The Fate-Root-Heath Co.: Not Just Silver Kings
(Page 2 of 3)
Combining forces as Fate-Root-Heath Co.
John A. Root then married a sister of the Fate boys, and in 1919, the companies were married as well, resulting in the Fate-Root-Heath Co.
After the merger, the company embarked on an extensive building expansion program that included a 300 hp gas engine to provide power for the plant. The industrial locomotive line was enlarged, and models up to 120 tons were built. The F-R-H ceramic machinery, used by pottery, artware, electrical insulator and brick and tile indus tries, was quite successful until the widespread use of plastics cut deeply into this business. Ideal and Peerless sharpening machines for reel-type lawn mowers were another important product until rotary mowers became popular.
Staying afloat during hard times
The firm prospered during the “Roaring ’20s,” but fell on hard times when demand for locomotives dropped off during the Great Depression. General manager Charles Heath decided that a good way to keep the factory operating was to build a small, light-weight tractor for farms of 60 acres or less, most of which still used a team of horses for power.
The new tractor was introduced in 1933, and had a Hercules engine, and optional steel wheels. The little Plymouth tractor weighed 2,100 pounds, could pull a 14-inch one-bottom plow, and was painted silver with blue wheels. The word “Plymouth” was prominently cast into the vertical divider down the center of the V-shaped radiator.
Plymouth name dispute prompts adoption of Silver King
Not long after the Plymouth tractor appeared, Chrysler-Plymouth dealers started getting people in their show rooms wanting to buy a tractor. Walter Chrysler’s legal department swung into action, claiming ownership of the Plymouth name, which they had used on their low priced cars since 1928.
That is when the broken-down car finally earned its keep. It proved that Fate-Root-Heath had built a Plymouth car long before the Chrysler Corp. was even a gleam in Chrysler’s eye.
However, F-R-H sold the rights to the Plymouth name to Chrysler (reportedly for about $1) and cast about for a new name for their tractor. Because of the silver color, and because F-R-H felt its machine was “the king” of tractors, “Silver King” became the new name cast into the radiator divider.
F-R-H’s other enterprises
Now, back to corn shellers. A catalog issued by the Fate-Root-Heath Co. shortly after the 1919 merger lists four hand corn shellers.
The top of the line was the R-H model, which was finished in red and gold, and had a capacity of 14 to 16 bushels per hour. (I’m sure these advertised capacities had much more to do with the strength of the farmer’s back and arm than with the design of the machine.) Next was the black-painted Neverfail that could shell 10 to 14 bushels each hour. Both shellers were available with or without a butting and tipping attachment.