| March/April 1974

  • Rolland E. Maxwell

    Rolland E. Maxwell

  • Rolland E. Maxwell

Successful Old Tractors. Over the years people have asked what was the most popular and most successful of the old tractors, starting from the first and up to around 1915. Knowing this could be a very controversial issue, I've always side-stepped the issue. Its natural for everyone to have his own favorite automobile, tractor, motorcycle, etc. Now I feel it is time to pick out some of the facts as they appear in history. These tractors may not be the earliest, but they were the first that were the most successful and most popular taken as a whole. Over the years I have talked to old dealers salesmen, repair men, owners, and from my own observation.

In a 1901 American Thresherman, they announced that the Waterous Eng. Co. of St. Paul, Minn. were making fifty tractors for sale. They were not called tractors at that time but were called Gas Traction Engines. Large one cylinder Horiz. engines mounted on the frame and wheels of a steam engine. Very large bulky and cumbersome. They were in production for only a few years and did little to change the design of their machines. They were used for belt work. In a Dec. 1903 issue of American Thresherman is shown a picture of a Hart Parr and a Waterous plowing in the same field.

The Kinnard Press Co. later called the Kinnard Haines were building large portable gas engines. One cylinder engines, and if my information is right, they got the patents or patterns from the Otto Co. of Phila. Pa. They built their first Flour City 1897. They were called Flour City because Minneapolis was the Flour City, or rather the center of the Flour industry. They built four in 1898 and twenty eight in 1899. They used their own 12 by 18, one cylinder engine on a steam engine chassis and wheels. This went on until 1908, when they made a radical change using a four cylinder vertical engine set in line on several sizes from 25-50 to 40-70. They were tested each year from 1908 thru 1912 at the Winnipeg, Canada Contest. A 1925 issue of American Thresherman still lists their ads under Kinnard and Sons. I know of about fifteen still in existence and alive today, particularly in the Northwest where they were mostly sold. I know the Flour City was a successful tractor and a rare one today. What made Hart Parr go over so big? They started making gas engines in 1897. The first tractor was made in 1901 at Charles City, Ia. It wassold to a farmer in Iowa who used it for seventeen years without a major rebuilding job. In 1902 and 1903 they built fifteen, and in 1928, six of those fifteen were still being operated. Old number three is in the Smithsonion Institute Museum in Wash. D.C. One of the most incredible things is they built their tractor for seventeen years without redesigning it, except for small improvements in carburetion, cooling and electrically. In 1902 they developed their valve in head engine. In 1904 they developed a way of burning kerosene and other heavy fuels and never had it patented, just gave it to the rest of the world to use. Can any one imagine one of our major machine companies today doing such a thing. In 1904 they started using magneto ignition and a year later forced feed lubrication. Their first tractors were 17-30's and 22-45's.

1916 -10-20 Mogul owned by Rolland E. Maxwell.

From the very start they built extra heavy frames and gearings, a weak point up to then in all tractors. In 1907 they changed the 22 45 to 30-60 and called it 'The Old Reliable,' as long as that size was built. In 1912 they built a large tractor of 100 H.P., the largest tractor built up to that time. In 1907 they called their machine Tractors, a new word at that time. Up to then they were called Gas Traction Engines. The factory was turned over to government for World War I work from 1914 to 1918. Up until the government took over the plant, they had made over 5500 22-45's and 30-60's. They quit making that size after 1917, but made up a number with materials on hand that had not been assembled before the take over.

Hart Parr did five models of various sizes of large three wheeled machines with one wheel in front, with one and two cylinder vertical engines. These were successful but never popular. There are at least six left.


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