| January/February 1972

Route 4, Huntington, Indiana 46750

The most controversial tractor made during those early years was undoubtedly the Fordson. For some years Henry Ford had been experimenting with tractors. In the later part of 1917 he started making Fordsons. It was during the war years, and Ford stipulated the first ones should go to State and National governments, as well as overseas. All Ford car dealers handled Fordsons and that spread the sales all over. The first year, 1917 saw 7,000 made. In 1918 they made 34,000 or over 25% of the 132,700 tractors made by all companies that year. Up to August 20, 1920 over 100,000 had been sold. In 1925 they made 100,000 and Ford claimed that was 75% of all the tractors sold that year. It was the first tractor to be made on an assembly line basis.

I will make no attempt to dwell on the merits or faults of the Fordson. Every former owner can do that. Needless to say price had much to do with its popularity. Amos Klinger of Bluffton, Ohio told in 1922 he paid $390 for tractor, $30 for fenders, and $100 for a two bottom Oliver plow.

There is no doubt that they would have become even more popular if Ford had done a better job on his ignition system, and had used better material throughout. He said he would put the Nation on wheels, either rubber or steel, which he really did. They never advertised horsepower for their tractor. If a dealer was pressed for an answer it was usually around 20 H.P., Weight 2,750 pounds. They were usually a fair two bottom tractor unless the going was too hard. I had a neighbor who bought one new in 1926. Before it was delivered he had an Atwater Kent ignition system and governor installed. He used that tractor eleven years with good success. On the other hand another neighbor drove his boy off the farm with one. Ford never put anything extra on either his car or tractor. That creates a flock of small companies making extras for both the car and the tractor. For the Fordson these extras consisted of fenders, water pumps, belt pulleys, belt guides, manifolds, hitches, carburetors, timers, just to mention a few. Also attachments like buzz saws, mounted mowers, mounted plows, etc. I remember one entire issue of Farm Mechanics was devoted to Fordson accessories.

The last Fordson was made in 1928. No doubt the thing that had slowed the sales was that some of the new tractors on the market had such advantages, as more power, much better bearings, removable sleeves, overhead valves, power take off and so forth. One junk dealer told me he had cut up over 300 Fordsons. An I.H.C. dealer told me he had taken over 90 Fordsons in one year. There are very few left today, compared to the number that had been made. They certainly played a part in early power farming and helped to create our horseless age.

I have taken our Fordson to a number of steam engine shows and have always been amused at the comment it brings out of the spectators. One year I was sitting on my steam engine eating dinner. The Fordson was hitched to the water wagon close by. A large woman of some fifty years got on the seat of the Fordson. She sat there for over ten minutes of what seemed to be deep reflection. Directly she came over and asked if I owned it, which I said I did. She then said, 'When my husband and I were married we bought a team of horses and a new lordson. That tractor took live years off of his life.' Now I know nothing of this woman, her husband, nor that Fordson. But I am sure that while she sat there on that Fordson so absorbed, that she was reliving some of their earlier experiences. Maybe my taking that tractor to that show was well worth the effort.


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