No Longer a Leader

Other Companies Tried – and Failed – to Keep Leader Tractor Rolling

| October 2005

The story of Leader tractors begins in 1912 and, like the history of many U.S. tractor companies, meanders through several different tractor names and companies, until its final builder, Dayton-Dowd Co., vanished in the mid-1920s.  

The first precursor to the Leader tractor was the 4,800-pound, $1,250 Midland tractor built in 1912. Only one fuzzy picture of the Midland exists, taken from the rear as the tractor pulled a pair of plows in heavy sod. It is difficult to tell which, if any, of the design characteristics of the Midland may have been carried over to subsequent tractors.

A year later, in 1913, Leader Engine Co. of Grand Rapids, Mich., which had been manufacturing engines for the Midland, bought out the Midland tractor. That same year, the Leader Gas Engine Co. was organized in Grand Rapids, combining Sinz-Wallin (a gas engine company), Midland Tractor Co., and, though it's unclear, most likely Leader Engine Co. as well, as it disappeared. Leader Gas Engine Co. then moved to Detroit and built 75 tractors in 1914.

Leader Steam Engines

Showing how intertwined things can sometimes get, Marion Mfg. Co. of Marion, Ohio, manufactured Leader steam traction engines at least as early as 1895, so it seems likely that Leader Tractor Mfg. Co., which started in Marion as Ohio Tractor Mfg. Co. (which built only very large tractors), took its name from the Leader steam traction engines.

Marion Mfg. Co. made Leader steam engines in sizes from at least 16-25 HP, as well as a 10-ton Leader steam road roller, sawmill machinery and the Leader Jr. separator.

In 1915 the odyssey continued, as Leader Gas Engine Co. moved to Quincy, Ill., and along with Dayton Foundry & Machine Co. and Hayton Pump Co., consolidated into Dayton-Dick Co., which had been building Leader tractors. Referring to Dayton-Dick Co., P.S. Rose concisely noted “Leader tractor on market in 1913” in his Report on Tractor Companies Made (In) 1915.