and a quarterly newsletter. We are working out the details of maintaining our status as a non-profit organization and to obtain a tax-free status with the state of Ohio. We have to see how this all comes together considering we plan to no longer ask for dues, have card carrying members, or produce a printed newsletter. Though our goals have not changed, our vision has, and this website www.russellcollectors.org represents a new beginning for our association.
Generally speaking, people have access to the internet, or at least have a friend or family member who does. We feel that this website will be a much more affordable, flexible and effective way of sharing information about our hobby.
We are particularly excited about the Forum area of this site.
Submit stories to it. Ask questions. Update us on projects and newly acquired treasures. Let us know where your going to be displaying equipment. If you have something for sale. If your local organization is considering Russell equipment as a feature. Or if your working on something and just can’t figure it out.
Another area of interest might be the Russell & Co. Research Services. This is a work in progress and we expect it to evolve with every request. We hope that many questions will be answered by fellow enthusiasts in the Forum area of this site. We also hope that people can obtain copies and reprints from others in the group that are willing to share. The Research Service is simply there
for questions that may require additional research, either from information found in some of the more rare catalogs, the original build records or records housed at the Massillon Museum. We are also considering making some catalogs and records available both as digital files and or reprints. We hope to develop a pricing structure for the more common requests, once we learn what those are. Any cost associated with such requests is done so in an effort to recoup time and effort spent in the research/production process and or to protect the value of investments fellow enthusiast have made in reprinted catalogs and memorabilia of their own.
This is probably a good time to mention in regards to the research and other correspondence, that we have a small but willing core group volunteering their time, so our response times will vary, we just ask for some understanding and patience.
There is one more area we should mention, and that is the Equipment List. This is a list of Russell equipment that we know to exsist. This area is generated from the database Mehl Young has been working on that I mentioned earlier. Note that we are only displaying serial number and year it was produced. However know that in most cases Mehl has compiled additional information about that piece of equipment including previous and current owners, location, condition, etc. If you own equipment you might consider contacting Mehl and confirming any details about it. We should also mention that any information such as purchase price, or personal information such as phone numbers or email will not be shared without your consent.
Never say never but it seems unlikely. An independent show just doesn’t seem feasable, at least in the near future. What is much more probable is for another organization to feature Russell & Company equipment, in which case we would do everything we could to promote and participate in their show and possibly host a social for all who are interested at that event. If you know of an organizaion planning on, or considering Russell & Company equipment as a feature lets us know and post it in the Forum area so that we can begin to consider some level of involvment and or help that organization make it a success.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, The National Russell Collectors Association is alive and well. Hopefully after reading this article and exploring this website you will be as excited about our new direction as we are. We look forward to seeing all of you in the upcoming months, whether it be online, or at an upcoming show. Talk to you soon.