Minnesota-Based Tractor Companies
Since about 1905, 112 different tractor-manufacturing firms have called Minnesota home
This 45 hp single-crank, tandem compound steam traction engine was manufactured by the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. before it turned to making gasoline tractors. This steamer belongs to the Weater Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion group of Rollag, Minn.
The honor for the most tractor manufacturers goes to the state of Minnesota.
Best-known as the land of 10,000 lakes, the northern state has unofficially birthed 112 different tractor-manufacturing firms since about 1905. For comparison, industrial Ohio, agricultural Wisconsin and farmland-rich Iowa produced 81, 60 and 38 different tractor companies, respectively.
The Minneapolis-Moline Co.
A handful of those Minnesota tractor companies are very well known, such as the Minneapolis-Moline Co. The company was formed in 1929 by the merger of Moline Plow Co. of Moline, Ill., and two Minnesota tractor companies (Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. of Hopkins, Minn., and Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co. of Minneapolis).
The company manufactured – among others – the UDLX Comfortractor, designed so farmers could work in the comfort of an enclosed cab during the day, and drive the family into town on weekends. Farmers rejected the novel concept – only 125 or so were sold – but their rarity makes them more collectible. In fact, one recently sold at auction for the tidy sum of $111,000 (read more, “Going ... Going ... Gone!”).
Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. originally sold steam traction engines, but the firm built tractors starting in 1912, ranging from the 22,500-pound Model 40-80, down through the 6,400-pound Minneapolis All-Purpose Model 12-25. Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co. manufactured the well-known line of Twin City tractors between 1913-1920, which sported round, horizontal radiators and a large TC logo on the sides.
Prior to 1920, the company specialized in extremely large tractors such as the 28,000-pound Twin City Model 60-90 – which sold for an astounding $6,000 in 1917 – and the Model 40-65, which weighed 23,300 pounds and could pull up to 10,280 pounds. These behemoths usually pulled heavy breaking plows in the virgin sod of the prairie states. Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co. also manufactured smaller tractors such as the 12-20 and 17-28 models.
The Pioneer Tractor Co.
Other well-known Minnesota tractor companies included the Pioneer Tractor Co. of Winona, Minn., that built the luxurious Pioneer Model 30-60 tractor. It came equipped with curtains in the cab, removable windows and 8-foot-high rear drive wheels.
Pioneer also produced the prototype Model 45-90 with 9-foot-high rear drive wheels. One farmer joked that when the Model 30-60 misfired, the owner saved a quart of gasoline. A Pioneer Model 30-60 in average condition is worth about $40,000, according to C.H. Wendel’s Standard Catalog of Farm Tractors.
The Bull Tractor Co.
Then there was the Bull Tractor Co., whose meteoric rise and fall from first to forlorn was among the fastest in tractor history. Within a year of the Little Bull tractor’s introduction in late 1913, the company led the market in tractors sold.
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