2009 North American Massey Expo

Platte County Steam & Gas Club hosts the 2009 Massey Expo in Show-Me State

Harry Bowen with his 1941 Massey-Harris 202

Harry Bowen, Orangeville, Ill., with his 1941 Massey-Harris 202 at the 2009 North American Massey Expo.

Jerry Schleicher

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August found throngs of Massey enthusiasts heading for the Platte County (Mo.) Steam & Gas Show at Tracy, just outside Kansas City, Mo.

Celebrating its 48th anniversary, the Platte County Steam & Gas Club hosted the 2009 North American Massey Expo, with collectors bringing in more than 200 of the most coveted Massey-Harris, Wallis, Massey Ferguson and Ferguson models to be found.

“We had some of the largest collections of Masseys ever exhibited at any show I’ve attended,” says Charlie Kline, Agency, Mo., event organizer and chairman of the Missouri Massey Collectors Assn. “For example, we had 11 of the 200 Series Masseys displayed on our front line, including 201s, 202s and 203s, the most I’ve ever seen at one time. They only had one of each model at the 150th anniversary Massey show.

“We also had 10 Massey-Harris General Purpose tractors that Massey built after acquiring the Wallis Tractor Co. from J.I. Case Plow Works in 1928. There were two Massey vineyard tractors, including a one-of-a-kind BR 549 experimental model, and 10 Massey-Harris Pony tractors exhibited by Robert and Evelyn Alpers, Stover, Mo. We even had a 3-wheeled Bull tractor, our oldest Massey on display, which was built for Massey by the Bull Tractor Co. from 1915 to 1917.”

200 Series dates to World War II

Charlie, who grew up with his dad’s Masseys, brought 20 tractors from his collection to the show, including a 201, 202 and 203. Massey’s 200 series was produced from 1940 through 1947 in Ontario, Canada. During that time, Massey shifted into production of war materiel and government regulations restricted tractor manufacture, so tractor production runs were modest, particularly of the 201 and 202 models.

All three models have essentially the same running gear, transmission, rear end, wheels and tires, but different engines. The 201 was built with a 240-cubic-inch Chrysler, the 202 with a 290-cubic-inch Chrysler, and the 203 with a Continental 330-cubic-inch engine. None was tested at Nebraska; each was rated as a 4- to 5-plow tractor, a large tractor in the 1940s. The 203 was initially a distillate tractor; the later 203G used gas.

Harry Bowen, a well-known collector from Orangeville, Ill., brought several Masseys to the show, including a 201, 202 and 203. “The first 200 Series Massey I acquired was a 201 I found in Iowa,” he says. “It was in great shape as far as the body and tinwork were concerned, but it had a cracked block, which we were able to drill and pin. Then I found a 202 in Wisconsin in pretty rough shape. But since it’s the rarest one (Massey only produced 223 of that model), we went completely through the engine, did some body work, had it painted and finally brought it back to show condition. Eventually, I completed the set with a very nice restored 203 that I bought from a gentleman in South Dakota. It’s just like I found it, other than new tires.”

Equipment joins display

The display also included vintage Massey farm equipment. Charles McDonald, Central City, Iowa, exhibited a 1940s Massey manure spreader. “I have about 33 Massey tractors in my collection,” he says, “including 22s, 30s, 33s and 44s, as well as a 44 Special, a 444 and a 333. But I still use them on the farm, so most of them are still in their everyday clothes.”

Tom Seaberg, a young enthusiast from Moorhead, Minn., brought a wooden Wallis thresher he owns in partnership with his grandfather. Powered by a 1917 or 1918 4-cylinder Wallis Cub gasoline tractor, the nearly century-old machine still had plenty of muscle as it went to work during the show, threshing loads of wheat.

“We didn’t get much history about the thresher when we bought it, but it was made by Sawyer-Massey Co. (a sister company to Massey-Harris) around 1922 or 1923,” Tom explains. “My grandpa and I bought it a year ago in Tilden, Neb., and the only work we’ve done on it was to replace some wood on the feeder housing. We took it to the national Massey show last year, but this is the first time we’ve run it.”

The Bicycle Man

Attend any major Massey show, and there’s a good chance you’ll meet Roger Goodrich, also known as “The Bicycle Man.” Roger, a collector from Lake Crystal, Minn., has put together a unique collection of 11 Massey-Harris bicycles.

Massey-Harris diversified into the fast-growing bicycle market in 1895, when the company acquired Canadian rights from the Pope Bicycle Co. to produce the Columbia bicycle. The following year, Massey introduced a Gentlemen’s Model 1 and a Ladies’ Model A, both with 28-inch wheels. The men’s model was built on a 23-inch frame and the ladies’ model on a 19-inch frame. Both bicycles sold for $85 (about $2,200 in today’s terms), a bargain compared to average bikes of the day, which sold for $100-110 ($2,500-2,800 today). Two new models were brought out the following year; a year later the line expanded to include three ladies’ models and five men’s models. The bicycles were offered in black or maroon enamel, with wooden rims and all-steel frames. Handlebars and pedals were finished in nickel over copper.

“I started collecting Massey-Harris bicycles about 10 years ago, and I guess my collection is still growing,” Roger says. “It’s a challenge to find them, but it’s a thrill when you do. I went to a swap meet in Canada one day, hoping to find just one, and I ended up coming home with four. I brought nine to this show, including four with wooden rims and five with steel rims.”

One of Roger’s most unusual bicycles is a chainless model with a drive shaft originally made by Pope Bicycle Co. and sold by Massey-Harris. “There are no serial numbers on the bicycles, but I believe it was made around 1896 or 1897,” he explains. “I prefer to keep my bicycles in original condition, but this particular model was repainted at some time, and the pedals have been replaced. Otherwise, it looks just like it did at the factory.” FC