The Nebraska Tractor Test Law,1919-1927


| November/December 1970



Bluegrass Steam and Gas Engine Show

Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.

Joe Fahnestock

History Dept., Midwestern University, Wichita Falls, Texas 76308.

An event of far-reaching importance was the almost unanimous approval of House Roll Bill Eighty-five by the thirty-seventh session of the Nebraska State Legislature March 13, 1919. The bill provided for the 'official tests of gas, gasoline, kerosene, distillate, or other liquid-fuel traction engines in the State of Nebraska, and to compel the maintenance of adequate service stations for same.'

Wilmot F. Crozier, who drafted the bill and was one of its major backers, was prompted to seek regulation of the tractor trade after a series of unhappy experiences with some early models. Crozier purchased a Ford tractor in 1916; the machine had no connection with Ford Motor Company but rather had been produced by a Minnesota-based concern using the name of one of their engineers hoping to exploit the Ford name. The Polk County farmer had so much trouble with the tractor that he demanded and received a replacement. The second tractor was equally unreliable and Crozier finally dumped it for a used Bull tractor in 1917. Only after purchasing a new Rumely Oil Pull did W. F. Crozier receive adequate service from a tractor.

That many tractors offered for sale were little more than experimental models and parts service often a mere hollow promise became painfully clear to farmers who bought tractors from many of the small, struggling companies. Similar experiences of other farmers and editorial comment in farm publications lead Crozier to propose the bill and he found wide-spread positive sentiment in the legislature.

There had been similar moves to establish a regulatory agency to test tractors in 1915. The farm equipment industry and others sought standardized tractor horsepower ratings, there was considerable sentiment that the federal government should establish a National Testing Station. Tractor and engine competitions held after the Winnipeg Field Trials varied so widely in test procedures, policies, equipment, and operation and adjustment of the tractors that results were inconclusive. Fortunately however, all national and regional competition results were turned over to the major sponsor, the National Implement and Vehicle Association and to the respective manufacturers for their own confidential use.

The Bureau of Standards in the Commerce Department and the Office of Farm Management in the Department of Agriculture were assumed to be likely agencies to handle such a testing program should the federal government assume responsibility. In 1917, the A. S. A. E. was instrumental in the introduction of a bill calling for the creation of a separate bureau in the U. S. D. A. called the Bureau of Agricultural Engineering. Though the creation of the proposed bureau was eventually accomplished, no enabling funds for conducting tractor tests were forthcoming.