By Cynthia L. Miller


BRODHEAD – Don Wolter has what some people may think is an unusual hobby – he collects cast iron equipment seats and parts.

It turns out that his hobby is not all that unusual. In fact, there is an association of cast iron seat collectors, appropriately named The Cast Iron Seat Collectors Association. Based out of Blue Grass, Iowa, the association publishes a quarterly newsletter that recently featured Don and his friend Stella Clark.

Don has been collecting cast iron seats since 2006 when he retired from Martin Automatic in Rockford, Ill. after 35 years of service. He credits LaVerne Hitzman of Brodhead for getting him interested in collecting cast iron equipment parts, and also from advertisements in old farm collector’s magazines. Don wouldn’t venture a guess as to how big an investment he has in his entire collection, but did say that just one of the seats cost him over $3,000.

Don and Stella like to spend their time attending auctions during the winter months. He figures he has about 250 seats and miscellaneous machine parts on display at his rural Brodhead home. He and his grandson, Bobby, constructed an A-frame traveling display unit mounted with many seats from his unique collection. That display will be featured during Brodhead’s Covered Bridge Days Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 8 and 9, at the south end of town.

Don explained that between 1840 and 1910 many towns had their own casting places. Travel was difficult, so folks made what they needed in their hometowns. As time went on, manufacturers went to using tin when making the seats because it was a cheaper metal, and they were easier and quicker to produce than the labor intensive iron seats. He also pointed out that these were not tractor seats, but were seats used on horse-drawn farming equipment. Still, they could not have been very comfortable to sit on for long periods of time, at least in this writer’s opinion!

Don and Stella welcome visitors to Brodhead’s Covered Bridge Days to stop by and take a look at their display, ask questions and share a story or two about the “Good Old Days.”