As I Saw It Part XV

Hercules Engines

Courtesy of Thomas T. Sommer, R.R. 2, Box 110, Ridgeville, Indiana 47380

Thomas T. Sommer

Content Tools

Route 4, Huntington, Indiana 46750

The big production of large tractors came in the period between 1912 and 1917. Cyrus McCormick in his book 'The Century of The Reaper', claimed the International Harvester Co. made three thousand tractors in 1912 alone, followed by Hart Parr, Rumley Oil Pulls, and in lesser numbers by Aultman, Taylor, Avery, Big Four, Flour City, and Pioneer, plus several smaller companies. Most of these quit production of the large sizes by 1920.

During this period we do not find much change in design and engineering. During the war years anything would sell either in the U.S. or abroad. Steel was being withheld due to the demands of the war. Engines were mostly of the slow speed type, the cylinders set in all sorts of positions, mostly horizontal and set cross-ways of the frame, designed by men without much engineering experience. In fact, I have often wondered just how much thoughtful engineering was actually employed in most of those early models.

There was a slowdown in production after 1919 due to the depression after World War I. But now from 1920 to 1930 we find things changing rapidly. During the war years, new grades of steel and alloys were developed that had a profound effect in the lasting qualities of an engine, notably on the bearings. High tension ignition plus the impulse starter did wonders to the starting. Also one piece cast frames which mounted four cylinder vertical engines with corresponding higher R.P.M.'s.

So many of the companies had fallen by the wayside that the competition between the survivors to meet the new tractor demand caused those who did make it to hire more engineering skill in order to keep up. Also the advent of the power take off and pressure gun lubrication was a big step forwards.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Agric. in the year 1926 the U.S. had shipped to foreign countries more than 53,000 tractors, most of them wheel type, but a few crawlers too. Countries receiving these were Canada (the largest number), Russia, Australia, Argentina, France, Italy, and a few to South Africa.

The first small tractor to be made in number was the Bull made by the Minneapolis Steel and Mach. Co. for The Bull Tractor Co., Mpls., Minn. In 1913 they made the Little Bull for one year, then the Big Bull 'with the pull', as they used to advertise. About eight thousand of these 7-20 H.P. three-wheeled deal, very poorly designed engines were sold for a few years for $395. The price was what did it. They discontinued production after 1919.

In 1914 International Harv. Co., came out with the 10-20 Titan, a two cyl., twin engine, and the 8-16 Mogul with a one cyl. engine. The Titan was the Deering line and made in Milwaukee. The Mogul was the McCormick line and was made in the new tractor plant in Chicago. At first Titans sold for $1000, but later cut to $900. A Mogul cost $725, but later cut to $695. 1916 to 1919 came the 10-20 Mogul, 1913 to 1919 the 12-25 Mogul with a two cyl. opposed engine. 1915 to 1918 the 12-25 Titan, 1918 to 1922 the 15-30 International, and from 1917 to 1922 the 8-16 International.

After the depression of 1921 there was a big cut in all tractor prices. They were not selling because of the poor condition of the economy. In early 1922 Henry Ford cut the price of the Fordson $200, which made it $395, in order to make them move. This started a small tractor price war. I.H.C. put on a special sale from Feb. 3 to May 1, 1922.

The price cut was $200 for the 10-20 Titan and the 8-16 Int. Then to make it real good they threw in a P&O Plow with each tractor. During this sale you could buy a 10-20 Titan and three bottom for $700 F.O.B. Chicago. An 8-16 Int. plus two bottom plow for $670.

I.H.C. liked to blame the whole thing on Henry Ford's price cut. One thing they never mentioned was they were wanting to get rid of all the Titans and Int. tractors to make room for the new 15-30 and 10-20 McCormick Deerings that were to come out in 1921 and 1923 respectfully. These took the place of all Int. and Titans Models.

This was I.H.C.'s first real good tractor. Both had one piece frame construction four cyl. vertical engine with removable sleeves, overhead valves, roller main bearings and power take off. These tractors went over big. Many men have told me their first tractor was a 10-20 and later graduated to a Farmall type.

For some time I.H.C. had experimented with steam tractors of one sort or other. In 1923 they made an experimental tractor of three bottom size, using a special water tube boiler of 600 lb. pressure. It was successful but not practical and was never put in production.

In 1922 the Bryan Harv. Co. of Peru, Ind. started making a 15-30 steam tractor rated as three plow, using a high pressure boiler. While Bryan made a number of tractors, the field for them was limited. I do know of about six left.

In 1921 The Steam King Tractor Co. of Sioux City, Iowa, built a few three plow, three-wheeled steam tractors.

In 1921 the A. D. Baker of Swanton, Ohio, makers of the well-known Baker steam engine built a few 16-30 steam tractors with a condenser which was to save water. One is left in Mich.

In 1923 John Deere came out with the 15-27 Model D. that replaced the 12-25 Waterloo Boy that they had bought from the Waterloo Gas Eng. Co. of Waterloo, Ia. They got the Waterloo Boy in 1918. This open spoke, two cyl. Model D. was an instant success and was built with improvements until only a few years ago. Simplicity and economy were their big points. Both the D and the G P were made for gasoline or heavier fuels with water injection under heavy loads.

The Hart Parr Co. of Charles City, Ia. in 1917 started their first small tractor which was a 15-30, but they called it their '30'. After 1921 and up through 1928 came their 10-20, 12-24, 16-30, and 18-36 in two cyl. design. Then 20-40 and 28-50 using four cyl. engines.

This is our Silver King family. The one on the left is a 1934 R. 38 with a Hercules I X A engine, serial No. A115BM1. The second one is a 1933, R 72 with a Hercules I X B engine, serial No. 1358. The third is a 1938 R 44 with a Hercules I X B engine, serial No. 3993. The fourth is a 1941 720 with a model 41 engine (Continental No. F 162), serial No. 5167.

These tractors were at the 1972 Tri-State Gas Engine and Antique Tractor Association Show, Portland, Indiana. I have the two on the left and the other two are Jim Taylor, Jr., Route 5, Box 118, Greenville, Ohio 45331.

Pictured above is my Detroit 2 cylinder engine, year 1911. It has the Peterson Automatic fuel injector that burns gasoline, kerosene, distillate naptha and alcohol. It is 5 or 6 HP and was at the 1972 Tri-State Gas Engine and Antique Tractor Association Show.

In 1925 The Caterpillar Tr. Co. of Peoria, III. and Stockton, Calif., was formed by the merger of the C. L. Best Tr. Co. of San Leandro, Calif., and the Holt Co.. of Peoria, III., and Stockton, Calif. Both companies had been making crawler type tractors and large pull type Harvester Threshers. These combines, as we now call them, had been largely used in the far west and Northwest. Caterpillar was the trade name originally from the Holt Co. In 1927 or '28 they bought the Russell Grader Co. of Mpls., Minn. This started them in the earth moving business, which with constant improvements have put them at the head of the field where they are yet today. They originally built crawlers for agricultural use only, but with the improvement of rubber tires on tractors, the crawlers due to their higher upkeep gave away to rubber for farm use. But due to the tremendous increase in road building and other heavy equipment construction, they were even able to increase their output. I think I am right in saying the Caterpillar Tr. Co., was the first to use Diesel engines in their tractors in 1931.

Today, other companies are making crawlers but not to equal the Cat. Co. Those companies making crawlers today are Int. Harv., Oliver, Allis Chalmers, and Case, in smaller sizes.