Courtesy of Rolland E. Maxwell, Route 4, Huntington, Indiana 46750.
Route 4, Huntington, Indiana 46750
In the period between 1900-1910 the tractor industry really got to rolling. Notably four of the tractor firms which were later to become famous and well-known, got their start in this period. They were Hart-Parr, International Harvester, Rumely Oil Pull, and Huber Mfg. Co. Also, the first advertising in the trade Journals began at this time. Hart Parr claims to be the first tractor company to advertise.
In the June issue of the 1910 Gas Power are shown ads by Hart-Parr, Flour City, and the Model Gas Engine Works of Peru, Ind. Hart-Parr ads appeared in the Implement Trade Journal of Kansas City, Mo., in 1906 also.
Strange as it may seem I cannot find out a thing about the Model Gas Engine Works, and I only live thirty-five miles from Peru, Ind. They advertised tractors from 16 to 60 hp. one cylinder, horizontal engine, screen tank-cooled, and looked like an early I.H.C. tractor.
Hart-Parr was the first Company to make tractors exclusively. They built their first tractor in 1901. A 22-45 twin cylinder. It was sold to a farmer in Iowa, and was used for seventeen years without having to be returned to the factory for repairs. In 1902 and 1903 they made fifteen. In 1928 six of these fifteen were still in operation. Number three is now in the Smithsonian Institute and to be kept there forever. It is still in running condition. I know of one in Kansas that threshed for thirty-seven years and is inside and in good shape yet. Hart Parr made the first tractor with heavy gearing to stand the strain of drawbar work and plowing. In 1907 their 22-45 became the 60, which was made up to some time in 1917, when they discontinued their heavy tractors. A 60 cost about $2250.
In 1906 IHC came out with a standard four wheel tractor using a screen cooling tank. They were made by the Ohio Mfg. Co. of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, using their trucks and mounting IHC's Famous gas engine. 200 of these were made in 1906. More about IHC in a history of the Company later on.
The third company that later became large and produced many popular and highly satisfactory tractors was the Rumely Co. of Laport, Ind. They made their first Oil Pull in 1909. Hart-Parr claims they built this tractor for Rumely, and it is highly probable, because the engine was similar. The crankshaft was set at 180 degrees same as Hart-Parr. In 1910 Rumely started making tractors and claimed to have the first tractor that would burn heavy fuel successfully. It had a throttling governor, used water injection under load, and was oil-cooled. Later Rumely made a full line of tractors that were very durable. This fact can be proved by the great numbers that can be found in museums, steam engine shows and on farms and saw mills yet today.
As I mentioned before the Morton Traction Co. of York, Pa., built a more or less standard tractor truck. That is a frame, wheels, gearing, etc. Anyone could mount his own engine on it. They sold out to the Ohio Tractor Co. of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. A number of companies took this opportunity to get into the tractor business. The one who made the best success of it was Fairbanks Morse. Three other companies made such outfits and for a few years did quite good up through 1917. They were' The Victor Traction Gear Co. of Louden-ville, Ohio; The Electric Wheel Co. of Quincy, Illinois; and The Adams Co. of St. Marys, Ohio.
In 1902 the Wallis Tractor Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, made the Wallis Bear. A huge affair with two high wheels in the rear and one in the front. Four cylinder motor. Pulled ten fourteen inch plows. A Mr. Schmidt of Bluffton, Ohio, has probably the only one left. More about this company later.
In 1908 the Gas Traction Co. of Minneapolis, Minn., came out with the Big Four. In 1910 the Big Four '30'. Emmerson Brantingham bought them out in 1912 but continued making the Big 4's.
In 1910 The Finchbaugh Co. of York, Pa., began making York tractors of several different sizes. They later made the Finchbaugh also.
Up to this time the word Tractor was not used. They were called gasoline Traction engines. Several claim the honor of calling them tractors. We won't argue about it. Anyway it was a shorter name.
Another thing that helped the promotion of the tractor in this period, was the starting of tractor training schools. The first was started at the University of Minnesota and was held on the Fair grounds at St. Paul, Minn. Some of the instructors were later to become leaders in the tractor industry and promotion. Several later engaged in Farm Publications who were to push the tractor industry, and the Horseless Farming age, but little did they dream that it would ever grow to its present status. Notables were B. B. Clark, editor of the American Thresherman, and Tractor &' Gas Engine Review. Also William Boss and H. B. White. Phillip S. Rose of N. Dakota Agric. College was prominent, and he later became editor of The Country Gentlemen, a leading farm paper of long standing. The tractor schools were later extended to most of our State Agricultural Colleges, and most of the larger tractor companies had their own schools. To read the testimonies of many men in the American Thresherman and Thresherman Review was to prove that these schools were very helpful. Let it be remembered that the ignition and the carburetors on the early tractors were very primitive and a source of trouble. These early magazines all had their pages of question and answer for gas engine and tractor troubles. It is a shame that these magazines, plus several more could not have survived longer. Some of us are very fortunate to have saved collections of them which we can review for data and a source of inspiration.
There came in 1908 the first tractor show or contest held in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. At Winnipeg from 1908 through 1913. The Winnipeg -- the largest was called The Winnipeg Motor contest and was open to both tractors and steam engines. It was really started for the Steam folks and the tractors were invited, but as it later turned out the tractors stole the show because of their lighter weight and their flexibility. The tractors were tested on the pony prony brake and at plowing. They were divided into those burning kerosene and those burning gasoline. There was an economy fuel run too. The number of cylinders varied from one to four, and they were in all positions. Int. Harv. had four different models and sizes. Oil-Pull had a 30-60 E and a 15-30 F. Minneapolis a Universal 20-40. Aultman-Taylor, Avery, Big Four, Flour City, Garr-Scott, Russell, etc. In steam engines there was Avery, American Abel, Garr-Scott, Case Rumely, Reeves, Nichols and Shepherd, etc. This was the period when the steam engine was at the very peak of its popularity, and it is understandable that there was much rivalry and competition between steam and gas. One year when there was lots of rain, some of the men were mortified on having to have their steamers pulled out of the mud by some of the lighter weight tractors.
The advertising that followed a contest was full of boasts of what their respective tractors had accomplished. Of course no mention was made of failures or weaknesses, which each company made haste to remedy. All in all, it accomplished something besides being together for the first time. It gave the observers something to look for, and contestants a goal. If any one is interested in more study on the subject, a more complete account of the 1911 contest can be found in the Sept. issue of the 1911 Thresherman's Review. Remember, after all the tractor industry was in its infancy, but they did pretty well!