This picture shows the first shipment of Fordson tractors to Oconto County, Wis. They were sold by the Oconto Falls Motor Car Co., which, up to that time, had sold Model T Fords. A couple of Model Ts are visible on the far right of the picture. Although the picture is dated 1917, I believe this to be in error by one year.
Ford started building the Fordson tractor in the latter part of 1917. The first 6,000 were built for the British Ministry of Munitions and were shipped to England. This order was not completed until early 1918.
The first Fordson built for the U.S. market came off the line on April 23, 1918, and went to a personal friend of Henry Ford by the name of Luther Burbank. Several more of the first few copies went to some of Ford's friends, including one to Thomas Edison.
By the summer of 1918, Fordson production was ready to roll, and soon Fordsons were showing up everywhere. The Fordsons were sold through Ford car dealerships, although the Henry Ford & Son Co. was still separate from the Ford Motor Co.
Some of the people seated on the tractors were probably pulled off the street for the photo, as it is doubtful they all worked at the garage at the time. From left: Joe Plain, who later became a banker in Oconto Falls; William Munsert, who later operated a Chevrolet dealership in the Falls; Bernard Bunn, worked at the paper mill across the street; Fred Johnson, who later sold Chevrolets for William Munsert; and Lawrence Junco, a paper mill worker. I have no information on Ray Clark or Harry Edmark (the two men on the far end).
The Fordson became the basis for almost all lightweight tractors of its time and for years to come. It was unique in that it had no main frame, which became standard for most tractors. However, it did have its shortcomings. One was that in a hard pull, the front end would come up and the tractor would tip over backwards, sometimes killing the operator. Later, Ford put large fenders on it that would make contact with the ground behind the rear wheels, thus eliminating the problem. Apparently it also had starting problems, especially in rainy or damp weather.
In spite of its shortcomings, the Fordson sold like hot cakes. By about 1921, Ford had captured 70 percent of the U.S. tractor market. This didn't leave much for the many small tractor companies, not to mention some of the larger ones. I think the Fordson sold well for two reasons in particular: 1) At the forefront, it had the largest network of dealerships in the U.S.; and 2) no one could come near Ford's price.
Contact gas engine enthusiast Ken Dinse at: 1012 Royal Blvd., Green Bay, WI 54303.