| October/November 1985

Curator of Collections, Ontario Agricultural Museum, PO Box 38, Milton, Ontario, Canada L9T 2Y3

The first of July is a very special day in Canada as all Canadians celebrate their country's birthday. One very popular way to celebrate is to look back at our heritage, to see the progress we have made as a nation from our start in 1867 to the present day. As with many countries in the world, Canada has its roots in agriculture and very early in its history, there flourished a great number of companies devoted to the manufacture of farm implements. In the first quarter of the 20th century, many of these firms made an attempt to gain a foothold in the new field of tractor and gasoline engine manufacture few of these companies were able to survive those rocky years and most remain forgotten today.

To celebrate the Canada Day weekend this year, the Ontario Agricultural Museum commemorated these largely forgotten manufacturers by holding the Great Canadian Antique Tractor Field Days. This three day event was designed to feature antique tractors, steam engines and gasoline engines of Canadian manufacture, defined as 'built or assembled in Canada by Canadian or foreign-owned manufacturers, or built or assembled in a foreign country by Canadian-owned manufacturers'. The event proved to be a most patriotic, entertaining and successful weekend.

Twenty-seven antique Canadian tractors were featured at this event, the majority being built by Massey-Harris. The earliest of these, a #3 cross-motor, was built in 1921 in Weston, now a part of Toronto. One of the newest, a 1950 M-H 'Pony' was manufactured at Massey's Woodstock, Ontario plant. The remaining 14 M-H tractors were built in Racine, Wisconsin' Canadian' since they were built by a Canadian owned company. The firm of Sawyer-Massey, from Hamilton, Ontario was represented by the next largest assortment of Sawyer-Massey tractors ever to be displayed at any tractor show. There were five in total, all built during the 'teens. They included a newly restored 11-22 HP, three 20-40 HP models, one owned by the Museum, and one 30-60 HP, the largest built by this pioneering firm.

The remaining tractors were as rare as proverbial hen's teeth (as, of course, were many of the Sawyer-Massey and Massey-Harris models). This list includes a Toronto-built 1911 Canadian Fairbanks-Morse 15-25 HP single cylinder tractor, the oldest tractor on the grounds for the event. A Goold, Shapley & Muir 'Beaver', built in 1921 in Brantford, Ontario was a crowd favorite as its owner demonstrated its unique friction-drive system and sliding engine, virtually identical to the American 'Heider'. The Robert Bell Engine & Thresher Co. of Seaforth, Ontario dabled with gasoline tractors quite early, and Ontario's only known example, a 1920 Robert Bell 'Imperial' was at the Field Days. The feature tractor for the weekend was the Museum's extremely rare three-wheeled Chase tractor, built in 1919 in Toronto, and one of only two known to exist today. The final tractor of the event was a more modern unit, a 1950 Waterloo 'Bronco', built in Waterloo, Ontario by a former steam engine manufacturer and sold through the Minneapolis-Moline dealership network. Consequently its Prairie gold and red colors were familiar to many.

Five steam engines were featured, including a 78 HP Sawyer-Massey traction engine owned by the Ontario Agricultural Museum, a 20 HP George White traction, built in London, Ontario in 1921 and a 1919 Sawyer-Massey 17 HP traction engine. Two portables, both owned by the Museum were featured a George White return flue manufactured about 1890 and a John Abell built in about the same period in Woodbridge, Ontario.