Letters to the Editor

Was there ever a Fate-Root-Heath Co. tractor? Old book suggests possibility

| January 2006

I read with great interest Bill Vossler's article, "Legends of the Silver King Tractors" (Farm Collector, November 2005). It was a good article and conveyed the history of the Fate-Root-Heath Co. in great detail.

I stumbled upon a mystery about the Fate-Root-Heath Co. and their tractor a couple of years ago, and wonder if Bill or anyone else can shed any light on it.

As Bill pointed out, not long after the Plymouth tractor's introduction, Chrysler-Plymouth dealers started getting people in their showrooms wanting to buy a tractor. Walter Chrysler's legal department swung into action, claiming ownership of the Plymouth name, which they had used on their low-priced cars since 1928. This is when the single, broken-down 1910 Plymouth car finally earned its keep. It proved that Fate-Root-Heath had built a Plymouth car long before the Chrysler Corporation was even a gleam in Walter's eye. However, FRH sold the rights to the Plymouth name to Chrysler and cast about for a new name for the little tractor, settling on Silver King.

A while back I bought a copy of The Tractor Field Book, published in 1934. In it was an entry for the new tractor built by the Fate-Root-Heath Co. of Plymouth, Ohio, as well as a full-page advertisement from the same company, but something is different. I've only ever heard of the two names, Plymouth and then Silver King, which brings up my question about the tractor in the 1934 The Tractor Field Book. The full-page advertisement is headlined: "It's New, Modern, Revolutionary! The FRH Tractor." Further down, it reads: "The FRH Tractor is revolutionary in design, construction and performance. The FRH offers all of the newest improvements in tractor building …" and: "It's a Different Kind of Tractor - this new FRH." The photos of the tractor show the vertical radiator bar without a cast-in name, and nowhere do the names Plymouth or Silver King appear.

Did Fate-Root-Heath build any tractors without either the name Plymouth or Silver King? Or was the FRH name in the advertisement merely a stopgap to meet a catalog deadline during the time they and Chrysler were negotiating about use of the Plymouth name? I would guess that a genuine FRH tractor, in the unlikely event that one ever existed, would be a real gem in the crown of any Silver King collector.

Isn't rusty iron fascinating?


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