History of The Motor Cultivator

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The following article was sent to us by Leroy Quandt, Ryder, North Dakota 58779. He states that it was taken from the October 1919 issue of Tractor and Gas Engine Review, a magazine published by the Clarke Publishing Co., Madison, Wisconsin. The editors at this time were B. B. Clarke and V. V. Detwiler.

Following the early exploitation and introduction of the farm tractor, which seems to have gotten its first impetus from the wheat growing sections of the Northwest, and after the tractor had been thoroughly proven as an economical, profitable, and successful farm implement in the vast small grain growing countries of the Northwest and Southwest, the farmers of the central states and the corn belt commenced to be attracted by the possibilities of utilizing the tractor in connection with their farm operations, and a good many had already been sold.

In the corn belt, however, the great question came up -- how can we use a tractor successfully in the corn belt when the farmer is compelled to keep his horses for the cultivation of corn? The letters received expressing this view from 1912 to 1914 were so numerous as to suggest to the writer and the engineering corps of the Avery Company the idea of supplying a motor cultivator.

In 1913 work was started along this line and, the Avery Company having been for many years large producers of horsedrawn cultivators, their first attempt to motorize one of these machines naturally ran to the idea of simply taking a horsedrawn cultivator and putting a motor on it to drive it. After some months of planning making drawings and experimental machines, the conclusion was finally reached that in order to make the motor cultivator an acceptable and profitable machine to the farmer, it ought to be able to handle two rows of corn at one time, and should sell at a very moderate price because of its limited occupation on the farm.

Our first machine was put into the field in 1914 and was so reasonably successful that a crop of corn was cultivated with it. The experience, however, in the operating of that machine developed some newer ideas which were incorporated in a machine that was put out and raised a crop in 1915. Further developments took place during the following fall and winter, and in 1916 what we regarded as the first machine in a really acceptable form was produced and put on Yalehurst Farm, owned by the writer, and cultivated sixty acres of corn that season, and immediately after the corn was laid by, this same machine was shipped to Hutchinson, Kansas, and exhibited at the tractor demonstration held there that year, and also at the following demonstrations of that year's circuit, which included St. Louis, Missouri; Fremont, Nebraska; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Bloomington, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana, and Madison, Wisconsin. This machine is still in existence and is capable of going out and doing work. However, some modifications were made during that winter and the next year a factory order for five hundred of these machines was issued and they were built and put out on the market. The experience with this machine in the field brought forth additional information concerning the requirements. This was especially true in the western sections of the Southwest where corn is planted with a lister in furrows. Cultivating rigs were developed and attachments made for meeting these requirements and in 1916 a factory order for two thousand of these motor cultivators was issued and the cultivators were made, put out, and then it comenced to develop that these motor cultivators were of very great value to the farmers for doing many other kinds of work besides actual cultivation of corn and other row crops, for instance, the pulling of harvesters, loaded and empty wagons, for hauling in crops from the field. They were also being used quite extensively in hay making operations on the farm, pulling the mower, the hay rake and tedder, hay loader and, in fact, their utility on the farm broadened to such an extent that it became evident greater power or, in short, a more powerful motor was needed, hence the design of a machine embodying a six cylinder motor. These machines made their appearance for the 1919 trade, have been sold quite extensively throughout the United States and in some foreign countries.

The Avery Company regard this machine as long since having passed the stage of experimentation. It has come to be an accepted, proven farm implement that any farmer who has work for such a machine can afford to buy it to do his work, because it will do it cheaper, more economically, and more satisfactory than horses. It gives the absolute answer to the corn belt farmer in reference to having to keep his horses for cultivating the corn and other row crops.

It is apparent on the face of the motor cultivator proposition that it must go along with the manufacture of tractors, because in the first place it is a reasonable specialty that has its particular demand through the season of cultivating corn and other row crops. Furthermore, it must be sold at a price that will justify its purchase on the part of the farmer, and enable him to raise crops with it successfully and profitably. With horses the average farmer can raise about forty acres of corn. With a three-plow Avery tractor and double row Avery motor cultivator, one man can raise one hundred acres of corn. This has been proven and established beyond any question.

In addition to the above the same equipment can be used in the production of a greater amount of small grain by the same person and in the corn belt, and, in the writer's judgment, the day is not far distant when the farmer with one hundred sixty acres or less will be supplied with a motor cultivator and a tractor and will do the principal part of his work with them. While he may not feel himself justified in eliminating the horses entirely, he will reduce the number of horses on the farm to such a low point that he can practically run his farm on a horseless basis, and it seems to me very logical that the farmer will go on reducing the horses on his farm as fast as equipment for that purpose is available. He has adopted the automobile and thereby the horse has been eliminated from the road. He will adopt the light farm motor truck, and eliminate the horse for delivery and hauling, and will utilize the tractor and motor cultivator for the principal part of his farm work, and while he may keep a team of brood mares, because for many purposes horses will for years to come be in great demand, he will at the same time be improving the character of the horses he raises on the farm and will be more successful in raising them because he will not be overworking the horses.

There is no question but what the tractor, to be successful in doing tractor work, such as plowing discing, seeding belt work, etc., must be of such a character, with width of wheels, height, etc., as to preclude its use in the matter of cultivating row crops.

The tractor, in the writer's judgment, must either do its work at the belt or at the drawbar and must be capable of instantaneous attachment and detachment from one kind of tractor drawn implement to another, as the farmer can not afford to spend very much time changing the machine from one job to another and even if he could afford to he is not inclined to do so when he can select a tractor that will avoid that kind of work.


By Raymond Leclair, Box 389, Winchendon, Massachusetts 01475

My 'brother and I have been collecting 'horizontals' since about Spring of 1968. Through word of mouth, we found out about 'Gas Engine Magazine'. It is very interesting, for some of these engines we have never heard about and also we have never seen some of this old machinery.

We have 9 or 10 engines, including a 7 HP Abaneque, 6 HP Witte, 1-1/2 HP Stover, 1-1/2 HP Alpha made for the 'De Laval Milking Machine Co.' We have a 2 HP Stover which ran a 'mud hog' pump, 4 HP I.H., etc.

For the 'What Is It?' column, May-June 1973, page 49 - this engine is identical to one of ours, so it should be a Sattley 2 HP, 500 r.p.m. and was sold by Montgomery Ward Co.

That's it for now. Keep up this fine publication - it is very interesting.