A History of the Marvel Tractor Company

Lyle J. Hoffmaster shares the history of the Marvel Tractor Company with Gas Engine Magazine readers.

55 Massey Tractor

Photo courtesy of Carl Fisher, Briercrest, Saskatchewan.


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Learn about the history of the Marvel Tractor Company. 

We all like to hear success stories and they ever grow more glamorous with the passing of time. We tend to forget failures and in a generation or two, the efforts of the unsuccessful pass into oblivion. The history of the Marvel Tractor Company is a part of the development of agriculture machinery and is certainly no exception to this.

Not until I had worked with Joe McCloskey nearly 10 years did I learn that he had been apart of one of these "one of a kind" ventures in American tractor history. Joe joined the Marvel Tractor Company in early 1920. They were located in a garage at Duncan and High Streets in Columbus, Ohio. Joe was their only draftsman and along with Earl Wheeler who was chief engineer, constituted the engineering department. The man operating the tractor in the picture was named Dodd and served as their assembler and demonstrator. The officers Joe can recall were: Benson, president, Earl Daniels, secretary and another man by the name of Fox. These men were also stock holders.

Only one of these tractors was built. The company did not have any manufacturing facilities. Standard components were purchased and parts of their own design were made in local shops.

The leveling feature mentioned in the specifications was accomplished by a radius arm carrying the rear right drive wheel axle on its lower end and pivoted about the drive sprocket center at its upper end. The wheel was raised and lowered by a screw and crank arrangement.

The plow was lifted by power through a steel and cast iron cone clutch located just above the frame member and just behind the front gas tank support. This device apparently worked quite well, raising the plow until the beam would nearly strike the seat.

The locking device was, in effect, a crude individual rear wheel brake. It was accomplished by a disc attached to each rear wheel hub. These discs had notches in their periphery. A lever actuated pin would engage these notches locking the wheel.

Although mention is made of plowing corn three feet high, no cultivator was ever designed for it.

The trade mark "Master of the Field" was actually engraved on a silver medallion by a local jeweler and attached to the radiator. It is doubtful if this practice would have been continued had the tractor gotten into production.

The tractor was taken to a local farm and operated enough to determine that it would work and to obtain some pictures. It was brought back and cleaned up and shown at the Ohio State Fair in 1920. The tractor operated during the fair turning with one of the wheels locked. It aroused a lot of casual interest but no buyers. The company disbanded after the fair. Over the years Joe has lost all track as to what happened to the people, the tractor, or the drawings.

This, and thousands of similar happenings over the last 150 years have produced our present day agriculture machinery. In a broader sense we cannot say these unrewarded inventors and investors were not successful, for they produced many ideas that were used by those who survived. The two enclosed pictures constitute the entire brochure on the tractor. It is hoped this article will locate others who may be able to add to this history.

We believe the plow in the picture to be a John Deere.

Canada 55 Massey tractor and McCormick Deering tractor of Carl's after steam plowing was getting out of date and gas was coming in.

This picture of the Waterloo Eagle tractor, 13-25 hp, Model H was taken at the Milton Steam Show.