A friend once loaned me a Ford Home Almanac from 1940. Published by the Ford Motor Co., the book's cover features scenes from the farm on the one side and from industry on the other, along with Ford's famous V8 emblem and a quote from Henry Ford: "With one foot on the land and one in industry, America is safe."
Ford had just introduced the revolutionary Ford-Ferguson tractor which the Almanac labeled "The most significant development in world agriculture in the last 50 YEARS."
Following are excerpts from the article, with emphasis from the original:
From time immemorial farming has been accompanied by drudgery. Millions of American farmers have either lost or made money in no way commensurate with their time and effort.
These conditions need no longer continue. The new Ford tractor with Ferguson system and wheel-less implements, hydraulically controlled, abolishes a vast amount of drudgery and greatly reduces farming COSTS.
Together they (1) do the work of four men and eight horses at about HALF the COST; (2) do PRACTICALLY EVERY kind of field and traction work on ANY KIND of FARM, large or small; (3) can be operated with ease and safety by almost any member of the family; (4) are practically "fool-proof" both in construction and operation and, (5) are priced well within the reach of the average American farmer.
For years HENRY FORD has been pointing out that, unless the American FARMER is PROSPEROUS, there can be no NATIONAL prosperity. He seeks to REDUCE the COST of FARMING with this combination of the new Ford tractor with Ferguson system and wheeless farm implements.
In a nutshell, the basic advantage of the new combination is that it can, literally, do any kind of work done by horses or mules! The man who buys a Ford tractor with Ferguson system needs no longer MAINTAIN DRAUGHT ANIMALS on the farm. Doing all the farm work by this new mechanical means, REDUCES EXPENSE! Raising additional LIVESTOCK on the land formerly used to grow hay and oats for horses, INCREASES INCOME! Thus the new Ford tractor with the Ferguson system opens up to every farmer who owns them 2 NEW AVENUES TO PROFIT! That helps MIGHTILY to make the farm a "GOING CONCERN!"
Tractor and implements are so light that, even in heavy duty, fuel consumption runs to but 1 gallon an hour. Front and rear wheels are adjustable to all the usual widths of field and garden rows commonly used in American farming. The draft of the implement is thrown on the FRONT wheels – no matter HOW HEAVY THE PULL, the tractor simply CANNOT turn over backward.
The operator can maneuver tractor and implement with the utmost freedom, range and ease. All physical labor – such as the necessity of dragging a plow backward to avoid an obstruction – is eliminated.
To really appreciate it, one should see this tractor work, or, better still, OPERATE IT. For it is so simple that ANYONE CAN OPERATE IT.
One of the ways in which a Dearborn boy celebrated his 8th birthday, was by mounting this tractor and plowing a half-acre.
The tractor can easily pull 2 14-inch plows. With these suspended behind, the operator drives to his field with as much ease as if he were driving an automobile. When moving over soft earth, the tractor operates MORE EASILY than an automobile.
Arrived at the field to be plowed, a twirl or two on a crank sets the plow angle; a simple wing-nut adjustment sets plow depth; then a pull at a lever – a pull so slight that it can be done with two fingers – and down go the plows into the ground.
Rises, washes or hollows are no obstacle – regardless of the up-and-down movement of the tractor, the level of the furrow bottom remains the same.
Steep hills are no obstacle. This combination moves with ease up hills that a farmer would not attempt to plow with a team.
No wide headlands are required at the ends of the furrow. This combination turns around practically in its own tracks. It can plow right to the fence line, and into fence corners. LIGHTNESS is one of the big features of this combination. It doesn't PACK the soil; and its greatly reduced weight SAVES FUEL. Instead of depending on weight for traction, this combination converts the weight and draft of its wheelless implements into tractive grip.
One man, without use of tools, can attach or detach implements in less than ONE MINUTE by the simple insertion or removal of three self-locking pins.
When a plow contacts an immovable obstruction, the weight of the implements and the pull is automatically transferred to the FRONT wheels and pressure on the REAR wheels is so lightened that TRACTIVE power is INSTANTLY released! The operator then backs up a bit, touches the hydraulic lever, the plows rise, the operator drives forward beyond the obstruction, lowers the plows and the work goes on. This UNIQUE principle is the Ford tractor's SAFETY DEVICE.
Tractor and implements are made at the Rouge Plant of the Ford Motor Company at Dearborn, Michigan.
They will be sold and distributed nationally by the Ferguson-Sherman Manufacturing Corporation, Dearborn, Michigan.
The above is, of course, advertising hoopla to some extent, but the little 9N Ford tractor, due mainly to the Ferguson hydraulic system with which it was equipped, was possibly the most significant breakthrough of all time in farm tractors. Back in the day, many farmers thought the Ford tractor was good only for gathering eggs or herding cows, but the other tractor builders fell all over themselves trying to come up with an alternative hydraulic draft control system before giving in and adopting the three point hitch. In fact, today's three point systems are based on Harry Ferguson's invention from the 1930s.
An early Ford Ferguson doing what they probably did best – plowing.
From a Ford Ferguson manual in the author's collection.