Tractor Industry Fraud
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Ewing claimed the company was making two tractors a day in its Ford Plant, and when the night shift was started, it would produce five a day. He said orders with the $75 deposit were pouring in from all over the world, and the tractors were being sold quicker than they could be produced. The company was making money.
In fact, at the time of the claims, no Ford tractors were being made at all. A few Ford tractors were eventually made in a building called the Ford Plant, which Ewing did not own. All the other claims were plucked out of thin air.
Oh, What Tangled Webs ...
As months passed, the Ford Tractor Company web began to unravel. Paul Ford admitted the deceptions to the Twin City Reporter, saying he wished he had never been part of it. The newly-formed National Vigilance Committee gathered evidence on W. Baer Ewing and Ford Tractor Company of Minneapolis, and published a booklet titled "Facts About Advertising of Stock in The Ford Tractor Company, Inc." Robert P. Matches, overseer of sales of FTC stock, was besieged by stockholders screaming for monetary returns. Farmers yelled for their promised tractors, which were to have been shipped C.O.D. minus the initial $75 deposit; $10,130 of new-tractor deposit money had been spent by the company, with nary a tractor shipped.
To complicate matters, Ewing had illegally used a previous company, Federal Securities Company, which was already being investigated for fraud, as collateral for FTC. A Minneapolis-St. Paul newspaper said in a story about Ewing: "A scheme for obtaining money under false pretenses that would put the ordinary gold-brick artist to shame has been worked in Minneapolis for some time past and is still being put across when the proper kind of a sucker gets into the toils of the manipulators of the scheme." Of FTC, the Twin Cities Reporter wrote, "Everything is in large figures except the cash on hand and in bank."
Finally the house of cards tumbled; fewer than a hundred – perhaps only 30 – Ford tractors were ever sold, not thousands as the company claimed. Ford Tractor Company of Minneapolis went into bankruptcy.
On Oct. 21, 1918, all the property of the company was sold to pay judgments against it. Although Robert Matches was convicted of conspiracy to defraud investors in another case, it reflected his behavior in the FTC fiasco, "...and Ewing," Wendel writes, "was reported to have organized a tractor company in Canada." While the Ford Tractor Company of Minneapolis met its proper fate, farmers and investors got nothing, and fate of W. Baer Ewing, the perpetrator of one of the greatest frauds in tractor history, is unknown.
The Pan Tank-Tread Tractor Which Will Win The War
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