Historic Farm Machines: The Farmall Tractor

For those who could afford one, the first Farmall tractors from International Harvester enabled a big increase in productivity and a big reduction in manpower and maintenance costs.

Original Farmall

The original Farmall tractor enabled a farmer with a 200 acre spread to replace up to 18 horses and two to three men. It could plow seven to nineacres a day or mow 50-60 acres a day.

PHOTO: GAS ENGINE MAGAZINE STAFF

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This slogan characterized the beginning of International Harvester's dominance over the all-purpose farm tractor field in the 1920's and 1930's. Eliminating the need for horses, even in row crops, was the concept behind the Farmall tractor first sold in 1924 and mass produced in 1925.

The concept and the tractor itself was many years in developing, starting about 1915. In planning the Farmall, IH officials demanded that it be lightweight. It weighed about 3,300 pounds, in sharp contrast to the 21,700-pound Mogul in 1911. Above all, the Farmall had to be able to cultivate corn and other row crops and do belt work.

Because the tractors were being built by hand, the 1924 sale price of $825 resulted in a considerable loss to the company. In 1939, the cost of an F-20 equipped with rubber front and rear was $1,190.

The original Farmall was capable of pulling a plow with two 14-inch bottoms, was designed to meet the requirements of farms in the quarter-section class. There were many conditions under which it could pull three bottoms. Horsepower ratings were avoided, but in Oklahoma, where a rating was required, it was classed as 9 horsepower. In Canada, it was rated 9 on the drawbar, 18 on the pulley.

One man with a Farmall could intensively farm up to 200 acres; replace up to 18 horses and two to three men; plow seven to nine acres a day; double disk 18 to 25 acres a day; drill 45 acres a day; plant 50 acres a day; cultivate 30 to 50 acres a day; or mow 50 to 60 acres a day.

In 1931, the original Farmall was superseded by two Farmall tractors, the F-20 and F-30. The F-20 compared with the 2-plow original Farmall. The F-30 was the three-plow size, meeting the requirements of farms in the 200 to 300-acre class or smaller farms where power demand was greater because of soil conditions.

First sold in 1932, for the smaller farm, the F-12 was rated for one 16-inch plow bottom or two 10-inch bottoms. The F-14 replaced it in 1938.

Early Farmalls were painted gray with red wheels. But beginning Nov. 1, 1936, Farmalls were painted all red, which was considered a safety factor since Farmall tractors were by then moving freely on public roads.

Comparisons of Farmalls and mules in raising cotton in Arkansas showed that costs were cut $5.51 an acre by the Farmall. A comparison published in 1932 indicated that the cost of raising an acre of wheat with horses would be $2.78 an acre more than with a tractor, even if horse feed could be obtained free.

Other big advantages were convenience and savings in time. Nebraska farmer George G. Gowen, claimed he could "do all the maintenance on my Farmall and have it going in the time it formerly took for my horses to take a drink of water."

From 1922, when 100 were built for testing but not for sale, through 1925, a total of only 1,114 Farmall tractors were produced at the IH Chicago Tractor Works. Only 26 were built in 1923. Most of the early ones were tested by and sold to farmers in Texas.

In October 1926, all-out production was started at the Rock Island, IL, plant named Farmall Works, which was purchased from the Moline Plow Company. in 1924. Through 1938, total Farmall tractor sales reached 420,460.

Because the tractors were being built by hand, the 1924 sale price of $825 resulted in a considerable loss to the company. In 1939, the cost of an F-20 equipped with rubber front and rear was $1,190.

In 1939, the 'F' Farmall line was superseded by the 'A', 'B', 'H', and 'M'.