The Ford Tractor Company Minneapolis, Minnesota

C. H. Wendel
September/October 1978
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This article has been developed from research material used in Mr. Wendel's  forthcoming 'Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors' to be published in mid 1979 by Crestline Publishing Company.

The early Ford tractor used a two-cylinder 5 x 6? engine, but the later model used a Gile-built 5? x 6?' two-cylinder motor.

Some manufacturing was done in the shops of Flour City Ornamental Iron Works, as well as by the Veerac Motor Company. Some sheet metal work and painting was done in the Ford shop. Production was very limited. Perhaps Ford Tractor Company's greatest impact was that the furor created by its organizers brought about renewed honesty and integrity in the industry.

The Ford Tractor Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota was incorporated under South Dakota law on March 15, 1915. W. Baer Ewing was the moving force behind this company. Ewing located one Paul W. Ford of Minneapolis and induced him to join the organization. Ford agreed to allow his name to be used in connection with the company, and was to receive definite compensation therefore.

Prior to the Ford Tractor Company, Ewing had been involved in the insurance business in Texas and Arizona. After that came the Federal Securities Company in Minneapolis, with Ewing as its manager. This company made the papers with various stock deals. One involved the Power Distribution Company, and its subsidiary, the Union Power Company. This organization owned several municipal lighting plants, and Federal Securities Company undertook to sell first mortgage bonds on the power companies. All went well until the bonds became due. Three suits were filed in one day against Ewing and Union Power. Finally, the affairs were straightened out through the sale of the power plants to another company so that the bond holders could gain some return on their investment. Federal Securities Company then tried selling stock in a Nicaraguan banana plantation.

Now comes the Ford Tractor Company. Ewing controlled Federal Securities Company, and instigated the Ford outfit. This was a swell setup, since it was Ewing reaping the profits as Federal Securities sold the Ford stock, and Ewing again as Ford sold the machines to farmers.

The general impression was given that Ford Tractor Company was in some way connected with Henry Ford of Model T fame. In fact, there was no connection at all, but the mention of 'Ford' in those days was sufficient to sell a lot of stock. That was why Ewing brought Paul Ford into the company. Ford was hailed as the designer of the machine, when in fact, he had been an electrician with Andrews Heating Company at Minneapolis, and knew nothing about tractor design. For a time, Paul Ford was billed as Supervisor of Construction, but on June 19,1916, he was relieved of his duties, but continued to draw his salary. At this point, Ford was unhappy with his role in the organization, but could find no way to prevent further use of his name in connection with the Ford Tractor Company. It should be noted that Henry Ford tried to put a stop to a 'Ford' tractor coming out of Minneapolis, but was unsuccessful. His tractor enterprise known as Henry Ford & Son could not then sell their new tractor as a 'Ford', but had to find a different name, and settled on 'Fordson.'

Troubles abounded for the company. Farmers were upset with making a $75 down payment on a new tractor, and getting neither the tractor now a refund. Stockholders became uneasy too, and this forced the company into receivership in 1916. While in receivership, Ewing organized a new Ford Tractor Company under the laws of Delaware, claiming that the original patent rights were his, and not subject to the receivership. The second outfit was incorporated in November, 1916.

Now Ewing transfers the patent rights to the Delaware corporation, and gets $9 million in common stock in return therefore. Of this, $3 million was transferred back to the treasury, and was to be sold by the brokerage firm of Robert P. Matches & Company. Under this neat little arrangement, there was nothing to prevent Ewing from selling his stock, either personally, or through Matches & Company. Under a sliding scale arrangement, the sale of the $3 million in stock would give Ford Tractor Company $850,000 with the other $2,150,000 going to Matches & Company.

Within a few months, Ford Tractor Company, Matches & Company, and W. Baer Ewing all came under scrutiny. In fact, things got so warm for Ewing that he resigned in March 1917, and was reported to have moved to Canada.

On August 1, 1917, the Federal Grand Jury in New York City returned indictments against W. Baer Ewing and Robert P. Matches, along with the original Ford Tractor Company of South Dakota, and the later Delaware corporation; the company in which the stock was sold through the United States mails. Robert P. Matches was also under indictment for allegedly using the mails in a scheme to defraud, involving the Emerson Motors Company.

In early 1918, a receiver was appointed by the courts to wind up the Ford Tractor Company affairs. The property was sold on October 21, 1918.

As advertised in 1915, the 8-16 Ford was a simple outfit, but evidenced hasty design and mediocre workmanship. A limited number were built and sold, but production never approached the glowing figures suggested by the company. Originally priced at $350.00, the price soon rose to $495.00. It was painted dark green with dark red fenders and white lettering. A 10-20 Model 'C' offered in 1917 was basically the same machine with a $695.00 price tag. It had a red finish with gold lettering. Its unsatisfactory performance led in great part to the enactment of the Nebraska. Tractor Test Law.


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