‘DeKalb Chopper’ celebrates 100 years of DeKalb agriculture


The DEKALB chopper sits on display at the Ellwood House Museum, a stop on its cross-country tour.

By Olivia Willoughby and Katie Finlon

Several DeKalb County farmers, motorcycle enthusiasts and residents came to see the DeKalb Chopper.

From noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 5, the Ellwood House Visitors Center, 509 N. First Street, housed the DeKalb 100th Anniversary Chopper, commemorating 100 years of agriculture within DeKalb County. The viewing was open for members of DeKalb Area Agriculture Heritage Association (DAAHA) from noon to 2 p.m. and to the public from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The year-long celebration commemorates the start of the county’s agricultural progress on Jan. 20, 1912.

The motorcycle was designed by Paul Teutul Jr, one of the hosts for Discovery Channel’s “American Choppers.”

“It just kind of is a back to basics, Midwest, down-to-earth motorcycle as custom as it is,” said Bob Gregg from Hinckley, Ill. “This is the city of DeKalb’s little treasure.”

Paul Jr. designed the “Chopper’s” seat to replicate a 1912 tractor seat. Many crowded around to examine the precise details of his work, including the winged ear of corn symbol on the wheel spokes and “100 Years Strong” engraved on the exhaust pipe.

“The chopper is truly a work of art, the way that Paul Jr. related it to the agriculture of 1912,” said Emerson Wells, board member of DeKalb Alumni Association and DAAHA. “In a way, it references the farm machine, which chops corn for silege,” Wells said.

The country-wide tour started during the last week of August in Decatour and will finish touring around the same time this year. The “Chopper” will visit places like Ames, Iowa and Louisville, Kentucky.

Allan Aves, member of the DAAHA board of directors, was happy too see several people visiting the house just to take photos of the motorbike.

The Ellwood House Museum is auctioning the bike off and all proceeds will go to The American Red Cross. The organization will be taking bids until April 1.

People also came to hear about DeKalb County’s agricultural history. Along with the bike, several displays stood to inform many about the milestones made by past DeKalb County farmers.

Wells said in the past 50 years, the DeKalb brand was the leader of several agricultural innovations that improved farm production around the world.

“The biotechnology in the DeKalb brand seeds allow farmers to skip the long-time practice of using chemical insecticides that are potentially harmful to the environment,” Wells said.

Sycamore resident Linda Meyers said many of the displays were fascinating and enjoys the other exhibits of the Ellwood House.

“Reading some of the captions from years back is interesting,” Meyers said.

Not only was the bike DeKalb County’s claim to fame, but it represents a part of the county’s history.

“We’re trying to keep history before the people,” Aves said.