Fordsons tractors #33


W. F. Tuohey

Content Tools

National Director, Fordson Tractor Club, 250 Robinson Road, Cave Junction, Oregon 97523 and Thomas G. Brent, Canadian Fordson Branch Director, Box 150, Dewdney, B.C., Canada V0M 1H0

The following is the second part of a story which began in the August 1987 issue.

In last month's story, the 1917 and early 1918 history was traced during which Henry Ford had set up a complete new corporation and remodeled an older brick plant to manufacture a mass-produced tractor for the farmers of the world. After drastically improving an earlier Farkus-designed 'uniframe', a three-piece tractor with the worm gear now on the bottom went into production, as England desperately needed a small tractor in great numbers. This was a completely different tractor than the earlier tested (1916) model, but still not yet the 'Henry Ford & Son' tractor, nor the REAL Fordson which did not appear until April 23, 1918. Instead, this tractor has become known as the 'MOM', as it was originally ordered by the Ministry Of Munitions, deriving its nickname from the initials of this branch of the British government set up during WW I to procure workable farm tractors and equipment.

Originally destined to be produced in England, bombing raids on London dictated manufacture in the United States where Ford promised quick mass-production. Amazingly, Ford and his brilliant engineers shortly came up with a new design and overcame the tremendous obstacles confronting the production of an entirely new tractor design.

As per Ford's intent, a production line was built that would insure speedy assembly once it was underway, the bugs worked out, and parts available from various companies who supplied these parts. Naturally, production started out slowly with just one produced the first week in October, but by December of 1917, 48 were assembled in one week, or 8-a-day, 1-an-hour. Engine numbers verified the progress of the production increase as obtained through official Ford records. January, February and March of the new year 1918 saw still greatly increased production rates with January's production doubled and tripled by February and March. After a year of making tractors, the 'Henry Ford & Son' plant at Dearborn was producing over 150 a day or about 20 an hour.

But returning to April, a large discrepancy is found in all production figures, official or otherwise. This was the point in time in which half of the original tractors (or 3,000) of Britain's order for 6,000 units had been manufactured. What caused this variance in numbers? And why has it been incorrectly stated that the 'first 6000 went to England?' As we continue with the original research and probe deeper into the 'Mysterious MOM Myth', a number of new facts emerge. Also, to conclude this section of the MOM story, the special characteristics which define the MOM tractor are pictured as shown by actual photographs and drawings from the earliest known manuals and parts books as well as some recently discovered publications.

Now let's return to the month of April. By the end of March as previously mentioned, about half of the MOM's had been produced. We can assume from models existing today that these all had the blank front radiator castings and rear gas tanks, nothing to identify them as either a 'Ford and Son Tractor', and certainly not a 'Fordson'. But what about that skip in production figures in April? Some 3,000 or so seem to be unaccounted for. To most this simply looks like a typographical error, that the number on the 2nd line starting with 6901 should really be 3901, if correct, (which it isn't). This would then mean that the numbers would run from 3083 to 7608, or a total of 4,525 in April. This would break down to 1,131 a week, or 190 a day. If true, this would have been a dramatic increase of about three times March's figure, then dropping back to normal (slightly increased) production in May. Not likely! But on the other hand, let's presume these numbers for some reason were just left out, or skipped. That is, from 3901 to 6901, an even 3,000 numbers eliminated. Now, to re-examine the total without these 3,000 being produced we have instead 3083 to 3900 or a total of 1524, which fits in nicely with other months' gradual increase of 381 per week, 63 per day, 10 per hour. We must accept these figures for the overall gradual increase:

















MOM's Known To Exist

We must then contend that the numbers between 3901 and 6900 (or 3,000 engine numbers) were never issued or never existed. Proof? Number 3115 exists, number 3872 once belonged to David Bratton of England and is now owned by Phil Reed of Suffolk, and another which was manufactured between April 4 and April 12 (casting dates) which should range between the numbers of the first and second week of April to read somewhere between 3300-3600 also exists (but unfortunately the original engine has been replaced). To this time no motor numbers between 3901 and 6900 have been found ...yet! The reader will want to keep two things in mind: (1) remember these three motor numbers above, and (2) remember that all histories state that the 'first 6,000 Fordson (!) tractors were shipped to England.'

While Ford had passed the middle goal of half the numbers intended for England, we still have to come up for some explanation for the missing 3,000 numbers. One possible explanation is that these numbers were 'reserved' for the originally pro-posed factory in Cork. Perhaps Ford was revising his plans to set up production there. It is known that all early (1917-1920) operators manuals and parts books had printed on either the cover, inside the cover, or on the part section: 'Factories in Dearborn, Michigan, U. S. A., and Cork, Ireland.' Actually, it wasn't until March 7th (or July 4th, 1919, both dates given by Williams) that Cork actually started producing Fordsons for the European market. While Ford was trying to get this factory in operation, the numbering sequence had progressed far beyond 3900 when Irish production did commence. If July, 1919 is the correct date for the first Cork-built Fordson, American serial numbers had progressed to serial number 55305. Rather than use these numbers which would have been far out of sequence, they were simply dropped or never issued. The foregoing is merely a theory but one that is certainly plausible. Until a number shows up between 3900 and 6900, it must be assumed that the original serial number lists which show this 'jump' are correct and not merely typographical errors.




(Currently Known to Exist)


Production Numbers



Owner, Location, Condition

Oct-Nov-Dec 1917 1-259


(-----------------) England, Restored

January, 1918


Phillip Reed, Suffolk, England, Semi-restored



Ben O'Gorman, Co. Kildaire, Ireland, restored



Rob't Kennedy, Co. Cork Ireland, semi-restored, runs



Mike Thomas, Shropshire, Eng., restored, some later parts



Rob't Kennedy, Co. Cork, Ireland, running, semi-restored?



Ben O'Gorman, Co. Kildaire, Ireland, possibly restored



Sean Hogan, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, poor cond., parts missing



Vincent Sheridan, Limerick, Ireland, being restored, poor cond., parts missing

March, 1918


Science Museum, London, restored



Derek Meller, Cheshire, Eng., some later parts, restored



Tony Tooker, Washington, USA, cond. unknown, later parts added



(-----------------) Manitoba Canada later parts added

April, 19183115Museum, Canada

3083-3900 and


Tom Brent, British Columbia, Canada,



later engine, being restored



Phil Reed, England, (formerly David Bretton), restored



(-----------------) Manitoba Canada, later parts



Location, Condition



(-----------------) Scotland restorer) (Allan Condie has photos) restored front wheels



Bicton Gardens Museum, England, restored (?)



Josiah Parkes & Sons, Ltd., England. Known to exist in 1926, photo in A Fordson Dealer's Portfolio by David Bate, publisher Allan Condie

  '  '


Also as shown above by the various charts, the monthly tabulations should show a steady progression in factory output from October, 1917 to October 1918 as would be expected in the production of a new machine such as the Fordson. As pointed out before, if you were to include serial numbers 3900-6900 in this tabulation, it would show an increase of more than 300% for April, 1918, and a subsequent drop in production to 43% in May. This seems highly unlikely. Thus it is almost certain that serial numbers 3900-6900 were never issued, nor stamped on engines produced.

Because there were 3,000 serial numbers never issued, and not suggested in any previous history, it leads to some interesting 'adjustments' that must be made. We know that it was originally intended for the first 6,000 to be shipped to Britain. If serial numbers 3900-6900 had been issued then the tractor bearing the number 6,000 would have been the last one in the first batch of MOM tractors. However, because 3,000 serial numbers were never issued, the tractor bearing serial number 9,000 (nine thousand) was actually the sixth thousandth tractor produced. (9,000 serial numbers minus 3,000 serial numbers never issued equals 6,000 serial numbers).

In other words:


MOM produced has s/n......



MOM produced had s/n......



MOM produced had s/n......



MOM produced had s/n......




One suggestion is that this 'saving of numbers' could have come from the Hercules Motor Corporation at Canton, Ohio which provided all of the Fordson (and MOM) engines up through 1920 or so. Then Ford bought out all the other stockholders and moved the Fordson plant from Dearborn (Highland Park) to Detroit, and started making his own engines. It has been historically stated, and we must reiterate again and again, that 'the first 6,000 Henry Ford & Son Tractors (which we refer to as MOM's in this article) absolutely were shipped overseas by April.' This statement is part of the MOM myth. However, by examining a few numbers it can be seen that this is simply not possible. What would have been the final tractor in the initial MOM batch of 6,000 is the one that had to be stamped with the serial number 9,000. And if you check the serial number of the Henry Ford & Son official production lists, it can be seen that tractor #9,000 was produced in May 1918, and by simpler interpolation it may be determined that this tractor could not have been made before the 3rd week in May.

Indeed, one well read source stated that 'a further consignment was manufactured and arrived in July'. These of course were not real MOM's, but by now were real Ford-son's! Yet all histories say that 'All 6,000 MOM's were shipped to England and then Ford turned to production for the American market which had a substantial number of outstanding orders!' According to the tractor at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, the real Fordson 'F' Number one was produced on April 23 for Luther Burbank. Number two came off the line for Thomas Edison, with other friends of Fords like Arthur Brisbane and the Vanderbilts receiving the first 10.

Yet, here comes a 'bigger rub.' There is documented evidence to show that tractors were being shipped to Canada in early April 1918. Returning to engine numbers 3115 and the tractor known to be between 3300-3600, (or 3900?) it is astonishing to find that these two tractors have now been found in Canada! This latter belongs to Thomas G. Brent, the Canadian director of the Fordson Tractor Club.

But before we turn to the 'Canadian Connection', lets digressabitto the early months of 1918 in order to continue the 'Mysterious MOM Myth'. On February 18, when approximately 1,500 tractors had been manufactured (but not all shipped), Ford answered a telegram from Perry for a proposed request for 5,000 more (above the original order for 5,000). But Ford cabled back that a 'final answer would be sent March 15.' He did, however, accept at this time an additional order for 1,000 more to be delivered after the original 5,000 to now make a commitment of 6,000.

A photo has been printed many times showing the delivery of the first MOM, reportedly to have been painted all white. Accumulated evidence (original paint flecks, early color pictures in magazines, black and white photos that do not show a dramatic difference in colors between the wheels and body) seem to indicate that the production colors of the MOM were a darker gray (possibly close to an Army drab greyish brown) with the wheels being a dull red oxide, and perhaps were even the typical 'primer' color of today.

The picture, however, shows it with dark red wheels and with a custom made canvas cover hiding the body portion. Of course it could have been painted white after arrival overseas. The stenciling on the cover reads: 'Ministry of Munitions (MOM), Agricultural Tractor Factory, Trafford Park, Manchester, England.' A rather strange message for tractors that had been intended to have been built in Cork, Ireland, or Daggenham, England, but were actually assembled in Dearborn, Michigan! Still these words had reasonable meaning as we can soon see.

Incidentally, this Manchester plant had probably been used in 1916 and 1917 to assemble the earlier Farkus uniframe prototype that prompted Britain's decision to build Ford's tractor (later having Ford build them instead). This same 'Tractor Assembly Factory' had also been used to assemble a few tractors to be demonstrated in France, but France wasn't interested in 1916.

By now the MOM tractors were being shipped to England in increasing numbers, wherever space on convoy vessels was available. One writer of this time noted that 'Not one tractor (MOM) was lost to enemy action' (submarines).

As mentioned earlier, the fall harvest time had long been past when the first MOM's had arrived in England, or even rolled off the assembly line for that matter. But the British were anxious to have a good supply available for the spring tilling. As pointed out before, part of the Mysterious MOM Myth is that 'All of the 5,000 (6,000?) tractors were delivered to England by April 23', the date Ford is reported to have put out the first American 'F' model, the REAL Fordson for the American market. But just examining the production number figures for the total of April adds up to only 4,606. So it was impossible to have finished even the first 5,000 ordered by April 23rd, with one week in the month still to go, and the number assembled at approximately 4225 by this date. (4,606 minus 381, the last week's production number).

We now turn to some documented evidence, as well as some behind-the-scenes historical perspective. At first the MOM tractors were shipped fully assembled, but Ford and the shippers soon discovered that it would be easier to handle the tractors if they were shipped 'partly assembled', even if this meant only to remove the wheels and crate the rest of the tractor. Besides, these crates would provide England with miscellaneous, much needed lumber for the war effort just as Ford earlier had used boards from crates with parts shipped to the Ford Motor Company as Model T running boards! We can ascertain these crated units were shipped by rail in England directly to the 'Agricultural Tractor Factory', Trafford Park, Manchester, where the wheels were placed on, the tractors were serviced, tested for starting and perhaps even filled with oil, gas and kerosene (English: paraffin) at this time. Then they could quickly be shipped to distribution points for quick use, with a goodly number going to Ireland, and some to Scotland.

On February 28, 1918, 10 days after Ford promised an additional 1,000 added to the original 5,000 order, he sent a cablegram to Lord Northcliffe which read: 'We have shipped 1,800 assembled tractors, and parts for another 1,800 knocked down.' This is a total of 3,600 when only 1,731 had actually been assembled by the end of February. The only way to account for these if the cablegram is correctly dated is that Ford just had parts taken out of the factory supply bins and shipped, possibly to be used for spare parts which experience from earlier testing told him would soon be needed. It could be that some of these 1,800 had come from the 'missing' 3,000 that was skipped in the April numbering system! To check the production records, even by the end of March, only 3082 were accounted for. Unfortunately we do not have much historical information on the 'Tractor Assembly Factory' at Trafford Park, Manchester but again note that the M.O.M. (Fordson) Tractor Parts Book states just that at the bottom of the preface page. It says simply: 'M.O.M. Tractor Assembly Factory'. It must then appear obvious that at least some tractors were assembled there!

While mentioning earlier that all MOM's 'convoyed' to Great Britain arrived safely, still there was a shortage of shipping space with so many other war materials crossing over, especially now that the U.S. was in the conflict. Even after the first 3,000 or so were shipped on every available space in British ships, Ford could see that his increasing rate of production would soon cause an excessive number to pile up on the docks of Baltimore and Philadelphia awaiting shipment. With little space available on British ships in sight by mid-April, Ford felt justified in announcing (in that preceding March) that his tractor would soon be available for the American farmers who were caught up in the publicity and were clamoring for them. But with the war now on, they would first have to go to their County War Boards and get a special permit. To get this permit, 'to purchase', they must first promise to keep the tractor in constant operation on their farms, and County Agents would be visiting them to see that they got the utmost out of the tractor! Ford had even set a price for delivery: $750. Since the unit cost $567.14 at the time, ordinary arithmetic shows a nice profit of $182.86 on each tractor. Also, according to Reynold Wik's book: 'Henry Ford and Grass Roots America', most of the leading agricultural states were each given a quota of 1,000 tractors. Since Ford by now had a long list of American orders for his tractors, and England was not taking the MOM's fast enough, there were several possibilities open to him. First, why not quickly supply the outstanding order of 1,000 tractors just to the north in Canada?

In his Feb. 28th telegram concerning the '1,800 shipped and parts for another 1,800 knocked down, with more on the docks ready to be picked up, he threatened: 'If not handled in 30 days, they (tractors) would be sold in Canada and the United States'. Yet as early as March 15, 1918, the Committee of the Canadian Privy Council had before them a report from the acting Minister of Agriculture stating that he had received a request from the Canada Food Board, that the sum of twenty thousand dollars be placed to their credit for the purchase of 'Ford' tractors. The Minister recommended that 'Under and in virtue of the provisions of the War Measures Act, 1914, the sum of twenty thousand dollars be appropriated out of the moneys in the consolidated Revenue Fund of Canada for the purchase of the above mentioned tractors and other expenses incidental to these purchases.' So Canada was ready and willing to receive the tractors at any time.

As early as February 11, Charles E. Sorenson had confirmed to D. A. Dunning of the Canada Food Board, Ottawa, that Henry Ford & Son would start delivery of 1,000 tractors ordered earlier by April 1st at the rate of 25 per day, and a possible second 1,000 if wanted, which had been mentioned as a possibility in the original order. On the 13th day of February, Dunning replied that they would accept the first 1,000 units and would advise a bit later upon completion of delivery if they wanted the 2nd order filled. On Feb. 18, Dunning sent a 2nd letter setting up distribution details for various tractors to cross the border. At this time the tractors on hand and those still being produced at the factory were pure MOM units with no logos on the front radiator nor on the rear of the gas tank. The name 'Fordson' still hadn't come into use. Realizing the publicity he could get, Ford then had a stencil made up that read 'Henry Ford and Son' curving around the rounded top edge of the radiator casting. The first shipment of a few examples may have gone over to Canada with or without this stenciling to be used for demonstration testing and training. In any case, time has erased any proof with the paint long rusted off. So how soon did these tractors arrive in Canada? Some of early manufacture have been found! Of course they were probably delayed from the time of manufacture to actual delivery awaiting shipment to England, but, when these piled up, they were diverted to Canada instead. Found in Canada, among possibly others, are the blank radiator casting tractors #2632 and #3115. These were directly off the MOM assembly line. While unit #2632 has not been verified, #3115 has been! Evidently tractor #2635 would have been finished by the 4th week of March, and #3115 by the first week in April. Also, #3400-3600 in Canada (with replacement engine) was off the line in the 2nd week in April, but does have the 'Fordson' logos on the radiator and tank. Although it has a Henry Ford & Son on the front and a tank with lettering, other early features indicate that this was among the very first to come out with the Fordson identification. We can then presume that Ford was beginning to change-over from the MOM to the REAL Fordson in order to start fulfilling American orders in early April. Since these three, and three others known to have been manufactured in late March or early April have been found in the northern tier of the United States ; (evidently migrating southwards over the last 70 years) we can easily verify ; that the 'first 6,000' did not go to England, especially when further evidence states that the last of the original order was not delivered until July. J Motor numbers of some units in England verify these dates also, as well as later models having Fordson logos and early 1918 Fordson F features.

Just as Great Britain had its 'farm-plowing' program and its Ministry of Munitions, Canada also had its own 'Canada Food Board' with the slogan: 'Food Will Win the War', and its official agency was known as the 'Greater Production Program'. This was the agency under the Canadian Dept. of Agriculture that had closely observed a plowing demonstration of various tractors, but were highly impressed by the 'Henry Ford and Son' tractor which 'pulled two plows, handled easily, traveled briskly, and exposed no moving parts'. So the first 1,000 were ordered for 'around $800' (actually $795, which allowed for transportation costs over the American price). In Power on the Plains it was stated that these tractors known as the 'Greater Production Fleet', would be sold to Canadian farmers for cost plus freight. In addition, 'the Government (GPF) had secured options for another 1,000 tractors'. Before the end of the year 1,132 were actually brought into Canada.

In conclusion, it can safely be said that some actual MOM units were sent to Canada in early April. As a matter of fact, the final agreement reached between the Canadian Government and Henry Ford specified deliveries would begin April 1. With some of March's production that were backlogged and early April's production of true MOM units were known to be Canadian-bound, a mixture of MOMs in the first three weeks of April (some 200 tractors representing a little more than the first three weeks' production of April) were 'split' between Canada and England. Therefore the total REAL Henry Ford & Son MOM tractors were probably not much over 3,200 in number (first three weeks in April), and absolutely not the '6,000 all sent to England'.

But after April 23rd, when the first REAL Fordsons rolled off the production lines at Dearborn, the MOM's were no more! Some of these REAL Fordsons with early serial numbers have shown up in both Canada and England, with not too many delivered until after April 23rd to the American farmers except the first 10, a special model with special engine numbers made up for publicity purposes. However, after Britain and Canada were supplied with enough to keep them happy, the orders from American dealers and farmers then started to be filled. This part of the story will continue in Part IV of the REAL Fordson, the 'Early 1918 Models.'