No Longer a Leader

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

| October 2005

  • The Leader crawler shown here is an 18-36 model built by Dayton-Dick Co.
    The Leader crawler shown here is an 18-36 model built by Dayton-Dick Co. of Quincy, Ill., starting in 1919. It was rated for four 14-inch bottom plows and could run on gasoline, naphtha, alcohol, kerosene or distillate.
  • Leader tractor, 16-32 Model N
    A lack of records makes it difficult to determine whether a particular Leader tractor, like this 16-32 Model N, was made by one company "like Dayton-Dick" or its successor, Dayton-Dowd. The Model N appears to have been made by both.
  • Huber
    Though the resemblance between the Rex 12-25 and this Huber Super Four tractor isn't as strong as between the Rex and the Huber Light Four, it's still pretty similar, especially with the large front wheels.
  • Leader3
    Leader Tractor Mfg. Co. of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, also manufactured a Leader tractor beginning in 1946, just after World War II. It doesn't appear the earlier company of the same name and this one were connected, but there is too little information to tell. This particular machine belongs to Delvan Heemstra of Cass Lake, Minn.
  • Dayton-Dick
    At the same time Dayton-Dick Co. was manufacturing their crawler series, they were also making the Leader 12-18, shown above. The drive wheels were 48 inches in diameter and 12 inches wide.
  • Ohio Tractor
    File photo of a 1906 20 HP Leader steam tractor (no. 1474) built by the Ohio Tractor Mfg. Co. in Marion, Ohio, and owned by Tom Spires of Lancaster, Ohio.
  • 1947 Leader
    File photo from November 1990 showing a 1947 Leader owned by Glenn Mitchell. If you look at the wheels on this machine as opposed to Delvan Heemstra's machine, you will see significant differences between the two. The wheels on this tractor are believed to be original equipment.

  • The Leader crawler shown here is an 18-36 model built by Dayton-Dick Co.
  • Leader tractor, 16-32 Model N
  • Huber
  • Leader3
  • Dayton-Dick
  • Ohio Tractor
  • 1947 Leader

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. 



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