Legends of the Silver King Tractors
Multifaceted company generates tractor with enduring appeal
Left: The R66 Model Silver King tractor could plow five acres in a day, pulling one 14-inch plow with its Hercules 3-inch-by-4-inch bore and stroke engine.
The Silver King tractor and Fate-Root-Heath Co.
of Plymouth, Ohio, are the stuff of legends: Did Walter Chrysler
forget to secure the rights to the "Plymouth" name? Was the Silver
King so-named because of the silver sheen of a live plant? Did Mae
West own 90 Silver Kings for use in her California vineyard? These
rumors have made excellent fodder for stories about the Silver King
tractor and its companies.
What is known is that John D. Fate was involved in several early
companies, all manufacturers of brick and drain tile, in Plymouth:
J.D. Fate Co. in 1884, Fate-Freeze in 1888 and Fate Gunsallus Co.
in 1894, reverting to J.D. Fate Co. a couple of years after each
merger. In 1909, Fate moved in a different direction, organizing
the Plymouth Truck Co. to build gasoline trucks and buses. And in
1910, the company manufactured a lone Plymouth automobile.
Back to the drawing board
More than two decades later, this single Plymouth auto would
cause problems. Like other manufacturers of the time, Plymouth
Truck Co. decided to make a car to sell, the Plymouth Gasoline
Pleasure Vehicle. Wisely, company directors took the car on a
maiden trip to New York City. Halfway there, a cylinder casting
broke, so they loaded the auto onto a railroad flatcar, themselves
into a coach car, and headed home. On the way, they decided to
limit car production to one unit.
In 1912, the company was asked to manufacture a commercial
locomotive. Locomotives quickly became the company's most
profitable product, and trucks, buses and cars were dropped from
In 1919, the Root Brothers Co. and the Heath Foundry combined
with the Fate Co. to form Fate-Root-Heath Co. J.D. Fate, Percy Root
and Charley Heath were the principals. The company continued to
manufacture locomotives and clay extrusion machinery.
The Great Depression of the 1930s hit FRH hard. As orders for
Plymouth locomotives dwindled to nothing, management decided they
needed a new product. In 1933, the company began manufacturing the
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