Remembering the Innovative 3-Point Hitch Tractor

Ferguson enthusiasts commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first 3-point hitch tractor and other Ferguson milestones.

Henry Ford

Harry Ferguson with Henry Ford (left).

Photo courtesy Farm Collector Archives

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This year marks the 80th anniversary of commercial production of the world’s first 3-point hitch tractor, the Ferguson-Brown Type A. This year is also the 90th anniversary of Harry Ferguson’s patent for the device that is the basis of the Ferguson System of automatic draft control.

Harry Ferguson’s 3-point hitch with draft control revolutionized agriculture and has been hailed as the greatest innovation in farm mechanization, coupling tractor and implement in such a way that they operate as a single unit. Some form of Ferguson’s 3-point hitch is featured on nearly every tractor manufactured today.

Ferguson Enthusiasts of North America (FENA) is commemorating these anniversaries, as well as the anniversaries of other events in Ferguson history. A series of events, special displays and activities are planned at this year’s FENA Expo held in conjunction with the Ozarks Steam Engine Assn. and Southwest Missouri EDGE&TA Branch 16 Steam-O-Rama in Republic, Missouri, Sept. 15-18.

From David Brown to Henry Ford

The Ferguson-Brown Type A was produced by the U.K.-based David Brown Co. from 1936 to January 1939. David Brown also produced the world’s first 3-point hitch implements, the Ferguson Type B 2-bottom plow, the Type C spring-trip cultivator (later called a tiller), the Type D ridger and the Type E row-crop cultivator. Those four implements remained in the Ferguson line, virtually unchanged, until Ferguson merged with Massey-Harris in 1953.

Three of those implements — the plow, cultivator and tiller — remained in the Massey Ferguson line well into the 1980s virtually unchanged, with the exception of the plow, which was improved. The tiller and cultivator are still in production today. That speaks volumes about the durability of those original Ferguson designs.

The Ferguson-Brown Type A led to the famous “handshake agreement” with Henry Ford in 1938. That partnership resulted in creation of the Ford-Ferguson 9N in 1939. When World War II-era restrictions on supplies of steel, copper and rubber were imposed, Ferguson responded by introducing the 2N.

The 2N debuted in 1942 with no starter, generator or battery, reducing the need for copper, and steel wheels, to eliminate the need for rubber tires. When material restrictions eased, those items were reinstated and the tractor continued to be called the 2N. When Henry Ford II assumed presidency of Ford Motor Co. and attempted to change the terms of the handshake agreement, Ferguson refused. Ford terminated the agreement on Dec. 31, 1946.

Marking Ferguson Innovation

FENA will also celebrate the 70th anniversary of the launch of the Ferguson TE-20 in England in 1946. When Ford Motor Co. management in England refused to honor the terms of the handshake agreement to produce the 9N in England, Harry Ferguson partnered with Standard Motors in Coventry, England, to produce the Ferguson TE-20. TE-20s were imported to the U.S. following the split with Ford until TO-20 production began in Detroit in October 1948.

Other Ferguson milestones commemorated this year include the 60th anniversary of Ferguson 35 production in the U.K. in 1956, and the 60th anniversary of Ferguson 40 production in Detroit beginning in 1956. Both  of these models featured new Ferguson innovations like a dual disc clutch providing live PTO and hydraulics, improved top link draft sensing and a ground speed PTO perfectly suited for Ferguson’s 3-point hitch hay rake. These milestones will be celebrated in the U.K. by the Friends of Ferguson Heritage, an English group dedicated to promoting and preserving the legacy of Harry Ferguson.

Ferguson continued to develop cutting edge designs and patented a hay mower with no pitman, side-mounted hay baler, forage harvester and combine, a parallel bar side delivery rake, trip shank tillers, and pressure-control hitches providing Ferguson System weight transfer to trailed implements. Ferguson was devoted to improving world agriculture and the lot of the farmer. He believed farm mechanization was the key to making food plentiful and inexpensive, improving everyone’s wellbeing and ultimately promoting world peace.

For more information:

• Harry Ferguson’s landmark invention (“Apparatus for Coupling Agricultural Implements to Tractors Automatically Regulating the Depth of Work”) is covered in U.K. patent no. 253,566, issued June 14, 1926.

• Established in 2001, FENA is dedicated to preserving the heritage of Harry Ferguson, Ferguson System tractors and equipment and youth outreach. FENA publishes a magazine, Ferguson Furrows, five times a year. The August 2016 edition will include an in-depth booklet on Ferguson’s farm equipment accomplishments. Online at www.fergusontractors.org; email: judy-kitson@canyoncountry.net.

• For a commemorative publication on Harry Ferguson, contact Friends of Ferguson Heritage at www.fofh.co.uk; email: fofh@talktalk.net.

• Ozarks Steam Engine Assn. and Southwest Missouri EDGE&TA Branch 16 Steam-O-Rama in Republic, Missouri, Sept. 15-18, featuring Gaar-Scott steam engines, Ferguson tractors and Chase gas engines. Contact Jeff Ruth, 8984 St. Hwy. U, Rogersville, MO 65742; (417) 767-4632; www.steamorama.com.


¬≠Robert Sybrandy is the technical advisor for Ferguson Enthusiasts of North America (FENA). A former Massey Ferguson dealer, he has worked on Ferguson and Massey Ferguson tractors and equipment most of his life. His column, “Harry’s Toolbox,” appears in Ferguson Furrows. Contact Robert at r_sybrandy@yahoo.com.