Check out this artifact!

11/15/2022 | Mark Hanson, Curator

A culvert is a structure that allows water to drain past an obstruction. For example, it is common to see one under a driveway crossing roadside ditch. Culverts can be plastic, metal, or concrete, and come in all different sizes. They can be round like a pipe or square like an open-ended box. If culverts get plugged with dirt and debris, water can back up and cause problems.

Ralph and Elmer Chesebro closed their Saunemin, Illinois, blacksmith shop in 1920. The Nelsen Concrete Culvert Company in Pontiac, Illinois, later hired the brothers. At some point, Ralph decided to tackle the problem of cleaning culverts. He designed a culvert cleaner in several different sizes and blade shapes. Pushed or pulled, his design plowed out culvert debris. Ralph may have even tried to patent his invention.

Shown here is a full sized Chesebro culvert cleaner painted red. Made of heavy steel, it resembles a bulldozer. Also shown is a small brass model of a culvert cleaner blade. This may have been a proof of concept or a patent model.