Interstate Tractor Co.

By Staff
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'Interstate Tractor Co. ran into financial difficulty in 1918, eventually becoming Plowman Tractor Co., and remaining in Waterloo. Shortly after this 1919 advertisement, the company disappeared, as did Plowboy and Plowman tractors. '
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'A 1919 ad for Plowman Tractor Co., the third of three companies that manufactured Plowboy and Plowman tractors. In this ad, the name of the tractor, Plowman, was not broken into two words as in earlier ads. '
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The Plow Man 13-30 was one of Interstate Engine & Tractor Co.’s first machines. It had a Buda 4-cylinder engine with 4-1/4-by-5-1/2-inch bore and stroke. The later 15-30 was almost identical in appearance.
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'A Plow Man tractor, manufactured by Interstate Tractor Co., is shown working a field in this undated photo. '

When Sandy McManus advertised for Sandy McManus
Inc., of Waterloo, Iowa, in 1912, the ad read: “I am going to share
my profits with you.” It was just another way of saying prices of
Sandow gas engines would be low. 1914 prices ranged from $27.50 for
a 1-1/2 HP Sandow to $375 for the largest 16 HP machine. McManus
also sold manure spreaders, cream separators and washing machines.
(These Sandow engines were not related to the Detroit Motor Car
Supply Co. Sandow engines.)

Mists of Time

Two things are unclear about Sandy McManus Inc. First is whether
or not the company was an engine manufacturer. According to
Manufacturing Companies of Gasoline Engines in Early
Waterloo
, a booklet from the Museum of History and Science in
Waterloo, one-fifth of the entire nation’s gasoline engines were
manufactured in Waterloo from 1910 to 1915. The booklet also lists
area manufacturing companies, and Sandy McManus Inc., is not
included.

The second thing needing clarification is when McManus went into
business. 1912 could be when the company started, although McManus’
words in the September 1912 ad makes you wonder: “Though I’ve built
up the greatest gasoline (engine) business on this good green
earth, I’ve got a new plan that’s going to stir things more than
ever, and it’s going to make my competitors sit up at night
thinking about how to beat Sandy McManus.” Those words hint that
the company existed earlier, but more concrete information is not
available.

The company was doubtless a mail order house, because it isn’t
likely that immediately after startup any company would have
engines on hand in 1-1/2, 1-3/4, 2, 2-1/2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and
16 HP sizes. All were hopper-cooled except for the air-cooled 1-1/2
HP engine.

Also, the similarity between Associated and Galloway engines,
both manufactured in Waterloo at the time, give the sense that
Sandows were merely re-badged Associateds and Galloways.

The End and the New Beginning

Within three years, stockholders lost their faith in McManus,
and in 1915 he was pushed out. Almost before the ink on McManus’
resignation was dry (it was announced Oct. 12, 1915), the company
was reorganized in October 1915, into the Interstate Engine &
Tractor Co., manufacturers of farm tractors. This was a road
McManus didn’t want to travel during his presidency.

Two tractors were proposed by the new company: the 10-20 Plow
Boy and the 13-30 Plow Man, both four-wheeled lightweight tractors
that farmers had been insisting on. These smaller tractors weighed
from 3,800 to 4,800 pounds.

The first machines were produced in 1916, when a combined total
of 50, 10-20 Plow Boy and 13-30 Plow Man tractors were sold. Plow
Boys cost $675 each. However, shortly thereafter, the price of a
Plow Boy was increased to $775, $875 in 1917 and $975 in 1918. Plow
Mans sold for $995 in 1917 and $1,155 in 1918. Despite their price
increases, Interstate tractor sales grew to 789 in 1917, and 679
during just the first half of 1918, with estimates of 650 for the
second half and 2,000 for 1919. As of Aug. 1, 1918, the plant had
310 Plow Boys and Plow Mans on hand.

Plow Boy Tractors

In 1916, Farm Implement News headlined “Interstate
Engine & Tractor Co. Announce New 10-20 Tractor.” “It is
interesting to know,” the magazine wrote, “that this machine is
made up entirely of standardized parts, representing a fully
standardized machine.” It’s hard to imagine now, but farmers at the
time did not have extensive machine repair skills, so anything that
made the farmer’s life easier – standardized parts, in this case –
gave a tractor company a leg up.

Farm Implement News continued: “The reports of those
who have seen the work of this machine show that the Plow Boy
tractor is certainly one that will find itself ranking foremost
among light tractors. This is not a new tractor in any sense but
the name, but merely the combination of the proven successful parts
into one successful tractor.”

Another ad said, “From start to finish it is equipped with
standard parts such as the Waukesha Motor; Foote-Strite
Transmission; Dixie Magneto; Bennett Carburetor; Bierman Clutch;
French & Hecht Wheels; Perfect Radiator; etc. The manufacturers
of these parts are the recognized leaders in their respective
fields. They have been in business for many years. Therefore you
and your trade can always count on getting parts if needed. These
thoroughly proven parts are combined into one all standard Plow Boy
Tractor making the Plow Boy successful to the most minute
detail.”

On April 6, 1917, the U.S. entered World War I, and Interstate
Engine & Tractor Co. immediately hooked onto the patriotic
vote. A 1917 ad read: “Increased crops will help a lot towards
winning this war. But it’s just as necessary that farmers be fully
equipped for their great work as it is for the Army to have
adequate equipment. Farmers cannot work more acres unless they have
more power and can get more out of their available supply of labor.
In fact, they cannot even get the best results from their regular
acreage without better power. The successful light farm tractor
alone solves this labor and power problem. Farmers generally are
coming to recognize this. It is therefore both a duty and an
opportunity for implement dealers to help in the distribution of
real tractors that have made good.” Of course, that meant Plow Boy
and Plow Man tractors.

Another 1917 ad said, “Uncle Sam is looking to his farmers for a
crop production that will surpass every record.” But there were
many obstacles, including not enough man power, not enough horse
power. “The one sure way to overcome these obstacles is through
POWER FARMING – which both the Federal and State governments are
now urging. This means an enormous increase in the demand for
reliable tractors of real power. Our All-Standard Plow Man and Plow
Boy Tractors measure up to every requirement of power, service and
economy.”

Plow Man Tractors

In 1917, Farm Implement News filed this report on the
Plow Man tractors: “Plow Man tractors are manufactured by the
Interstate Tractor Co. of Waterloo, Iowa. (The company name was
shortened to Interstate Tractor Co. in 1917.) The Plow Man 13-30,
pulling two 14-inch breaker bottoms, (was) entered in the Minot
(N.D.) plowing contest and was in almost continuous demonstration
throughout the meet. It burned kerosene, and the quality of plowing
done was a subject of much favorable mention. Many visitors came to
the meet primarily to look the Plow Man tractors over, though, of
course, they did not fail to see others and compare them. It was
the Plow Man, pulling an Oliver plow, that brought to light an
Indian maul and an old musket. Many other Indian souvenirs were
picked up by those following the plows.”

L. Campbell of Velva, N.D., drove the tractor that turned the
straightest furrow that ever was turned, according to the
officials. An Oliver plow was used. “In the contest he only varied
4 inches in the first half mile first furrow, driving a
Plowman.”

Plow Boy and Plow Man Specifications

The Plow Boy 10-20 weighed 3,800 pounds with a
Waukesha vertical 4-cylinder engine of 3-1/2-by-5-1/4-inch bore and
stroke, recommended for two 14-inch plows. It was 156 inches long,
and 70 inches tall and wide. In 1915 it sold for $675, in 1917,
$875.

The Plow Man 13-30 was identical as far as weight and size, but
used a Buda vertical 4-cylinder engine of 4-1/2-by-5-1/2-inch bore
and stroke, was recommended for three 14-inch plows, and sold for
$995 in 1917.

The Plow Man 15-30 weighed 4,800 pounds, was 156 inches long, 66
inches wide, 69 inches tall, and its Buda 4-1/2-by-6-inch bore and
stroke engine was rated for three or four 14-inch plows. Drive
wheels were 60 inches tall and 10 inches wide, exactly like the
10-20 and 13-30.

A 1917 Interstate Engine & Tractor Co. advertisement for the
10-20 and 13-30 All-Standard tractors said both employed the Buda
4-cylinder engine, a change from the earlier Waukesha in the 10-20.
A 1918 ad for the newly-named Interstate Tractor Co. announced “The
new 15-30,” which carried “the idea of reserve power still further,
and is a great forward step for improved service and long tractor
life.” The 13-30 was also mentioned in the 1918 ad, but the 10-20
was not. Sizes and weights of the tractors were different in this
ad, listing both Plowman models at 12 feet long by 5 feet wide by 6
feet tall, and weighed 4,400 pounds and 4,800 pounds,
respectively.

The information on the side of the hoods changed, too, as the
Plow Man 15-30 displayed, “Plow Man 15-30, Built by Interstate
Tractor Co., Waterloo, IA, USA,” while the earlier ad simply marked
“Plowman 15-30 HP” on the hood.

A 1918 ad for Interstate Tractor Co. was headed: “A Serious
Shortage of Tractors,” and continued saying that the modern tractor
had arrived just in time, because farm animals could not handle the
additional millions of acres being farmed. “Plow Boy and Plow Man
All-Standard tractors in the past two years have made an enviable
record for satisfactory service in this and foreign countries.
Experimenting with designs and special types has long past (sic) so
that in these two years no radical change in construction has been
found necessary.”

Twenty-four distributors were listed in a dozen states and
Canada in a 1918 Farm Implement magazine full page ad. One
ad said, “Because of the great tractor demand this year, some
tractor manufacturers are advising their dealers they can supply
only part of their requirements. Evidently, these manufacturers
took on more dealers than their output justified. The Interstate
policy has been to confine the Plow Man line to the better class of
dealers and add new dealers only as the increased production would
warrant.”

Exporters were put on notice that the company had sufficient
output to handle a reasonable amount of export business by claiming
hundreds of their tractors were used in Great Britain and other
countries.

Another 1918 ad proclaimed how farmers would save money with
Plow Man and Plow Boy tractors, “because of low fuel cost, easy
operation and very small upkeep expense. This record of economy and
satisfaction has already doubled our last year’s sales for
1918.”

A year later, Interstate Tractor Co. was reorganized into the
Plowman Tractor Co. in Waterloo, selling the Plowman 13-30 and
Plowman 15-30 as offered by Interstate years earlier, except this
later 15-30 (selling for $1,795) had a Buda YTU engine with a
slightly larger bore and stroke – 4-1/2-by-6-inch compared to the
old 4-1/4-by-5-1/2-inch.

A 1919 ad for the Plowman 15-30 (which was no longer the Plow
Man, but the Plowman) said this was a remarkable tractor that had
made friends all over the country, and represented the latest
approved ideas in tractor construction. “For four years Plowman
tractors have proven their dependability and economical operation.
This big, robust machine, with its simple control and great reserve
power, commands admiration whether in the field or in the sales
room.”

Unfortunately, the great wall of the 1920 agricultural
depression loomed ahead, and like many tractor companies of that
era, Plowman Tractor Co. hit it and the company disintegrated.

Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and the author of
several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact Bill at:
Box 372, 400 Caroline Lane, Rockville, MN 56369; (320) 253-5414;
bvossler@juno.com

Grand Forks Distributor of Plow Man

An unidentified farm magazine of the time said,
“The Grand Forks Tractor Co., Grand Forks, N.D., has entered into a
contract with the Interstate Tractor Co. of Waterloo, Iowa, for the
distribution of Plow Man tractors in the states of North Dakota,
Montana, part of Wyoming and part of Minnesota. The contract
extends over a period of five years and calls for a total of 600
tractors, beginning in 1918 and providing for an increasing
schedule each following year. The arrangement was recently
completed by P.W. Miller, president and manager of the Grand Forks
Tractor Co., and Sandy McManus, president of the Interstate Tractor
Co. This is one of the largest contracts so far recorded in the
tractor business.

“An order for a trainload of Plow Man tractors was placed for
immediate delivery and the illustration used in connection with
this article shows the train leaving the factory at Waterloo. A
large stock of extra parts will be carried at Grand Forks so that
dealers in the territory, as well as purchasers, may have prompt
service. With Mr. Miller’s acquaintance through the territory
covered by his contract, the Plow Man tractor will get the best
possible representation.”

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