Hip to be Square

Square Turn tractor has mottled history

| June 2007

  • 06-07-018-Square2.jpg
    It appeared the Square Turn came with an underslung Oliver 3-gang plow, as shown on this early Albaugh-Dover tractor, probably about 1917. A couple of minor differences are apparent on this tractor – a gear cover (the dome-shaped object above the word “square”) where there was none earlier and the lack of a front wheel brace (which appeared to be on earlier tractors).
  • 06-07-018-Square7.jpg
    A 1918 issue of Northwestern Tractor & Truck Dealer ran this photo of a Square Turn pulling a 9-ton load of hay. By this time the company had reverted to Norfolk, Neb., and was no longer affiliated with Albaugh-Dover.
  • 06-07-018-Square10.jpg
    This early ad shows the Square Turn being sold by Albaugh-Dover Co., but under a different rating than other ads: This displays 15-30, while most other ads show 18-35, although some say 18-30.
  • 06-07-018-Square4.jpg
    Square Turn tractors obviously could attach other implements besides a plow, as this 1922 photo shows the machine working with an underslung Fresno scraper on the road. Though this is a later Square Turn, it again has the front wheel braces.
  • 06-07-018-Square1.jpg
    When this circa 1918 ad for the Square Turn came out, it appears the tractor was only being manufactured in Norfolk again, with a sales office in Chicago. Albaugh-Dover was apparently no longer involved, as the ad states Square Turn Tractor Co.
  • 06-07-018-Square9.jpg
    Vital statitistics for Square Turn tractors varied: This circa 1918 ad lists specifications (not shown) both from earlier Square Turns – weight, magneto, drive wheel size – and from later ones – height, length, width and price. Pinning down exact years for information like this is often difficult.
  • 06-07-018-Square3.jpg
    This early ad for the Square Turn tractor, circa 1915, boasts it could turn a square corner in a field with three plows in 5 seconds. The illustration has what appears to be a front wheel brace (the white bar emerging from the central axle), and does not have a gear cover, as later illustrations do. (See the difference above the word “Square” on the image at the top of page 18, and above the word “Tractor” on this image.) It also differs saying the drive wheels are 70 inches in diameter while others say 60 or 61.

  • 06-07-018-Square2.jpg
  • 06-07-018-Square7.jpg
  • 06-07-018-Square10.jpg
  • 06-07-018-Square4.jpg
  • 06-07-018-Square1.jpg
  • 06-07-018-Square9.jpg
  • 06-07-018-Square3.jpg

The years between 1910 and 1920 were unusual and exciting years in the agricultural manufacturing field: Which farm engines would work best? Sideshaft, air-cooled, water-cooled, gasoline, kerosene - the list of possibilities seemed endless.

How would they best work and be most useful? Stand-alone, portable, in tractors, cars or trucks? Everything was in flux, not only in the engine area, but also in the tractor field.

Companies, especially small ones, were sensitive to farmers' cries for change, so it was no surprise when A.J. Colwell, a machinist in Norfolk, Neb., heard the call of farmers for a small tractor with a sharp turning radius.

For years one of the major complaints about the lumbering steam engines and large tractors like the Rumely OilPull and Twin City tractor was their large turning radius. This wasn't a problem in the great Kansas wheat fields, or in North Dakota or Montana, but on Nebraska's smaller 80- to 160-acre farms, it was.



So in 1913, Colwell patented his own tractor design, working on the tractor in his machine shop with farmer Albert Kenney. They called their company the Kenney Colwell Tractor Co. and the tractor the KC. (This KC was not related to the KC tractor manufactured starting in 1909 by the Kansas City Hay Press Co.) But Colwell and Kenney dawdled for three years, distracted by their own work at making a living. In 1916, Albaugh-Dover Co. of Chicago, a mail-order house, bought the rights to the machine, an 18-30 front-wheel-drive tractor with a single steering wheel in the back. Shortly thereafter, it appears Albaugh-Dover bought the Kenney Colwell Tractor Co. as well, bringing it under their name, as a 1917 ad indicates Albaugh-Dover had factories in Chicago and Norfolk. The tractor was renamed the Square Turn probably about this time.

Literature in 1917 touted, " … any woman or boy can fill a man's place with a Square Turn tractor." But the greater advantage, ads said, was that the tractor could make a square U-turn, which allowed it to plow the corners of fields.