Our coleman TRACTOR

By Staff

6247 Euclid, Cincinnati, Ohio 45236

I grew up with a Coleman tractor on a farm near Coffeyville,
Kansas. I have never heard of another Coleman tractor before or
since. Perhaps you will be interested to know more about it.

I recently wrote to Richard Vogt of Enid, Oklahoma, to ask him
about the Coleman. He replied in part, ‘The Coleman was
manufactured in Kansas City, Missouri, and so far as I know there
are no Coleman tractors in existence today.’

The Coleman was manufactured in Kansas City, Missouri, by the
Coleman Tractor Company in 1918, 19, 20. Its Climax engine had four
5×6 cylinders, cast in pairs, according to Encyclopedia of American
Farm Tractors, by C. H. Wendel.

The 16-30 Coleman joined our family one summer day in 1926 when
I was six years old. My father and I were delivered by a neighbor
to a farm 15 miles away. Father handed over a check and we started
home, driving the used Coleman. The trip was uneventful except for
a stop in the shade to eat a watermelon which Father bought from a
farmer’s wife. Some of you will remember the terrific shaking
our innards got when we drove lugged tractors over hard roads (of
which there were very few). The most prominent feature of the
tractor was the huge (36 inch?) bull gear for the rear wheel worm
drive.

By 1932, I was driving the Coleman on my father’s farm. We
used it for plowing, and especially for powering the threshing
machine. My father owned the thresher. We serviced the threshing
ring of about 10 farms. He ran the thresher and I ran the tractor.
It was powerful and dependable. It had rear wheel fenders and was
painted grey. Cranking it was quite a challenge for me, a rather
skinny five-footer at the time. It had compression relief cocks on
all cylinders, or I couldn’t have done it.

A threshing ring was a loose but fairly permanent organization
of 10 or so farmers/farms enough to be serviced by one thresher in
the time available for threshing. There was a fair amount of
discussion of the order of threshing as everyone wanted it when
most favorable for his crop. The usual compromise proceeded from
end to end one year, and in reverse order the next year.

One very dry summer, my father piped the Coleman to our farm gas
well and our farm creek. He was able to irrigate 30 acres of corn
and save the crop. It ran 24 hours per day for several weeks, with
only the addition of engine oil. We started it on gasoline, then
gradually closed the gasoline valve while opening the gas valve.
The gas line was tapped directly into the manifold at only one
point via a inch pipe.

Driving the tractor and thresher across the 5-ton load-limit
bridges in our area with a lugged wheel Coleman provided more
thrill than I enjoyed at the time. Several stops on each bridge
were required to permit the vibrations to die down or it seemed
like a good idea at the time, so that is what I did.

As the Coleman got older, it ran hot. When threshing on a hot
Kansas day, I topped off the radiator several times per hour. This
was probably caused mostly by plugged radiator tubes and dirty
creek water used as makeup.

Our Coleman was finally replaced by a John Deere and sold for
scrap during the war. Its demise was hastened by my little sister
and a visiting ‘city’ cousin, who scattered the parts among
the dirt and hay in the barn in the midst of a re-ring job my
father was doing. He was six feet-plus, 200 pounds-plus and was not
a mild mannered man. I didn’t envy my sister.

Manpower for the threshing ring consisted of my father and me,
three pitchers in the fields to load the wagons, five wagon drivers
to haul the bundles to the thresher, three wagons to haul the grain
from the thresher to the bin, a scooper to help shovel the grain
from the wagons to the bin, and a water boy on a horse to
continually carry a gallon jug to all, no cups. The really hard
physical jobs were the pitchers and the scoopers. They were usually
hired men. The others were the farmer members of the ring who
supplied their own horses and wagons. All worked through the entire
ring.

I fortunately graduated directly from water boy at 50 cents per
day, including the horse, to tractor operator at $1.00 per day. My
father received 6 cents per bushel for threshing wheat, 4 cents for
oats. Wheat was usually hauled to a grain elevator, but oats was
saved in a farm bin for cattle feed. Aside from the 6 and 4 cents,
very little money changed hands among the ring members.

The noon dinners were real feasts looked forward to for a month
in advance. We workmen washed for lunch at a washtub with one
filling of water and one towel for all. Oops, I almost forgot!
There was one black man, the only one I knew until I went to
college. He was always provided with a private tub and towel. I
envied him.

By 1936, the one-man combine had come in fast. The Coleman was
retired, the binder, threshing ring, and thresher were all gone. I
graduated from high school and ran the tractor and combine for one
summer, still at $1.00 per day. Near the end of the harvest, I got
a job offer as a machinist in Coffeyville at 60 cents per hour. I
said ‘So long, Dad,’ and haven’t done a real day’s
work since.

Am I the only surviving Coleman driver?

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