The Gerling Tractor
By Richard Birklid
Built by Multnomah Mechanical Mfg. Co., Portland, Ore., the Gerling tractor appeared to be a substantial, powerful rig fully capable of pulling a 10-bottom plow.
Photo Courtesy Richard Birklid
More than a century ago, on demonstration day in Amarillo, Texas, the Gerling gasoline tractor surely inspired something akin to shock and awe. With rear wheels at least 8 feet tall, pulling a Reeves steam lift plow and two cook cars, the Gerling must have lumbered past like a victorious conqueror.
Little is known about the 30-60 hp Gerling beyond what can be deduced from this photo, dated Dec. 8, 1908. But one thing’s for sure: Built by Multnomah Mechanical Mfg. Co., Portland, Ore., the tractor was a long way from home. Multnomah built farm implements and at least one tractor. Business directories of the era list Fred A. Gerling, Woodstock, Ore., as company president in 1905, 1909, 1910 and 1918.
F.A. Gerling is also listed as one of the organizers of Gerling Mfg. Co. in 1913. A builder of gas engines, the Gerling company was launched in Chicago and had offices in Pierre, S.D.
This rare photo was found among the offering at a Washington auction. Identities of those pictured are unknown; likely they are company men and equipment operators who traveled with the display rig.
On the tractor’s right front corner is a small, framed photo showing what appears to be a team of oxen pulling a plow. This may be the company’s mascot, a common practice of manufacturers in that era.
The Gerling is shown pulling a Reeves steam lift plow of either eight or 10 bottoms. The plow was run on air supplied by the engine through air tanks. Two detached plow sections can be seen on the tractor’s front platform.
The tractor appears to have a 4-cylinder inline engine. The radiator hangs below, in back of the single front wheel. The rear wheels appear to be at least 8 feet tall, capable of pulling eight or more bottoms. The large digits (#200) painted on the tractor’s frame could be a model number. A wooden trunk or toolbox sits on the Gerling’s left front corner; on the other corner is a large barrel, holding either water or gasoline. Centered behind the engine, the steering wheel affords the operator maximum vision. FC
Farm Collector gratefully acknowledges Richard Birklid, who provided the photo and information for this article.