Was There Ever A Canadian Made Tractor?

| June/July 1985

Ontario Agricultural Museum, P.O. Box 38, Milton, Ontario, Canada L9T 2Y3

One of the challenging but frustrating aspects of the study of the history of tractor design and manufacture is that of the role of Canadian factories and Canadian companies in this field. A number of companies located in Canada, in Ontario mainly, who did take part in the great 'tractor sweepstakes' of 1910-1920 period when literally hundreds of designers and small factory owners tried to enter the tractor business. Some of the designs were simply not practicable, some were downright unworkable in the field and most managements lacked the finances to keep going in the face of trials and errors. In the end, they, like their counterparts in the United States, just folded up and left the tractor field to the big boys. Today, the situation has changed again as large implement companies find themselves in financial straits and the industry has become international. Now it is difficult to determine just where and by whom any tractor or tractor parts were actually manufactured. Most models are a mix of parts from many factories and often more than one country.

Yet this was the way it was in Canada right from the beginning; it is extremely doubtful that any tractor 'Made in Canada' was actually a totally Canadian product. Some parts, even such major items as the engine itself, were brought in from outside the country and just bolted to a Canadian frame.

In some cases that have been studied, the 'Canadian' content was little more than the name painted on the sides; even that is doubtful in some cases where the tractor was the spitting image of the recognized American make.

Another problem facing the Canadian tractor industry was the problem of the small and badly fragmented market. On the Prairie grain fields, the need was for huge ploughing machines and thresher power plants. In Ontario, where the greater proportion of Canadian farming is done, the need was for small, nimble machines that could work effectively on the rolling landscape of small, mixed and dairy farms.

One of the paradoxes of this situation is that the most successful manufacturer of truly Canadian big tractors, the Sawyer-Massey Company of Hamilton, Ontario, was located about 1,500 miles from its major markets on the western wheat fields. And at least one of these companies that struggled to survive in Western Canada, the Medicine Hat Machinery Co., turned out a tractor that was suitable for threshermen in Ontario and nowhere near big enough to be a prairie sod buster.