The REAL Fordson, Part III

By Staff
1 / 8
Early 1917 imported to England. Note: 'blank' radiator casts, early metal pulley, small hex cast-iron front hub caps, repaired front wheels, incorrect rear wheels, steering wheel, radiator cap, etc.
2 / 8
Dec. 1917 parts book (earliest known in the U.S., only copy. Note 1917 date).
3 / 8
Artist's conception of a MOM from the Dec. 1917 manual, earliest manual found in the U.S., formerly belonging to Lawer Smith, N.Y., who had either a Canadian GPF, or an early Fordson F. Note checklist #7, early MOM gas starting tank, & #17, front cast iro
4 / 8
Front cover, earliest manual. Note factories at Dearborn and Cork.
5 / 8
6 / 8
1920 Production list (Ford Service Bulletin).
7 / 8
Front wheel round roller bearings. Note round ball bearings, not later tapered ball bearings.
8 / 8
The Fordson assembly line as pictured in 1920. Note conveyor belts, bins, large 'washer' with 'smokestack' air vent.

National Director, Fordson Tractor Club, 250 Robinson Road Cave
Junction, Oregon, 97523, and Thomas G. Brent, Canadian Fordson,
Branch Director, Box 150 Dewdney, B.C. Canada, V0M 1H0

Since the publication of Part II (X-9 Series) of the ‘REAL
Fordson Story’, no one has provided any new or conflicting
evidence. Nor has anyone brought forth information on the
‘missing’ manifold and carburetor of the X-9, tractor
formerly at the Ford Museum. As the real Fordson story continues,
new facts will: unveil clouded history, list production numbers
week-by-week, and picture the characteristics that set the
‘MOM’ apart from earlier ‘Ford and Son’ tractors,
and later ‘Fordson’ tractors.

The first mass-produced tractors by Ford (the MOMS) were a breed
apart, and are represented by a handful now mostly restored some 70
years later.

Just about every article or book published to this date reads
something to the effect that ‘The first 6,000 FORDSON tractors
were sent to England for the War effort (WWI).’ However, this
statement is more fictional than fact.

So much has been left out, so many incorrect ‘facts’
have been perpetrated, so many myths have arisen, that it is now
time to place this tractor (familiarly known as the MOM) into its
proper niche in history.

First, where did the pseudonymn or nickname of ‘MOM’
come from? As is well known, English-speaking people, and
especially Americans have a penchant to turn initials of
organizations or people into nicknames. Hence: NASA, IRA, SWAT,
MADD, and probably a dozen more each reader can recall. MOM is
derived from the Ministry Of Munitions, the branch of the British
Government newly established in 1914 with Lloyd George at its head
to procure necessary war materials. Placed in charge in 1916 of
this War Agency was Percival Lee Dewhurst Perry (later Lord
Perry).

The new prime minister at the time, Lloyd George (who had
succeeded Asquith) gave Sir Perry carte blanche to get the
tractors-for-food-farms project going. Perry was prime-mover and
founder, along with Henry Ford, of the Ford Motor Company Ltd., at
55 Shaftesbury Avenue, London.

Perry was a natural for the Food Production Board, having been
one of the officials working with the Royal Agricultural Society
earlier to test farm tractors for possible use. We must surely
consider his background when the Henry Ford and Son tractor was
picked over others.

Perhaps no pun is intended, but it can also be suggested that
this term MOM would have a parental connotation, similar to other
terms heard: ‘Fordson, the grandaddy of all modern
mass-produced tractors’, and: ‘The tractor that put the
farmer on wheels, just as the Model T put people on wheels’.
This is not to say that the Fordson, or the Model T was the best,
but that from their low cost and mass production, they were the
most.

While many American authors use the term ‘MOM’, Michael
Williams in his book, Ford and Fordson Tractors as printed in
England does not refer to the term at all. Allan Condie in his
numerous publications from Scotland and England only uses the term
MOM fleetingly. Certainly the tractor was not referred to as MOM in
its early production days, so when this familiar nickname came into
use is really not known.

This then takes us back to the 1917-1918 period when the tractor
was known as the ‘Ford’ tractor, or the ‘Henry Ford and
Son’ tractor. The name Fordson was not commonly in use yet.
Earliest use of ‘Fordson’ appears in print in parenthesis
on an original MOM parts book only recently found in England by
Phil Reed, the only one known to exist! This parts book, while
lacking an actual date printed on it, had to be sent with the first
MOM’s delivered, so we can presume the printing date to be
sometime prior to October 8, 1917! Meanwhile, in the United States,
the earliest form of the name Fordson was in use as a cablegram
address with this heading on February 18, 1918, but not used on the
tractor itself until early April. An earlier reference is found on
‘Fordson tractors’ in the Canadian Government publication
of March, 1918. Therefore, when we hear that ‘6,000 Fordsons
were shipped…’, this statement is incorrect, as these
tractors were still a prototype Fordson, with many unique early
features closer to the last in the ‘X’ series. If this
tractor did not say Fordson on it, how can it be one? Instead,
these were simply called the MOM tractors. So while it may appear
to be nitpicking, the real MOM story has been overlooked,
simplified and abbreviated way out of proportion to its historical
importance. So now, the REAL Fordson story continues with the
‘Mysterious MOM myth’.

History

While still not a true Fordson, the MOM fits in the evolutionary
scale between the earlier prototypes, and later true American
Fordson ‘F’ models. Following will be some basic facts
already known, along with some that have never been published
before, which is hoped will correct all previous writings on
tractor history.

While drastic improvements had been made in the few short months
between the Farkus uni-frame and the MOM model, we may ever wonder
forever why still further distinctive casting and other
manufacturing changes were introduced in the mid-production of the
MOMs. Perhaps these related directly to the field use of the early
ones on the scene when shortcomings were immediately observed. Or
perhaps Ford found a way to cut production costs without
sacrificing quality. One noticeable example was the recasting of
the block moving the oil filler from the rear to the front. These
rear filler engines are very rare, but good examples exist. No
doubt changes were greatly influenced by Ford’s two rules: (1)
Simplicity of parts easy to manufacture and assemble, and (2) cut
costs, cut costs, cut costs! His obsession with a $200 tractor for
every farmer dictated these guidelines and objectives. Certainly
Britain was in need of a tough, durable and small tractor that
women (and perhaps children) could operate as manpower and
horsepower were at the war front.

Ford kept a picture he remembered from his youth, of how a cat
climbed a tree. It was not the cat’s weight but the
‘tractive’ forces in the claws which got the cat up the
tree. For his tractor he wanted a self-contained unit which would
be light, strong and so simple that anyone could drive it and which
would propel itself forward pulling the plow by nonslipping contact
with the soil.

The complete MOM story cannot be told in a simple paragraph, as
the complete financial, political and production complications of
this period need to be considered.

In the early years of the war, Henry Ford had been a confirmed
pacifist, then later, in a turn-a-bout, offered the full facilities
of his manufacturing plant(s) to the war effort.

Events outside his control enabled I Ford to realize his dream
of being the first to mechanize plowing in such radically new ways.
Although he was appalled by the 1914-1918 War in’ Europe, his
canny industrial sense enabled him to see it as an opportunity to
turn over some of his capacity to tractor production and capture
the world market. In addition, a small successful tractor would
tell its own tale in favor of Ford’s public stance on the side
of plow-shares in preference to swords. Even when Ford allowed
himself to be entangled in the 1916 peace-ship expedition to
Europe, he would call a press conference, not to expound his plans
for ending the war, but mainly to give surprised journalists
details of his new tractor, the earlier Farkus uni-frame, then
testing in England. Enter the Ministry of Munitions with orders to
‘Get farm machinery quick and at any cost’. Other American
and English tractor manufacturers were already on the scene. A
number of tractor manufacturers were making smaller and lighter
tractors, a trend away from the huge steam and gas models

In alphabetical order: Allis Chalmers, Avery, Bull, Case,
Emerson-Brantingham, Hart Parr, La Crosse, Mogul (IH, distributed
by McCormick), Overtime (British name for the Waterloo Boy
‘N’), Titan (IH distributed by Deering) and with English
and European makes like: Deutz, Fiat, Marshall, Munk-tells, and
Saunderson, some ready with development of a smaller model.

Many of these already had been produced, tested, shipped and put
into operation by British farmers, with perhaps Deutz and others
eliminated shortly, being of the enemies’ production. Why then
the sudden switch to the untried Ford and Son tractor which at that
time was not only not in production, but not even finished in
design! Even the most optimistic date of beginning production could
not place them on the British farm for the 1917 fall tilling.

Enter Politics! Evidently Lord Perry, along with Lord
Northcliffe, overcame the objections of many in ordering the Ford
product. The whys and wherefores are discussed fully in other
authors’ works. Certainly there were negative feelings on the
part of many British officials as well as English and American
manufacturers, to single out a few of those disgruntled. Many
chapters can be briefly summarized:

The British Government was irked because after arranging to have
various makes of tractors tested, their  
recommendations   from the results were ignored.

The American Government held to a ‘hands off policy, let
Ford do what he wanted as long as taxes were paid.

The British manufacturers were angry that tractors made on the
home soil were practically ignored. The other American tractor
manufacturers were upset that their ‘tried and proven’
machines were cut out of the running.

The British journalists were having a field day berating Ford
for his ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ policy of the switch from
hard-handed pacifism to his ‘Savior of the British Farmer’
role reversal.

The American journalists also were having a field day printing
everything they could get their hands on about the ‘New Tractor
For Everyone’.

The British manufacturers and parts suppliers were out much
needed American dollars as their contracts to supply the original
English (or Cork) plant were cancelled. (As it was, they were
actually tied up with British war contracts anyway).

The established American manufacturers were disappointed because
instead of contacting many of them, Ford encouraged new ones to be
the suppliers.

The British public was simply awed by Ford’s overwhelming
presence now on the war scene.

The American public was distressed that England was taking over
‘their Ford’.

The British farmer wanted to buy the tractors he wanted on the
Anglo-Saxon free marketplace.

The American farmer was denied the tractor they had been waiting
for as ‘all production was scheduled for Britain’. (This
actually was not true!)

Perhaps this over-simplifies matters, and there is much, much
more to read ‘between the lines’. No doubt Ford’s
proven track record of ‘mass-production’ was the bottom
line. Even then, Lord Northcliffe was sent over to smooth over the
problems.

As early as 1912, Ford had wanted to build a plant at Cork to
assemble Model T’s. Cork was the nearest European port to
America, and Ford wished to give Ireland a share in the new
industrial age since this was the ancestral home of the Fords. When
the tractor issue came up, Perry decided to approach Ford and
persuade him to revive this plan and to build tractors there to
help the Allies. But too many delays came up in installing the
wharf-side plant. The proposed English plant was turned into
aircraft manufacturing.

Besides, when Sorenson first tried to get British factories to
make the tractors in the British Isles, the lowest bid was $1,500
per unit with no promise of when they would be delivered. Ford
retorted optimistically when asked if he could then build them in
the U.S.: ‘We will make 5,000 in Michigan at a unit cost of
$700, and start shipping in 60 days!’ At this point it is
necessary to set up the historical perspective in a workable time
frame. To do this, a period of time must be considered prior to
October 8, 1917 when the first production MOM stood complete at the
end of the assembly line, and the several months after that date
while the production line was being smoothed out.Unfortunately, the
‘testing records’ are missing, (some burned in the 1970
museum fire), leaving a gap between the Farcus uni-frame model
which did see some testing, to the later Nebraska testing. Henry
Ford certainly had enough experience with testing. Henry himself
had a much longer interest in motorized farm vehicles than in
motorized cars. Many more hours and much more money was spent on
prototypes and in testing tractors than his earlier model cars,
even up to the time of the introduction of the Model A. With the
creation, production and subsequent shipment of the MOMs to
England, there came a free testing ground never experienced by a
major manufacturer before and certainly a bonus to Ford.

But Ford had everything in his favor. At one important time in
history Ford had the best collection of brainy engineers and
executives ever assembled for one company at one time. These would
include the brains of Avery, Farkus, Galamb, Kanzler, Knudsen,
Sorensen and others, not counting the genius of Ford himself.
Besides the companies he helped start and financed through his
orders as mentioned in the ‘Real Fordson, Part II’, the
Ferro Machine and Foundry Company of Cleveland, Ohio cast the
transmission housings on the early tractors. Several other
Cleveland companies also were new suppliers for parts, bearings,
etc. The Hercules engine plant was in Ohio  at Canton. For
some reason, after Michigan, Ford seemed to favor the industries of
Ohio.

Other ‘jobbers’ he favored were closer to home. The
Holley Brothers’ Carburetor Company was already located in
Detroit, as well as the Long Cooling Systems Company who provided
radiators for Model T’s and now the MOM. Long advertised that
their radiators were used in ’28 trucks, 19 cars and 16
tractors’.

Many entirely new projects had to’ be brought together: the
engine design, the ignition, the wheels, the carburetor system,
even special tools to fit the tractor. For tools, Ford turned to
his trusty Model T supplier, and even used some already made that
would fit both the car and tractor. These tools exist in the
earliest parts book, but if they still did not use Fordson logos
yet, there is no sure way of identifying original ones.

Even what might appear to be trivial had elephantine
proportions, especially when this was a ‘first time’. For
example, an operator’s manual and parts book had to be devised
with a numbering system assigned to each new part. None of this
book existed before! Of course, Ford could pattern these after the
Model T, which he did! So we have the familiar ‘Question and
Answer’ manual. This manual had to be ready by the time the
first tractor finished the assembly line. They were printed as
major changes in parts were taking place! These changes were noted
in the article on the X-9. One original manual for the MOM is known
to still exist in England.

Official caption reads: ‘Arrival in Canada of first
Fordson’s May, 1918. (1) Mr. Taylor (Ford), (2) Mr. Fox (Ford),
(3) Mr. A. Howard Fisher, (first purchaser), (4) Mr. W. Groh (in
front of 3rd tractor. Copy from this original print was placed in
Ford Motor archives by Mr. Ralph Cudmore in June of 1958.’ This
date is probably incorrect, unless some of the MOMs had been left
over and no room to ship to England. Also note the painted on Henry
Ford & Son on the front radiator casting, very similar to later
American Fordson F gas tanks’ ends. The name is in a crescent
shaped form. These are all rear oil filler engines, but larger
front hub caps.

Known today as ‘Henry’s Antique Building’, this
structure was originally Building #13 where the MOM’s were
actually assembled, recalling that most parts (English
‘bits’ or ‘spares’) were farmed out in the early
days of production: that is, manufactured by other companies, many
of which came into existence for the first time producing the many
parts to be supplied to these side conveyors for the Henry Ford and
Son tractor.

Numbering System

As we continue the ‘Mysterious MOM Myth’, a whole story,
and certainly a large chapter could be written on the REAL
numbering system of the MOM’s and Fordsons. The Ford-son
Tractor Club has in its library seven ‘official’ motor
number lists, some month by month, for the ‘Fordson’
tractor. No two are alike! However, most agree somewhat on the 1917
and 1918 figures, except the total in 1917. Some sources claim 254,
while others have printed 259 by the end of the year. This
difference is minor, and may even differ solely because of a slight
variation in completed tractors, between Christmas and New
Year’s, with the holidays interrupting the assembly line. The
official Ford Service Bulletin of Jan. 15, 1920 prints the 259
number, while the Ford Service Bulletin of Aug-Sept. 1930, claims
only 254. However, the very official month-by-month printout
furnished by the Edison Institute agrees with the 259 figure, so
we’ll accept this number.

But by taking either accounting, some interesting statistics can
be computed. All the time we must keep in mind the supposition that
Ford was out to prove his record of mass production, so not only
was great care taken to lay out the new plant for speedy assembly,
but also Ford expected monthly increases in production.

The Edison Institute figures show 1-75 assembled in October,
none in November, and76-259 assembled in December, or 183 for that
month. The 1920 Service Bulletin states that 75 were manufactured
in October and November, and agrees with the Edison figures of
76-259 in December.

Since these are only general numbers, we must take them with a
grain of salt. Still, they do give us some clue as to how
production actually went. First of all, we can throw out the first
week in October as all histories agree the first MOM came off the
production line on Oct. 8. There is a good possibility that it took
all week to make that first one, trying out each conveyor, learning
how to handle the castings, and figuring out the best way to lay
out parts to then put them together. Now that their workers knew
how to put the tractor together, they then increased their
production to make nearly one a day, considering a 6 day work-week:
(The exact days per week are not considered, and all calendar
numbers following are rounded off for convenience

October 1-7…

..1

(Actually finished Oct. 8)

October 8-14..

..4

October 15-22.

..5

October 23-31.

..6

16

Assembling one a day the last two weeks in October, a total of
16 then was probably reached in October. Now each man knew his job.
Parts were in the bins and on the side and overhead conveyors,
production could be sped up, so for November:

November 1-7___

.12

(Two per day)

November 8-14…

.12

(Two per day)

November 15-22..

.18

(Three per day)

November 23-31..

.18

(Three per day)

60

For the first two weeks in November, assembly numbers had
climbed to nearly 2 a day, and the last two weeks up to nearly 3 a
day, now totaling those 76 for October and November. This now
leaves 183 to be accounted for in December.

December 1-7

Week Day

48 8 (or 1 per hour!)

December 8-14

48 8

December 15-22

48 8

144

For the first three weeks in December it can be determined that
production was ‘upped’ from 3 a day to 8 a day. The workers
were now in synchronization. By noting the figures above, 144 from
the total of 183 produced in January leaves 39 or slightly fewer
than 8 a day for the last week. A drop in production? Not
necessarily so. This was Christmas week, so production figures
might have gone like this: (Not counting which day was actually
Christmas, so we’ll call it ‘Saturday’)

Monday…..

..8 (one per hour)

Tuesday…..

..8

Wednesday .

..8

Thursday …

..8

Friday…..

..7

39

Ford was no doubt pleased with his workers’ output, and
probably gave them an extra hour off Christmas Eve day to account
for one less that Friday!

In conclusion for 1917, we have a total of 16 in October, 60 in
November, 144 the first 3 weeks in December, and 39 the last week,
giving us the agreed upon total of 259 on the official production
lists.

Now everyone knew his job, parts were coming in on time from all
the’ suppliers, the assembly line can now be sped up, so for
January, production figures show from 260-616, or 356 produced. We
can well imagine the confidence of the workers as they started the
new year and caught the contagious enthusiasm of Ford and his
engineers to speed up the production line and fulfill the British
order.

Week

Day

Jan 1-7

84

14

(+2 extra for Fri&Sat)

Jan 8-14

90

15

(1st week has New

Jan 15-22

90

15

Years Day…

Jan 23-31

90

15

a day off?)

354 2

+2 for Fri&Sat above

356

This then, was exactly what Ford wanted, a gradual increase in
production figures. Now to increase production still further! For
February, the ex-brick plant produced from 617-1731 or a total of
1,114. Using the charts above, this would figure out to increased
production of nearly triple for February of 278 per week, or 46 per
day, almost 6 per hour. For this it must be presumed that Ford now
had more than one conveyor in action, perhaps several being fed by
side conveyors. Up to now the factory had produced a total of 1,729
units.

For March, there was again a slight increase. The numbers
produced were from 1,732 to 3,082 or a total of 1,350. This again
increased to 340 per week, 56 per day, 7 per hour.

Engine #s

Total

Week

Day

Hour

Feb.

617-1731

1114

278

46

6

Mar

1732-3082

1350

340

56

7

This grand total was now 1,729 for the months of October,
November, December, January and February, and with 1,350 in March
this comes to 3,079 ‘MOM’s’, or about half the number
ordered by Great Britain.

But now ‘comes the rub’ as Shakespeare would say. Two
problems must be considered before progressing with further
production figures. One would be the actual number shipped to
England by this date, and the dramatic ‘skip’ in all
official production lists. First, let’s look again at those
figures.

We find:

February….

. . .617 to 1731

March…..

1732 to 3082

April……

3083 to 3900 6901 to 7608

(All lists show these figures for April.)

May……

7609 to 9580

June……

9581 to 11937

July……

11938 to 15225

August…..

15226 to 18637

September ..

18638 to 22247

October ….

22248 to 26287

First, let’s skip for the time being past April, and go to
May figures. For May these read 7609-9580… or a total of 1,971.
This would then increase Ford’s production figures to 463 a
week and 77 per day.

June would find the numbers between 9581-11, 937 produced, (a
total of 580 a week, 98 per day). Lets now place May through
October in a chart, again skipping April for the time being:

Total

Week

Day

Hour

May

1971

463

77

10 (nearly)

June

2356

589

98

12

July

3287

822

137

17

August

3411

853

139

17 plus

Sept.

3604

902

150

19

Oct.

4039

1009

168

21

After a year of production, Ford had dramatically increased his
assembly production, leveling off to a general peak of about 20 an
hour.

The conclusion of the ‘Mysterious MOM Myth’ will be
printed in the September issue when at that time the
‘missing’ April production figures will be clarified,
correcting all previous printed data on the MOM assembly figures.
Also the characteristics and special parts of the MOM will be
discussed and pictured further.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines