Courtesy of Rolland E. Maxwell, Route 4, Huntington, Indiana 46750.
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.
In 1893 a group of farmers headed by J. A. Hocket of near Sterling, Kansas, built a large tractor. It is recorded that the Charter Company built this tractor for them, but it is not known if more than one was built. Anyway, it appears they did not have finances to continue it.
The Case Company built a tractor in 1892, about 20 hp. using the usual design and under the supervision of William Patterson. It was not successful and no more were manufactured. 1911 saw the 20-40 Case which went over big. There are still a number of them around yet today.
1892 saw the production of a tractor by the C. H. Dissinger & Bro. Company of Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, using an Otto gas engine. They made a few in 1899 but really got into manufacturing in 1904. It was a big one cylinder engine, battery make and break ignition, sight lubrication and forced water cooling.
The Van Duzen Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, constructed a tractor in 1894, similar to the Froelich tractor which they had furnished the engine for building. This is said to be the forerunner of the Huber Company of Marion, Ohio, who were already in the steam engine and threshing machine business.
1894 saw the erection of a tractor by the Otto Gas Engine Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a 15 hp. In 1895 and 1896 they made and sold fourteen tractors. They were already doing a good business in large gas engines.
The Huber Manufacturing Company of Marion, Ohio, built their first tractor in 1898. It was a vertical engine, very crude, but they kept improving it and in later years made many successful tractors.
Kinnard-Haines of Minneapolis, Minnesota, made their first Flour City Engine in 1897 but did not go into production until 1901. It was a large 30 hp. single cylinder horizontal engine, chain driven from flywheel to a secondary shaft on which was the clutch and drive sprockets, with bull gear and pinion drive. They continued to improve their tractor and were very successful later on. They also made large portable gasoline engines.
The S. S. Morton Company of York, Pennsylvania, erected its first tractor in 1899. In 1902 and 1903 they developed a traction frame, wheels and gearing on which anyone could mount a gas engine of any size and have a tractor. They sold this in the Ohio Manufacturing Company of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, about 1904. In 1905 the Ohio Company interested the International Harvester Company of Chicago in it and for two or three years they mounted Inter national Harvester Famous Engines of 10, 12, and 15 hp. on their chassis. Int. Har. sold them as their own. Later they bought the Ohio Mfg. Co. out in 1908 or 1909. The company was moved into International Harvesters plants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois. The Milwaukee plant became the Titan works and the Chicago plant produced Moguls.
1913 Fairbanks-Morse. Picture taken in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
1912 Hart-Parr Steel King, 40 hp. Picture taken in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
In 1894 the Lambert Gas Engine Company of Anderson, Indiana, built their first tractor. It was a large one cylinder, horizontal engine of their own design, with open crankcase and sight feed oilers. Later this company got into business in a large way making traction gas engines of all sizes. They also made the Lambert automobile.