What's in a Name?

Tractors named for g cities rarely prospered

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Left: This photo shows the participants in the first annual Rock Island sales force school of instruction in 1920. Though the school was held in Minneapolis, the tractor was manufactured in, and named for, Rock Island, Ill.Above: This Minneapolis-Moline Z was run during the Albany (Minn.) Pioneer Days. This tractor is named after a pair of cities: Minneapolis and Moline, Ill.

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Some tractors named after the cities where they were manufactured are well-known: Minneapolis, Minneapolis-Moline (Minneapolis and Moline, Ill.), Waterloo Boy (Waterloo, Iowa), Buffalo-Pitts (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Cleveland. However, other lesser-known tractors were the pride and joy of their hometowns, and several even carried those cities' names.

The Elgin

Elgin, Ill., was the home of the 10-20 Elgin tractor in 1916, but the company moved to Piqua, Ohio, where it lasted until 1920. The 10-20 was a re-rated 9-18 and later was called a 12-25. The 1918 asking price was $1,250. Fifty Elgins were manufactured in 1916 and 1917, and an estimated 90 in 1918.

The Fairmont

The 1914 introduction of the Fairmont tractor by Fairmont (Minn.) Gas Engine & Railway Car Co. was a surprise, as the company had long made only railway motor cars and engines. Later called the "Mighty Fairmont," Her Mightiness disappeared entirely in 1916. Early Fairmonts were 15-22s, later ones, 16-26s.

The Peoria

Three-wheeled tractors were popular prior to 1920, so the Peoria (Ill.) Tractor Co. introduced an 8-20 3-wheeler in 1914. Two years later it was re-rated a 10-20, with the same Beaver 4-cylinder engine of 3-3/4-by-5-inch bore and stroke, for $685.

The Peoria tractor is interesting in large part because C.F. Loomis helped design it. Loomis designed the Big Four and Pioneer tractors, but each of the three is different from the other, unusual for the time. The Peoria is also noteworthy because five different models (8-20, 10-20, 12-25, Model J 12-25 and Model L 12-25) of the little-known tractor were produced during the line's existence from 1913 to 1921.

The New Britain

Though the tractor-cultivator manufactured in New Britain, Conn., is not very well known, a restored No. 1 will bring $4,000 today for a machine that originally cost $400 (the No. 2 cost $450). Both were water-cooled, 2-cylinder machines with 2-3/4-by-4-inch bore and stroke.

The Pontiac

Pontiac, Mich., was the home of Pontiac Tractor Co., which manufactured the Pontiac 15-30 in 1918. The engine was a single-cylinder of huge 9-by-12-inch bore and stroke. Nothing else is known.

Beaver 4-cylinder engines with 3-3/4-by-5-inch bore and stroke were used initially, followed by Climax fours of 5-by-6-1/2-inch bore and stroke. Early models sold for $650, and later, $1,585. The higher price probably indicated a company in trouble, as the more expensive models differed little from earlier models. Only 20 Peorias were made in 1918, although the company estimated it would make 1,000 in 1919, which did not happen.

The Port Huron

This Michigan-based tractor was manufactured by Port Huron Engine & Thresher Co., which had a long history as a manufacturer of grain threshers and steam traction engines. Only one Port Huron Farm Tractor was made in 1917, but 30 were manufactured in 1918. The Port Huron 12-25 tractor used a 4-cylinder Chief engine with 4-3/4-by-6-inch bore and stroke, and sold for $1,700.

The Quincy

The Quincy tractor was built by two unrelated companies, in two different cities, at the same time.

Electric Wheel Co., Quincy, Ill., built the Quincy Model O in 1911. The 20-30 was soon re-rated a 15-30. The machine had a standard 4-cylinder engine, unusual at the time, as well as autoguide steering, tubular radiator and three-speed transmission, all of which were innovative in that era - perhaps too innovative: the Quincy, Ill., tractor lasted but a year.

Quincy Engine Co. of Quincy, Pa., introduced its Quincy 10-20 tractor in 1912. These Quincys were old-stylelooking tractors, with large flywheels and a single-cylinder engine. This Quincy tractor, which weighed 10,000 pounds and sold for $1,200, was in production until 1916.

The Rock Island

Rock Island Heider tractors were the original output of Rock Island Plow Co. of Rock Island, Ill., but in 1927 the company began producing Rock Island Model F 18-35 tractors. The Model G-2 15-25 came out in 1929. Rock Island tractors were made until 1937.

The Sandusky

In 1913, Dauch Manufacturing Co. of Sandusky, Ohio, began building the Sandusky 15-35 tractor. As P.S. Rose wrote in Report on Tractor Companies, "Frank Kennedy, who designed the first Russell tractor, worked with Mr. Dauch on the present tractor. He and Mr. Dauch worked for 10 years on this machine." A Model E 15-35 was also produced, and sold in 1916 for the high price of $2,500.

The Model J 10-20 came out in 1917, using a 4-cylinder Dauch engine with a 4-1/4-by-5-inch bore and stroke, and weighing 4,900 pounds.

The number of Sandusky tractors sold may surprise some readers: 241 in 1916, 647 in 1917 and 355 in the first half of 1918. The company's projection for the second half of 1918 was 900 tractors. Sanduskys were no longer made by 1921.

The Shelby

Shelby Truck & Tractor Co., located in Shelby, Ohio, made a 9-18 and 15-30 Shelby tractor from 1919-1921.

The Wichita

Like the Quincy, two Wichita tractors were built in different places with the same name at about the same time. Wichita Tractor Co. of Wichita, Kan., brought out its version of an 8-16 Wichita in 1917. It sold for $1,085 in 1920, its last year of production. Three years later, Wichita Falls Motor Co. of Wichita Falls, Texas, came out with its Wichita, a 20-30, in 1920, selling for $2,500. It lasted only that year.

The Stockton

Two Stockton tractor models were manufactured in 1920 by Stockton Tractor Co. of Stockton, Calif.: a Model A 8-16 and Model B Sure Grip, both using a 4-cylinder Herschell-Spillman engine with 3-1/2-by-5-inch bore and stroke.

Naming blues

Other obscure tractors were undoubtedly named for the cities where they were manufactured - there's the Antigo tractor of Antigo, Wis., for instance - but one thing is certain: Naming a tractor for a city was no guarantee of commercial success. In the end, most buyers focused more on substance than sizzle.

- Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact him at Box 372, 400 Caroline Lane, Rockville, MN 56569; (320) 253-5414; e-mail: bvossler@juno.com