Happy Days for Happy Farmers
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The company followed with other tractors. The Model F sold for $1,075 in 1919, and the non-line-drive Model G, which was a Model F with four wheels, instead of three, in 1920. In 1922 the company released the four-wheel Model H. Models F, G and H were all 12-24s, and upgraded models that carried the same engine and similar body size, weight and other specifications. The motto for the 12-24s was 'Sell one to your enemy and make a friend.'
The La Crosse Happy Farmer Tractor Co. also curiously produced a second line-drive tractor, the Model M, a 7-12 four-wheeled machine, in 1920, when the variety of the company's other models suggests that its tractors sold well. Though the Model M's rear frame design was similar to other Happy Farmer tractors, the front half of the four-wheel design made it look different. Most notably, its radiator and gas tank were in entirely different positions. The M was recommended as a single-plow tractor - as opposed to three for other models - and used a 4- by 6-inch bore and stroke two-cylinder engine compared to the 6- by 7-inch two-cylinder engine in the others.
Perhaps the introduction of the Model G and Model M line-drive tractors are a clue that the La Crosse Tractor Co. was struggling financially, and it tried to gain another share of the market, especially since most other tractors companies had abandoned the line-drive concept.
The Great Agricultural Depression struck in 1920, and the company limped along for two more years, until the Oshkosh Tractor Co. was organized to take over the La Crosse Tractor Co. in 1922.
Negotiations, however, weren't successful, and a short piece in Farm Implements & Tractors from Jan. 31, 1922 sounded the Happy Farmer death knell. 'It is announced that the Oshkosh Tractor Company, organized at Oshkosh, Wis., to take over the business of the La Crosse Tractor Company, formerly of LaCrosse, will not carry out its agreements although a factory site has been purchased and the foundation of the plant put in. The new corporation will liquidate as rapidly as possible, paying such obligations as have so far been contracted. It is reported from La Crosse that the original owners of the business will resume under the name of the La Crosse Tractor Company.'
A grand and happy wish, but it never materialized. Like hundreds of other 'orphan tractors' from the time, the Happy Farmer tractor soon went the way of the farm horse.
Making a tractor engine in 1920
The Sta-Rite Engine plant, the forerunner of the La Crosse Tractor Co., manufactured the Happy Farmer tractor line. This story about how engines were made was printed in the La Crosse Times, Aug. 30, 1912:
'At the south end of the plant on the ground floor is the foundry. In this department a score of men are continually working with clay, forming molds which are used for casting the iron parts which are later used in the construction of the engines. All of the cast iron parts, which are used in the Sta-rite engines, are manufactured in this department.