Launched into Oblivion

By Staff
1 / 6
Photo depicting L.M. Ward as secretary of Cushman Motor Works.
2 / 6
A three-wheeled Cushman- powered Ward tractor.
3 / 6
The only known advertisement for the Ward Tractor Co. appeared in Gas Review, February 1914.
4 / 6
Photo of a 20 HP Cushman engine from what is believed to be an original Cushman brochure, circa 1912.
5 / 6
Another three-wheeled Ward tractor, this time strolling through town. The plate behind the driver’s leg appears to read: “Built Under The Cushman Pat.”
6 / 6
The 20 HP version of the Ward Tractor Plow, without canopy, pulling field equipment bearing the name Deering New Ideals.

It was not uncommon for early gas engines made
for general farm or industrial use to find their way into both
homemade and factory-made tractors. It was also not uncommon that
many of these tractors had limited success. Such is the case with
the Ward Tractor Co., manufacturers of the Ward Tractor Plow,
powered by Cushman Motor Works 2-cylinder engines, all made in
Lincoln, Neb.

The Men

From at least 1910 to 1922, Louis M. (L.M.) Ward was secretary,
and ultimately, vice president of Cushman Motor Works, evidenced by
original factory letterhead, other company literature bearing his
name and Lincoln city directories for the period. Everett B.
Cushman is also listed as a mechanical engineer during this time.
By 1920, Everett Cushman was no longer a part of the company he
helped found. After moving to Topeka, Kan., he designed a unique
engine for the Piersen Co. with a rotating radiator in the flywheel
(GEM, December 2001, pages 16-19). The Piersen sales brochure from
that time states: “Mr. E.B. Cushman, designer of the Superior
Piersen Motor, has won a nationwide and enviable reputation as a
designer of high grade gasoline motors. The Superior Piersen Motor
has fittingly crowned Mr. Cushman’s reputation as an engine
designer.” The brass nametags on these engines distinguished his
career as an engineer, and he eventually settled in California,
where he also designed a radiator-in-flywheel engine for the Bean
Sprayer Co. A brilliant engineer and devoted Christian, it is said
by some he was a better engineer and inventor than businessman.

The Machines

During the period in question, Cushman Motor Works experienced
ups and downs in its success in manufacturing and selling gas
engines for farm or industrial use.

Among the engines made in its Lincoln factory were the famous 4
HP Model C “binder” engines, and several 2-cylinder, 4-cycle
engines including an 8, 10, 15 and 20 HP. Out of apparent loyalty
to the company for which he worked, his firsthand knowledge of the
quality and capabilities of these lightweight, high quality
engines, and no doubt some favorable cost and availability
considerations, Ward chose the Cushman engines for his new
company’s tractors. Information available shows that at least the 8
and 20 HP Cushman engines were used in Ward tractors.

C.H. Wendel notes in Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors,
“L.M. Ward, manager of Cushman Motor Works at Lincoln, Neb.
(identified in an overview of Cushman in Lincoln and Lancaster
County, 1916, as ‘factory and production manager’) announced plans
for the Ward Tractor Plow in 1912. Within a few months, the Ward
Tractor Co. was apparently organized at Lincoln. This machine was
shown at the National Tractor Demonstration at Fremont, Neb., where
it received a lot of attention. Power came from a 20 HP 2-cylinder
engine. This outfit was about the extent of Cushman’s involvement
in the U.S. tractor trade, although their Canadian division sold
some tractors.” (Wendel’s book also shows the Macdonald Tractor and
the Multi-Tractor, both featuring Cushman engines.)

Wendel makes no reference to the 8 HP version of the Ward, and I
believe that until photos of the 8 HP version surfaced recently
from a West Virginia estate, it was unknown as the photos were
unseen for 80-plus years.

The Company

It is not clear what, if any, engineering training or experience
Ward had. Lincoln city directories from 1910 to 1922 initially show
L.M. Ward only as secretary of Cushman Motor Works from 1910 to
1913. The first listing for Ward Tractor Co. appears in 1914,
although Wendel suggests Ward founded the company shortly after
1912. Ward is still listed as secretary of Cushman and also as
president of the Ward Tractor Co. from 1914 to 1917.

In 1916, John Therkelsen’s name first appears in listings as
superintendent of the new Ward Co. The company’s 1917 address of
2020 N St. would have been in the same block as Cushman Motor
Works, probably even sharing one of Cushman’s buildings.

The 1918 and 1919 city directories are missing, but in 1920 the
name changed to Ward Mfg. Co. In 1921, Ward continued to be listed
as president of the Ward Co. and secretary of Cushman, but then in
the last listing in 1922, he is listed as vice president of Cushman
Motor Works, with no reference to the Ward Co. It seems the Ward
Mfg. Co. had ceased to exist, while Ward was elevated to vice
president of the Cushman Co. It makes you wonder which event
precipitated the other.

Posing Questions

The Corporations Division of the Nebraska Secretary of State’s
office shows no Articles of Incorporation for either the Ward
Tractor Co. or Ward Tractor Plow. The University of Nebraska
Tractor Test Laboratory and Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power
Museum, the repository for the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory
archives and equipment, has no record that a Ward tractor was ever
tested by them. Mandatory tractor testing did not begin until

The only advertisement known to have been published for the Ward
Tractor Co. was in the February 1914, issue of Gas Review magazine.
The address in the ad, 2100 N St., would again have been one of the
buildings, or at least in the same block occupied by the Cushman
Motor Works factory and foundry at the time. The ad makes clear
reference to a 20 HP Cushman engine, and in reference to the
Fremont, Neb., Plowing Demonstration, it reports the Ward Tractor
Plow did “The best job of plowing on the grounds.” With this type
of glowing report, it’s a wonder the Ward didn’t enjoy greater
success. No price information is found for either the 20 HP or the
later 8 HP version.

There is at least one other picture of the 20 HP Ward Tractor
Plow. It is shown “working,” not plowing, even though the 3-bottom
plow is attached. Rather, it is operating a 17-inch ensilage cutter
and blower, filling a silo 35 feet high, on a farm near Lincoln in
a photo that appears in an original circa-1912 Cushman Motor sales
brochure, promoting the 20 HP Cushman engine, more than the Ward
Tractor Plow (see bottom photo, previous page).

Based on these “known” dates, the Gas Review ad, and the dates
on Therkelsen’s original drawings of the 8 HP version of the Ward,
the 8 HP model came several years after the 20 HP version, even
though both sizes of Cushman engines were manufactured at the same

Little is known about the engineer whose name appears on the
mechanical drawings. John Therkelsen is identified in city
directory listings for the Ward Tractor Co./Ward Mfg. Co. as
superintendent from 1916 to 1920.

My original photos came from an estate in West Virginia and show
the 8 HP Ward Tractor apparently being field tested near Lincoln,
so it would appear that at least a prototype was made. The tractor
is mounted with a mower blade and is pulling a rake, but it is not
shown plowing. The limited number of cleats on the rear wheels were
perhaps a sign it was “pieced together” for test purposes, or that
it was not a particularly rigorous test.

Cushman Motor Works continued to enjoy varying success
manufacturing water-cooled farm and industrial engines until 1952,
when the last Cubs were made. (By then, the air-cooled Cushman
Husky engines had taken their place.) Many Cushmans are in the
hands of engine collectors and enthusiasts today, although the 20
HP models are not as plentiful as the binder engines or Cubs.
Cushmans frequently appear at threshing, tractor and engine shows
around the country, sometimes even as feature engines.

Yet it would appear that for whatever reason, the Ward Tractor
Co. was not successful, as there is no record of how many tractors
were actually made, no evidence that any were sold and it is
believed that no examples of the Cushman-powered Ward Tractors
survive today. Obviously, I would be delighted to hear from anyone
who has further knowledge of the Ward Tractor Co. or the Ward
Tractor Plow.

The Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum is open daily
on the East Campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For
visits, contact them at: (402) 472-8389; e-mail: or visit their website at:

Contact engine enthusiast Jim L. Brown at: 7309 Baldwin Ave.,
Lincoln, NE 68507; (402) 466-7363;

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines