The Bradley Tractor

By Staff
article image
The tractor was manufactured by the Bradley Tractor Company

7964 Oakwood Park Ct., St. Michaels, Maryland 21663

In the July, 1990 issue of GEM, I asked for information on a
Bradley tractor that my father purchased and we used on our farm
south of Valparaiso, Indiana. The tractor was sold by Sears,
Roebuck. Although I remembered the mechanical details of that
tractor, I did not know where it was built.

In answer to my request, Mr. Edsel Pierce, 6133 East – 300
North, Craigville, Indiana 46731, sent me copies of the items in
his Bradley tractor file. He sent some very interesting information
on this little-known tractor and has given me permission to share
it with GEM readers.

The September 11, 1930 issue of Farm Implement News carried a
report that Sears Roebuck & Company were testing and
demonstrating a tractor called the Bradley. They were not then
offering it for sale. The tractor had been designed by Dent Parrett
and a few had been built by W. M. Blair Mfg. Co. of Chicago, at
their Benton Harbor, Michigan plant.

Despite the deepening depression, Sears did decide to market the
Bradley. It received Nebraska Test 192, June 10-18, 1931. There was
a note in the July 16, 1931 Farm Implement News that the Bradley
Tractor Company, Chicago, was increasing its capital from 10,000 to
20,000 shares. The proceeds would be used for expansion.

The tractor was sold by Sears for approximately three years,
starting in 1933. It was being sold at 31 Sears farm equipment
stores in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and
Kentucky. One of the stores was in Valparaiso. The full-page ad at
right is from the spring, 1933 Sears Farm Equipment Catalog. Note
that Sears also sold planters and cultivators to mount on the
Bradley.

The tractor was manufactured by the Bradley Tractor Company,
which probably was W. M. Blair Mfg. Co., renamed. Its address was
given as 919 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, in some publications, and
as Benton Harbor, Michigan, in others. It appears that the company
had an office in Chicago close to the Sears headquarters, but the
factory was in Benton Harbor. The factory was reported to be the
old Ross-Carrier Works. The tractor was not manufactured in the
David Bradley factory in Bradley, Illinois.

I will give some mechanical details of the Bradley, which come
partly from my own knowledge, and partly from the Nebraska test
report.

The most unusual feature was telescoping housings between the
differential and the final drives so that tread could be varied
from 56 to 74 inches (and to 86 inches by reversing the wheels). I
found the narrow tread was much better for plowing. There were hand
brakes to aid turning. Four speeds were obtained by two 2-speed
transmissions in one housing and there were two

shift levers. One result of this odd arrangement was that there
were two reverse speeds and two pulley speeds, neither of much
practical use. The engine was a 4-cylinder L-head Waukesha, 3? x
4?, governed at 1250 RPM. The fuel was gasoline only. Borg &
Beck clutch, Vortox air cleaner, and Young radiator. The Nebraska
test reported 15.89 drawbar and 22.93 belt HP. The color was a
medium green.

My father told me that only 300 Bradley tractors were built.
That figure has not been confirmed. It has become a rare tractor,
but a few still exist. A collector in Richmond, Indiana owns one,
and I noted one for sale in the Earl Marhanka auction advertised in
the August 1991 issue of GEM.

In 1937, Sears came out with the Graham-Bradley tractor, built
by the Graham-Paige Motors Corp., Detroit. It is not part of this
article, but I will mention that it was highly styled, had a
6-cylinder L-head engine, electric starting, and was on rubber. The
last one was sold in 1940.

Dent Parrett, who designed the Bradley, was a well-known
designer of tractors. He had built the Parrett 12-25 tractor
approximately 1918-1923. It had a four-cylinder cross-mounted
engine, two speeds, and unusually high front wheels. In 1934 and
1935, he had a new Parrett on the market, a small tractor with a
Hercules engine and pneumatic tires. It was built in Benton Harbor,
probably in the same factory that built the Bradley. There is a
Parrett tractor listed in the Earl Marhanka auction.

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