Last month, in response to a question from a reader, I did a column about white Farmall tractors. As I was browsing through my cache of old Farm Implement News magazines, I came across the following tidbit from the issue of April 10, 1950:
Under the heading, "It's Iconoclasm ... Nothing Else," FIN's famous editor, E.J. Baker Jr., referred to the matter with some humor in his "As We See It" column:
"Most of our avid readers have been around enough to know that a certain shade of brilliant red, sometimes styled Technicolor red, is the unregistered yet sacred color associated with a well-known line of tractors and farm equipment. Executives of the unnamed red-emblazoned company ... almost get apoplexy when Nature in her whimsy persists in coloring the spring-time countryside a deep shade of green which is characteristic of a constantly encroaching competitive line of equipment. You see what red means to some persons.
"Well, here's the horror of horrors. A dealer for the Technicolor-red line down in the Deep South is besmirching sacred things. He has painted one of his red Cubs white, and is traipsing about the country with it, showing farmers what that ghostly tractor can do. And it's selling Cubs! That's the worst of it. Next thing some Jayhawker or Buckeye will be painting an 'M' gray with a red belly, and the fat will really be in the fire."
I had to look up the word "iconoclasm." The dictionary says an iconoclast is "One who attacks cherished beliefs as shams."
It seems odd that a farm machinery journal as prestigious as Farm Implement News wouldn't have been treated to a press release from International Harvester announcing the white demonstrator program in advance. However, Mr. Baker seems to have been in the dark about the company-wide sales promotion.
A few weeks later, in the June 10 issue, is a letter from a tractor salesman in Yakima, Wash., to Mr. Baker.
"Sir: I cannot resist the opportunity of dropping you a line in regards to a recent observation of yours concerning a white International Cub tractor...
"Undoubtedly, you have had numerous letters from all sections of the country regarding the white Farmalls that have been shipped to most International dealers. I have had an opportunity or two to demonstrate these 'ghosts' but have not found them to be souped up or more powerful than any other stock Farmall that has been carefully broken in and tuned up. These white demonstrators have appeared in most sections of my territory and have created a considerable amount of farmer interest, some favorable and some not so favorable.
"As a territory manager in Central Washington, I have ... (seen) ... some unusual farm equipment that has been made in local farm shops ... (and) ...I am always on the lookout for unusual equipment as I go from town to town. Imagine my surprise the other day when I passed a farm and saw a new Ford 8N tractor and three row-crop tractors all with the well-known gray and red colors. The new paint fairly glistened on these tractors and I nearly drove off the road, I was so startled.
"I found that the tractors belonged to H.M. Hall of Ellensburg, Wash., and he had painted his International H, John gray and red to match his new Ford. Apparently, he anticipated your comments in the column. You see, western agriculture still leads the nation. If it isn't 12-ton/acre alfalfa, it is John Deere tractors with gray-and-red paint jobs. What's next?"
Mr. Baker answered by saying: "Horrible as the thought is, I have a hunch that if some of our mid-western and eastern dairy farmers could insure 12-ton to the acre crops of alfalfa merely by painting their McCormicks, John Deeres, Ferguson, Case, etc., tractors colors to which they were unaccustomed, they'd paint them all the colors and patterns of a peacock's tail in springtime."
E.J. Baker didn't seem to be much impressed with International Harvester's white demonstrator campaign of 1950. In another place he questioned the wisdom of "... the Big Sales Mogul... (who) ... must have put his O.K. on the Albino Cub drive." Mr. Baker would surely be astonished to learn that present day IH collectors are eagerly searching for the Farmall Cubs, Super A's, and C's that were factory painted "albino" white during early 1950.
The comment in the letter from the farm machinery salesman about the red and gray tractors is interesting. I guess this means that if a John Deere enthusiast from Washington State finds traces of red and gray paint on a rusty old GP he just dragged out of a fencerow, there's no point in him dashing off a letter to Deere & Company to ask breathlessly if it could have come from the factory that way. Personally, I think it would be fun to take a freshly painted, red-and-gray John Deere to a show, just to hear the tongues wag. FC
Ever since his days as a boy on a farm in western Pennsylvania, Sam Moore has been interested in tractors, trucks and machinery. Now a resident of Salem, Ohio, he collects antique tractors, implements and related items.