Dent Parrett's Career In Tractor Design

| August/September 2001

444 S. Olds Avenue, Hartford, Michigan 49057

Dent Parrett was born on Oct. 13, 1886, the son of James and Mae (Stoner) Parrett, in Wenona, Illinois. While still in high school he began working with farm implements for Harry Van Horn, who had a farm implement store in Wenona. Van Horn let young Parrett repair and maintain the steam threshing machines he owned. A couple of Van Horn's customers even had steam-plowing engines, and occasionally Parrett would get to work on them.

In 1908, after spending a year at the University of Illinois, Parrett opened his own machine shop in Wenona. He recalls selling three Rumely OilPull tractors and an Aultman and Taylor 4-cylinder gas tractor during these early days of the tractor era. The Aultman and Taylor tractor pulled eight plows for a progressive local farmer.

Parrett had been intrigued with the possibilities of a lightweight, maneuverable tractor for farm use in place of the clumsy steam-powered engines, when he worked for Van Horn. In his machine shop, he began experimenting with a new tractor design. In his own words, 'I hired a young engineer from the University of Illinois to work out the design details for the first tractor I built. This engineer was a junior and worked during his summer vacation to design the tractor; it was finished about the time he returned to school for the fall term.'

An early prototype Parrett front end; at right, 6 cylinder Waukesha motor Parretta rare tractor. Picture taken at Parrett factory.

The first Parrett tractor was finished in time to help with the fall plowing in 1912. Encouraged by its success and the interest it stimulated, he organized the Parrett Tractor Company in 1913 at Ottawa, Illinois. Some thirty tractors were built there between 1913 and 1915. In 1915 the company was moved to Chicago Heights, Illinois, where over 300 tractors were built the first year, twice that number the next year.