6247 Euclid, Cincinnati, Ohio 45236
I grew up with a Coleman tractor on a farm near Coffeyville, Kansas. I have never heard of another Coleman tractor before or since. Perhaps you will be interested to know more about it.
I recently wrote to Richard Vogt of Enid, Oklahoma, to ask him about the Coleman. He replied in part, 'The Coleman was manufactured in Kansas City, Missouri, and so far as I know there are no Coleman tractors in existence today.'
The Coleman was manufactured in Kansas City, Missouri, by the Coleman Tractor Company in 1918, 19, 20. Its Climax engine had four 5x6 cylinders, cast in pairs, according to Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors, by C. H. Wendel.
The 16-30 Coleman joined our family one summer day in 1926 when I was six years old. My father and I were delivered by a neighbor to a farm 15 miles away. Father handed over a check and we started home, driving the used Coleman. The trip was uneventful except for a stop in the shade to eat a watermelon which Father bought from a farmer's wife. Some of you will remember the terrific shaking our innards got when we drove lugged tractors over hard roads (of which there were very few). The most prominent feature of the tractor was the huge (36 inch?) bull gear for the rear wheel worm drive.
By 1932, I was driving the Coleman on my father's farm. We used it for plowing, and especially for powering the threshing machine. My father owned the thresher. We serviced the threshing ring of about 10 farms. He ran the thresher and I ran the tractor. It was powerful and dependable. It had rear wheel fenders and was painted grey. Cranking it was quite a challenge for me, a rather skinny five-footer at the time. It had compression relief cocks on all cylinders, or I couldn't have done it.
A threshing ring was a loose but fairly permanent organization of 10 or so farmers/farms enough to be serviced by one thresher in the time available for threshing. There was a fair amount of discussion of the order of threshing as everyone wanted it when most favorable for his crop. The usual compromise proceeded from end to end one year, and in reverse order the next year.
One very dry summer, my father piped the Coleman to our farm gas well and our farm creek. He was able to irrigate 30 acres of corn and save the crop. It ran 24 hours per day for several weeks, with only the addition of engine oil. We started it on gasoline, then gradually closed the gasoline valve while opening the gas valve. The gas line was tapped directly into the manifold at only one point via a inch pipe.
Driving the tractor and thresher across the 5-ton load-limit bridges in our area with a lugged wheel Coleman provided more thrill than I enjoyed at the time. Several stops on each bridge were required to permit the vibrations to die down or it seemed like a good idea at the time, so that is what I did.
As the Coleman got older, it ran hot. When threshing on a hot Kansas day, I topped off the radiator several times per hour. This was probably caused mostly by plugged radiator tubes and dirty creek water used as makeup.
Our Coleman was finally replaced by a John Deere and sold for scrap during the war. Its demise was hastened by my little sister and a visiting 'city' cousin, who scattered the parts among the dirt and hay in the barn in the midst of a re-ring job my father was doing. He was six feet-plus, 200 pounds-plus and was not a mild mannered man. I didn't envy my sister.
Manpower for the threshing ring consisted of my father and me, three pitchers in the fields to load the wagons, five wagon drivers to haul the bundles to the thresher, three wagons to haul the grain from the thresher to the bin, a scooper to help shovel the grain from the wagons to the bin, and a water boy on a horse to continually carry a gallon jug to all, no cups. The really hard physical jobs were the pitchers and the scoopers. They were usually hired men. The others were the farmer members of the ring who supplied their own horses and wagons. All worked through the entire ring.
I fortunately graduated directly from water boy at 50 cents per day, including the horse, to tractor operator at $1.00 per day. My father received 6 cents per bushel for threshing wheat, 4 cents for oats. Wheat was usually hauled to a grain elevator, but oats was saved in a farm bin for cattle feed. Aside from the 6 and 4 cents, very little money changed hands among the ring members.
The noon dinners were real feasts looked forward to for a month in advance. We workmen washed for lunch at a washtub with one filling of water and one towel for all. Oops, I almost forgot! There was one black man, the only one I knew until I went to college. He was always provided with a private tub and towel. I envied him.
By 1936, the one-man combine had come in fast. The Coleman was retired, the binder, threshing ring, and thresher were all gone. I graduated from high school and ran the tractor and combine for one summer, still at $1.00 per day. Near the end of the harvest, I got a job offer as a machinist in Coffeyville at 60 cents per hour. I said 'So long, Dad,' and haven't done a real day's work since.
Am I the only surviving Coleman driver?