| May/June 1971

Route 4, Huntington, Indiana 46750

For several years now I have toyed with the idea of writing a history of the Tractor, as I have seen it grow from practically the beginning. Being at the age of seventy and a life long farmer and machine man, I have seen it blossom from nothing to its present high standard. Some might question the high standard, but not the higher price of the present machines.

The first tractors were cumbersome and noisy pieces of machinery. In fact they were not called tractors, but gasoline traction engines, comprised of a large bulky one cylinder gas engine, mounted on a steam engine chassis and wheels with the guiding apparatus of a steam engine. The cast iron gears were all open to the dust and dirt which caused them to wear down quickly. Grease cups wick filled oilers provided lubrication to main bearings. Sight drip oilers were used for pistons and connecting rod bearings. Up to 1910 all of the manufacturers used primarily the same design, with modifications. Some of these tractors had rear wheels six feet high, and weighed as much as fifteen tons or more.

Most historians credit John Froelich of near Waterloo, Iowa, as building the first successful tractor. That is question-able as some others were already in the field; but so little is known of their success and it is impossible to prove anything. It is not known whether he made any more than the one he made in 1892. He used a gasoline engine made by the Van Duzen company of Cincinnati, Ohio, and mounted it on a Robinson steam engine running gear. This outfit really ran and in that year it is said to have successfully run a Case 40' cylinder separator for a full fifty day threshing run. In the year 1893, he along with others, incorporated the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company of Waterloo, Iowa. They built gasoline engines and experimented with tractors. About 1913 they came out with the Waterloo Boy, which later became the John Deere as we know it today. They did a lot of experimenting but it is not known definitely that they made any tractors until the Waterloo Boy.

1914, 8-16 Mogul Tractor.

In 1889 the Charter Gas Engine Company built six 20 hp. tractors and they were shipped into the Dakotas for belt work. Nothing is known or recorded of their success, but they were likely good belt power. They used their own single cylinder engine and it was mounted on Rumely wheels and frames -- a hugh engine with two large flywheels.


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