Tractor and Engine Nameplates

What's in a name(plate)? To a collector, everything!

A group of nameplates

A group of nameplates, including Bauer, Mogul, Webster, and Olds Gas & Gasoline Engine Works.

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Nameplates play an important role in collecting old engines and tractors. Many of the original plates have been removed over the years, and have been lost. (or stolen, as happens from time to time at auctions or shows. The people who steal nameplates shouldn't be welcome in our hobby.) 

People who have loose plates should make them available to collectors, so they can end up with the engine, tractor or equipment they originated with. I know a few people who collect nameplates, and they do make an interesting collection. Most of them will let a plate go if you have a need for it, or something to trade.

I know of one farmer who saved all of the plates from his old engines when the engines wore out. When the engines were scrapped, he nailed up the plates in his shed. I have also heard of a few scrap men who have saved plates off engines, tractors and equipment they had scrapped, and sometimes have a bucket or box of them to dig through. I also know of at least two examples of collectors finding a number of NOS plates from an old manufacturing company that were never stamped or used.

Another good place to find original plates is at the many engine and tractor swap meets held by clubs all over the country. Many different plates show up on vendor's loads of old iron. Several parts suppliers who carry new reproduction plates also attend those shows.

Nameplates are sometimes the only way to identify the model, manufacturer, and serial number of a piece of equipment. They also give other specifications, such as horsepower and rpm. If you are a John Deere collector, serial number is everything!

Early tractors and engines used cast iron nameplates. Most of the early cast iron plates were cast the same, and had a place on or near them where the serial number was stamped. Some companies cast their name right on the engine, like the Bauer sideshaft and the IHC Mogul Jr. (see accompanying photos), and did not have an add-on plate. Most of the early engine companies also stamped the serial number in the end of the crankshaft on the working side of the engine.

The next style of nameplates to appear were cast brass. These are the most decorative, and have very neat typestyles and company logos. The Webster Improved and the Witte Iron Works are good examples of that.

Following the cast brass came the sheet (or etched) brass plates. These are the most common, as more engines and tractors from that vintage have survived the scrap drives. The last plates to appear on engines and equipment were made of aluminum. They were not very durable, and are usually in bad condition if the equipment was not stored inside.

You might try one of these sources when looking for new nameplates for your equipment:

  • Starbolt Engine Supplies, (301) 874-2821: plates for gas engines and magnetos.
  • Ron Mattson, (401) 934-3539: Custom-reproduced cast or etched name tags.
  • Bill Lopoulos of Magneto Parts, (978) 649-7879: Magneto plates.
  • Mark's Magneto Service, (860) 537-0376: Magneto plates.
  • Bob's Small Engine Repair, (319) 377-3339: New Maytag plates and other air-cooled engine plates.
  • Dale with O.E.M. Tractor Parts, (800) 283-2122: IHC tractor plates from the years 1939-55.
  • Dan Whalen, (513) 734-4040: Hand-crafted original style tags for Massey-Harris, Ferguson, Wallis and more.
  • Dave with D&D, (515) 424-2535: Many different anodized aluminum plates, and custom made plates (aluminum only).

It's always nice to have the original plate, but if it is gone, a reproduction may be your only option. FC 

A collector for 26 years, Wayne Walker Jr. is the marketing director and a columnist for Farm Collector Magazine.