While conversing with my friend Alvin Bunting of Bridgeton, New Jersey, I mentioned that I had purchased a Handy Trak single-wheeled walk-behind tractor made by the Marlboro Machine Company, Inc. of Bridgeton, New Jersey. Alvin, who resided on Marlboro Road, not only knew the now deceased owner, George Simpkins, but had assisted the owner on occasion at the small machine shop behind the Simpkins' residence located nearby on Jerico Road.
Thanks to the assistance of Terri Fuller, who resides near the former residence of George Simpkins, daughter Carol Bell and her husband Paul, who had moved, were located, and they enthusiastically shared photos and letters, some of which were furnished by her brother Russell who lives in Texas.
She recalled that her father probably started making the little garden tractor shortly after WW II in a small building he built behind their old home. Her grandfather 'Pop' Simpkins, Uncle Stanley 'Tick' Simpkins, Uncle Harold 'Butter' Simpkins, her brother Russell, Alvin Bunting, Buster DuBois, Allen Howell, and her mother Ann, who handled the company books, worked as needed during production of the Handy Trak.
The number of Handy Traks made cannot be documented at this time, but Paul believes approximately 145 walk-behind units were made during the short time the company strived to compete in the competitive market. It retailed for $145.00, and attachments were priced separately. A brochure reflects the engine was a 1? HP 4 cycle Clinton air-cooled gas engine. It had a patented rocker arm, cam type clutch with variable speeds of ? to 4 mph. It weighed 146 lbs, chain driven, one 4.00 x 8 tire, and 6 to 1 gear reduction. Another brochure depicts the Handy Trak without the cast iron wheel fender, and the specifications indicate it weighed 116 lbs. which may indicate an effort to compete in a seemingly crowded market led by giants like David Bradley, Planet Jr., Bolens, Simplicity, Standard, and many others.
The Handy Trak was painted either red or red and green. For some unknown reason on at least one cast fender the name of the Marlboro Machine Company is misspelled and Marlboro was spelled 'Maulboro.'
Salutory letters dated during 1948 reflect the garden tractor performed quite well. A letter dated September 27, 1948 from E. B. McCormick, Sales Manager, and written on company letterhead, reflects a list of additional attachments for the Handy Trak.
Additional information reflects the owner of Handy Trak made at least one reel-type lawn mower, but no known records tell its production or list any specifications.
George Simpkins had worked for both the Anchor Hocking Glass Company and the DuPont Chemical Company prior to WWII as a self-taught machinist. At some point, he founded a rather large machine shop at Pennsville, New Jersey, in the early 1950s, where he had been awarded numerous U.S. Navy contracts.
The heavy cast iron fender assembly for the Handy Trak may have been manufactured at the now closed Ferracute Foundry Machine Company located in Bridgeton, New Jersey, which incidentally is where the rare Hettinger hit & miss engine had been made several decades earlier.
You can have your present lawn mower attached to your new HANDY- TRAK or order the mower unit complete as shown.
Bill head of the Marlboro Machine Company. Invoice No. 906 included these items: Handy-Trak $149.50; Implement set (5 cultivator teeth, 1 plow, 1 wrench) $3.85; Snow Plow or Light Dozer $21.00; 30' Sickle Bar $63.00; Lawn Mower Attachment $8.50; Two Wheel Riding Sulky $20.00; Heavy Duty Sulky & Cart $50.00; Lawn Roller $16.00; 6?' Plow $7.50; 'A' Frame Cultivator $7.50; Coulter for Plow $1.75; Adjustable Cultivator $7.50.
It is possible that the Handy Trak is the only walk-behind tractor ever produced commercially in New Jersey. Obviously, there is much more to know about this little tractor. If anyone has any additional information regarding this company or its products, please contact me by calling 609-927-2912 or write Bill Martin, 17 Clark Ave., Egg Harbor Twp., NJ 08234.