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Home of the National Construction Equipment Museum


J.D. Adams Leaning Wheel Grader Salesman’s Sample

  • 09/15/2015 11:55 AM
    Message # 3527774

    Attic Cleaning Uncovers J.D. Adams Leaning Wheel Grader Salesman’s Sample

    My flashlight glanced across a long, cracked leather box, in the dark and dusty corner of the attic. I pulled the box into the light. The tarnished metal tag affixed to the top read: J.D. Adams & Co., Mfrs., Road Building Machinery, Indianapolis, Ind.

    I undid the hasps and lifted the lid. In the box lay what appeared to be some sort of scale metal model of an antique piece of heavy equipment, its nickel plating burnished by age. I lifted the model from the box, marveling at its intricate workmanship, weight and structural beauty.

    One of the cross members bore lettering; it read: Adams Leaning Wheel Grader.

    What I had come across on that day in 2002 as I cleaned out our family’s attic following my mother’s death was a perfectly preserved and operational salesman's sample of the storied J.D. Adams Leaning Wheel Grader road grader in its original carrying case from the early part of the last century.

    I knew my father had worked for J.D. Adams during WWII, so it was pretty clear where the grader had come from. What was strange was that he had never mentioned it. Even more remarkable was the fact that I – or someone else in the family – had not run across it in previous “attic cleanings” through the decades.

    A possible scenario for its ending up at our house might have run something like this:  J.D. Adams may have been disposing of the sample during my father’s tenue at the company, and he had simply taken it home because something so magnificent simply did not belong on the trash heap – a thing very typical of my father.

    In all likelihood, he had brought it home, put it in an out-of-the-way corner of the attic, and simply forgot about it.

    Whatever the story, the fact was the grader had lain in the attic completely undisturbed and in pristine condition for nearly 60 years. That day in 2002, I brought it home, and kept it carefully stored in a climate-controlled storage facility for another 10 years, still undisturbed.

    My family’s salesman's sample of the J.D. Adams Leaning Wheel Grader is as beautiful as it is historic. It speaks to another time and place, a time when a company would manufacture a working, scale model as stunningly intricate and accurate in every detail as a way to present its product to prospective customers.

    I hope the readers of this forum find this story of interest. I can’t figure out how to post photos here, but if you’d like to see the grader, email me at and I’ll send some photos along.

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