Harry Ferguson: Mechanical Genius Part I
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At the demonstration, Ford quickly saw how the system of mounted implements stopped roll overs. He had a Fordson and an Allis-Chalmers standing by for testing on heavier ground, but the Ferguson-Brown outclassed both. The two men sat on chairs at a kitchen table in the test field. While Ferguson demonstrated the draft control principle on a model tractor he had brought with him, Ford again tried to buy Ferguson’s designs – and was again rebuffed. “You haven’t got enough money to buy my patents,” Ferguson said.
Instead, after some discussion, the two men reached a unique agreement. “No written agreement would be worthy of what this represents,” Ferguson said. “If you trust me, I’ll trust you.” The agreement was sealed by a handshake, personifying the trust and confidence between the two men. Harry Ferguson became the only man that Henry Ford ever went into partnership with.
The “handshake agreement” covered five main points. Ferguson would have total control of design and engineering. Ford would be responsible for the manufacturing process. Ferguson could sell the tractor wherever and however he wanted. The Ferguson System tractor would eventually be built at Ford’s Dagenham tractor plant. And finally, the agreement could be terminated at any time by either party. FC
Part Two: Strong wills of industrialists Ferguson and Ford collide in the post-war years, setting the stage for a bitter, prolonged court battle and the launch of another Ferguson enterprise.
Part Three: In the final part of Jane Brooks’ series on the life of Harry Ferguson, the genius inventor dabbles in international economic policy, courts a new business partner and continues to break new ground in evolving technology.
U.K.-based agricultural journalist Jane Brooks specializes in tractors and machinery. She is a regular contributor to enthusiast’s magazines such as Tractor & Machinery, Old Tractor and Vintage Tractor. When she is not writing, Jane finds time to get in a bit of tractor driving at home in Warwickshire, where she farms with her husband, Stephen. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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