The Tractor That Almost Wasn't

Staude Golfe Course tractor

Beautiful fall foliage surrounds this unusual Staude Golfe Course tractor owned by Glenn Kirton of Bracebridge, Ontario.

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Glenn Kirton RR #2, 6 Cormack Crescent Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada PoB 1C0

The Staude Golf Course tractor is a unique machine that made use of a Ford Model T chassis and running gear. The remainder was parts produced by the E. G. Staude Manufacturing Company of St. Paul, Minnesota, in the early 1920's.

In 1982, Glenn Kirton of Brace-bridge, Ontario, Canada was fortunate to have acquired one of these tractors. It had been used for many years at a golf course here in Muskoka at Bala and was then purchased by Marvin Orchard who used it around his Muskoka cottage for several years before retiring it to a shed. The 1927 tractor is in excellent original condition except for repainting and minor mechanical maintenance repairs. Glenn offers the following detailed description indicating the modifications that Staude made using the Model T chassis.

The chassis was shortened from approximately 100' to an 84' wheel-base. Flat faced steel front wheels were used in place of rubber tires. A heavy duty radiator was fitted to the Model T radiator shell. The water pump was by Hastings Manufacturing Company of Michigan (Pat. 8-10-23) and installed in the top water outlet of the cylinder head. (Usually the accessory water pumps for T's were installed in the lower engine block.) There was no starter or generator. (The road Model T's did have these but Staude found they were unnecessary for the tractors.) An implement type seat was used mounted on a spring steel support. There was a wooden tool box under the seat. The gas tank was mounted above the steering wheel and had the STAUDE name painted on each end. The rear spring assembly was removed and a roller type gear fitted to the rear axle to run on a large gear bolted-in spiked tractor type steel wheels. Axle was 3,000 lb. capacity and there were wooden side steps on each side of the frame. There was a one yard gravity and ballast dump box at the back and an adjustable hitch to pull gang mowers.

Research on the inventor and the machine has been ongoing over the past year and thanks goes to the St. Paul Historical Society for all their help.

From the material collected it has been determined that there were only about 4,000 of these golf course tractors produced between the years of 1922 and 1927 but no figures are available on how many were shipped to Canada. The Kirton family knows of no others in running condition in Canada. Perhaps this article will help establish if there are others, either in the United States or Canada. Any enquiries would be most welcome. These machines could easily be mistaken for the OTACO Autotrac which was produced here in Canada in Orillia, Ontario. There were many of these around from the 1920's up until post-World War II.

Edwin Gustave Staude has a most interesting biography and is credited with more than 150 United States patents as well as many in other countries: Canada, Great Britain, Continental Europe and Australia. His inventions were primarily in the paper box folding machine industry but from 1917 until the late 1920's he registered several patents for tractor devices.

It was during this time that an incredible sequence of events took place in Mr. Staude's life and business in regard to his tractor marketing ventures. For the sake of brevity, the following facts are documented:

Spring, 1917: his Mak-a-Tractor emerged from his factory and he shipped 500 tractor attachments for Model T's to England at a shipping cost of $60,000.

1917-1918: his tractor business was so successful that he had over 2,000 dealers.

1917: sold 7,000 tractor attachments.

1918: sold 6,000 tractor attachments.

Spring, 1918: could not get order of 23,500 wheels. Received only part of the order.

Fall, 1918: Had to refuse remainder of order because of low funds. Later, the wheel company sued and was awarded the potential profit lost on refused shipment of wheels.

June, 1918: accepted government contract for Liberty motor suspensions. Steel material was promised in ten days.

October, 1918: steel material finally delivered but during the summer of 1918, Staude kept his men working and depleted his reserves by $750,000. Staude had a fierce loyalty to his workers.

Fall, 1918: assembled and delivered order of motor suspensions but because of unavailability of steel was not able to make the steel castings for the suspensions so was only paid $ 16,400 whereas the bill was close to $100,000.

Fall, 1918: entered into friendly receivership. During the receivership, a number of lawsuits were lost. Several times Mr. Staude and his business were close to bankruptcy but he was able to sell one or two patents at the 'eleventh hour' and avoided some close calls.

1918: Minneapolis Mortgage Suit-borrowed $125,000 at approximately 30% interest. Chicago Mortgage Suit - sold warehouse receipts on tractor stock to them for $125,000 with the agreement that if loan was not repaid in six months, the stock would be turned over to them This was necessary and 1150 units complete, estimated at $107 each were turned over to them. They thought they could sell them for $250 each. Hired Staude manager with promise to him of a commission of $50 on each unit sold but they sold only 13 and finally gave up in late 1919.

Late 1919: Chicago Mortgage Company offered Staude the units back at cost. Staude refused. Chicago Mortgage Company brought suit against Staude for fraud, alleging they were sold 1917 models for 1918 ones. Staude won suit.

1920: Chicago Mortgage Company sold entire stock of remaining tractor units to a junk dealer for $6,000.

1920: Staude traded two car loads of steel scrap for tractors from junk dealer.

1920-1922: sold the tractor units as GOLF COURSE TRACTORS for over $200,000.

1920-1927: in all, sold over 20,000 conversion jobs and complete tractors, including 4,000 to golf courses.

1927: stopped production of tractors but the conversion kits continued into the 30's with the Model A chassis and running gear.

To reflect a little, I will enlarge on the man behind the machines. Staude was born May 27, 1876 in Water-ford, Wisconsin to German immigrant parents. When Edwin was just a young lad, the family moved to North Dakota where they embarked on homestead farming. Life was not easy and Edwin with his younger sister supplemented the family income by gathering buffalo bones from the Dakota plains. For a level wagon load, they would drive a team of horses 12 miles and sell the bones to a fertilizer business for $3.00. Staude's early education was obtained from his father at home and during the four winter months when the family would move to Larrimore, he and his sisters attended school in the village. He was always an avid reader and studied every chance he got, completing his academic education in 1896 from the University of North Dakota. In his autobiography written in 1959 he relates to his rich German heritage tracing it back to 1543. Education has always been a priority in the Staude families through the centuries and it is not surprising to this writer that Edwin G. Staude had such a wealth of imaginative ideas and was not afraid to implement them into viable production.

In 1895, his first patent was registered for a farm mowing device. In 1896, he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota and began a career as a self-employed draftsman and mechanical engineer and worked for a time in a patent attorney's office. The E. G. Staude Manufacturing Company was founded in 1905.

As previously mentioned, his over 30 inventions in the paper box folding machine line revolutionized the whole paper product industry and although modifications were made from time to time throughout the years, they stayed pretty much unchanged during his lifetime and accounted for his fame and financial success. The Staude Manufacturing Company does have several motor car inventions to its credit that had lasting effect in the industry. A few of these are-the patentee of the automatic clutch control and power brakes which were put into use in most cars around 1933; the two-pump system used in all automatic fluid drive transmissions dated Nov. 9, 1939 licensed to Borg-Warner Corporation and used in Studebakers and Fords; in 1957, the Electric Brake on the steering wheel shaft to help overcome that 'loose steering wheel feeling' at high speeds.

When Staude finally got out of the tractor and automotive parts industry, his financial pitfalls seemed to lessen and Staude went on to become a multimillionaire selling his entire business in March of 1946 to the Sperry Corporation of New York. It later merged with the Excello Corporation of Detroit. Of course, this was not the end of his inventions and patents. These continued until about 1958 when he had reached the age of 82 years. He wrote his autobiography in 1959 and leaves a rich legacy of history.

(Barbara and Ken Dawson and Glenn Kirton are founding members of Muskoka Pioneer Power Associaion, Box 2256, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada P0B IC0.)