Wilson Tractor Manufacturing Company

Wilson Road Maintainer

Content Tools

1408 N. Van Buren, Ottumwa, Iowa 52501

The Wilson tractor was manufactured in Ottumwa, Iowa in 1921-24 at 1102 East Main Street. At the same address was the American Mining Tool Company, which had a foundry and machine shop where mining tools and supplies were made. The Wilson Company was incorporated March 29,1920, and shares of stock were issued. It was re incorporated May 16, 1921. The officers were: Fred D. Wilson, president; Albert D. Wilson, vice president; Horace R. Wilson, secretary; and Albert H. Wilson, treasurer. In 1918-19, Albert D. and Horace had a hardware store. They sold the store and joined their father and brother to start the tractor factory. Fred was the engineer and designed the tractor and later the Road Maintainer.

A total of 25 roller and ball bearings, exclusive of the motor, were used in the tractor. All four wheels are alike, as are the four sprockets, the four radius rod boxings and all wheel bearings. The two halves of the main transmission case are duplicates, as are both worms, both worm gears, both multiple disc clutches, both cross shafts, both drive pinions, both bull gears and both bull gear cases. All of the gears and bearings are enclosed in dust proof cases and run in oil. This tractor had a differential steering device that could be steered by levers or with lines from a pulled implement.

In the early 1920's the tractor market was very competitive. The Wilsons did not have a sales organization and also were short on operating capital. After three years, the family decided they were better off staying in the hardware business. The patents for the tractor and road maintainer were sold to the Austin-Western Company in Chicago, Illinois. Fred Wilson became an engineer for Austin-Western. Albert became sales manager for A-W in Iowa and Horace in Montana and Wyoming.

The Wilson road maintainer was designed to be used with the Fordson tractor. This device had runners and a planning blade that would shave off the high spots and deposit the dirt in the low spots. The Wilson tractor was painted grey, and I suppose the road maintainer was painted the same color.

In the early 1920's the town of Batavia, Iowa had one of these Wilson tractors pulling a road grader to maintain their streets.

In 1907-08 while living near my father, the Wilson family tried to develop a mechanical corn picker, but the success of this venture is unknown. Dad told about the Wilsons working on a horse drawn corn picker. The picker might have been sold to John Deere, because Fred Wilson was an engineer for John Deere for a short time. The material and information for the Wilson Company was furnished by Merle Wilson, a descendent of the Wilson family, also by the Ottumwa Public Library and the Wapello County Court records.