First Things

One Stunning Decade

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Memories Of A Former Kid

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Aggressive competition, countless start-up ventures, reinvented companies, rapidly evolving technologies, startling scientific discoveries, war and revolution … today? Yes, but also yesterday.

By happy accident, several articles in this issue of Farm Collector focus on a unique window in time, the years between 1910 and 1920. Bill Vossler looks at tractor makers who made the leap into car and truck production in the early years of the last century. Hank Will revisits the birth of the general purpose row crop tractor. Jim Boblenz recounts the Samson Sieve-Grip and the days when General Motors made a run at Ford. Sam Moore chimes in with Avery's amazing turnaround, made possible by the creation of a unique power transmission system. And nearly all of it happened in one stunning decade.

If you find the pace of change today to be uncomfortably brisk, "the good old days" of 1910-20 might cause your head to spin. In that decade, the first transcontinental and first transatlantic flights took place. Motion pictures and phonographs were dazzlingly new. By the end of the decade, cars and trucks were widely available to middle-class buyers. The world was shrinking fast, thanks to the arrival of the telephone, radio and faster ships. The Panama Canal opened, Einstein discovered the theory of relativity and social reform advanced at a dramatic and unprecedented pace. War and revolution touched nearly every country on the globe.

The history of that decade is a huge story, complex and multifaceted. It was an era when science and technology were seen as bigger than man … and yet, the unsinkable ship sank, and influenza proved deadly to millions. It was an era when ideas became reality almost overnight; when a man with an idea could become a manufacturer almost anywhere. There were dozens of car makers; the field was wide open … and then there was Ford, a colossus ruling an industry.

Things were quieter, perhaps, on the farm. But change was brewing. For farm equipment manufacturers, the era was marked by major shifts and transitions. Steam and stationary gas engines peaked in usage and technological sophistication, but would soon be cast aside. Tractors were clearly the wave of the future, but the technology was young and evolving. New concepts were welcomed, tested, embraced or abandoned. Sound familiar? It should. Change is, after all, the only constant.

Leslie McManus, Editor
lmcmanus@ogdenpubs.com