Reprinted from 'On Tractor Seat,' Newsletter of EDGE & TA Branch #30, and sent to us by Carl Bergman, 44133 Tenth Street W., Lancaster, California 93534.
Early tractors were large, heavy machines that required skilled operators. These tractors were used mostly by large farms and custom threshing outfits where the tractor could be kept busy. Just before WWI the limited market for these big machines was saturated. Several companies soon developed and sold smaller versions such as the Happy Farmer, the Waterloo Boy and the Fordson F.
The gasoline tractor could not completely replace the horse in row crop work. Attempts were made to develop a cultivating tractor that could replace the horse in delicate farm tasks such as cultivating row crops. These had the disadvantage that they were light tractors not suitable for heavy work so the farmer had to buy a heavier tractor. Small farms could not afford the expense of two tractors so most kept a team.
International Harvester Company saw a chance for profit. As early as 1917 IHC was testing a tractor with row crop farming in mind. First versions had the operator in front of the tractor and later versions were reversible. Common to all these designs were high mounted engine and transmission to clear growing crops and good visibility all around.
In 1924 IHC introduced the result of those experiments, the Farmall. The Farmall was an 18 HP tractor that could pull a two-bottom plow and a belt pulley to run stationary equipment. Best of all, the frame was high mounted and narrow. The narrow frame provided good visibility for a two-row mounted cultivator. The height allowed cultivation when corn neared three feet high. The Farmall was a slow hit but when farmers recognized its possibilities, power farming had its beginning.
All farm power needs could be met with the Farmall, and the team of horses retired. The success of the Farmall Regular led IHC to introduce a line of row crop tractors. In 1930 the F-20 replaced the Regular and its wrist breaking steering. In 1932 the F-12 brought affordable power farming to the smaller farms, and the 1936 introduction of the F-30 moved bigger farms to total power farming.
Other manufacturers soon introduced row crop tractors. Ford stopped U.S. sales of the Model F after an unsuccessful attempt to undersell the Farmall. The tricycle form became the standard for medium sized tractors and remained so until safety concerns moved farmers to tractors with wide front ends. Adjustable wheel treads allowed the tractor to be used in nearly any type of row crop.
Later models of the Farmall line covered nearly any power requirements the farmer would need. The introduction of the M in 1939 brought higher style to the line. Super Ms had power and the Super MTA in 1952 was one of the first uses of the Torque Amplifier. The H replaced the F-12 in 1939 and the Cub was available for the very small farm and truck gardener. The Cub was one of the longest running models ever. Its production run was from 1941 to 1979 in various model numbers and power. The last Farmall model was the 1466 turbo in 1975 with 120 drawbar HP.