Rumely Tractor Postcards

Collectible farm-related and tractor postcards add unique dimension to old iron hobby

| June 2012

  • Turning Eight 14-inch Furrows with Rumely Plows and an OilPull
    “Turning eight 14-inch furrows with Rumely plows and an OilPull.” The card’s back reads: “In the Winnipeg Motor Contest we proved that the OilPull plows at the least cost per brake horsepower per hour; runs smoother and with less variation in R.P.M.”
  • Tractor Driving a Rumely Ideal Separator
    “Tractor driving a Rumely Ideal Separator.” The card’s back reads: “The OilPull tractor, because of its perfect automatic regulation, keeps running at an even speed, whether load is heavy or light, one bundle or a dozen.”
  • Rumely ToeHold Cultivating Tractor
    The Rumely ToeHold cultivating tractor: This unusual divided-back card (marked on the back #AD360-214) reads, “Cultivating tractor has 14 tractive horse-power, 32 belt-power and is less than 5 feet tall. Just the thing for cultivating orchards as it is lightweight, speedy, turns short and burns cheap fuel.” Rumely acquired designs for the ToeHold from a California man in 1912. If Rumely ever produced the unit, it was only for a very short time.
  • Allis-Chalmers Model M
    Postmarked in 1939, this card advertises the Allis-Chalmers Model M, available in wide or narrow tread, pulling an offset disc.
  • Allis-Chalmers Model B
    With a 1940 postmark, this card advertises the Allis-Chalmers Model B said to be capable of replacing four to six horses.
  • Rumely Cream Separator
    This divided-back card (marked on the back #AD418-279) notes that the Rumely cream separator is available in three sizes and all are easy to clean. Rumely cream separators are very rare; just one complete unit is known to exist.
  • Tractor Hauling 1,000 Bushels of Wheat in North Dakota
    “Tractor hauling 1,000 bushels of wheat in North Dakota.” The card’s back reads: “The OilPull tractor will rush your crops to market before prices drop and cars get scarce. It will haul logs, ore, stone — anything — from one-third to one-half cheaper than horses. Quick to start, easy to operate: burns kerosene under all conditions. An ideal power for the road builder or contractor. Write for special Good Roads Circular and OilPull catalog. M. Rumely Co. (INC), La Porte, Ind. Canadian Distributor, Rumely Products Co., Winnipeg.” The factory-produced card is unnumbered; it has a divided back and is unused.

  • Turning Eight 14-inch Furrows with Rumely Plows and an OilPull
  • Tractor Driving a Rumely Ideal Separator
  • Rumely ToeHold Cultivating Tractor
  • Allis-Chalmers Model M
  • Allis-Chalmers Model B
  • Rumely Cream Separator
  • Tractor Hauling 1,000 Bushels of Wheat in North Dakota

Postcard collectors who live in the Midwest may have a leg up on the hobby. For whatever reason, farm-related postcards are in abundant supply in the country’s midsection. But tractor postcards move fast. At shows, tractor cards seem to disappear more quickly than those featuring machinery or horse-drawn equipment.

My 40-year collection of Rumely postcards used to number 12. Then I showed them to another collector; now I have eight. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The fact that one card was a duplicate lessened the pain somewhat.

An auction surprise

Last summer on a beautiful day when I had nothing to do, I drove to Hayfield, Minn., a small town 40 miles away. Postcards were listed on an auction there that day and they were right: There in a box with other cards were two super Rumely cards. I won’t tell you what I paid for them, only that I went way over my budget using the excuse that they were nice cards.

Later, I consulted American Advertising Postcards, Sets and Series 1890-1920, a Catalog and Price Guide by Frederic and Mary Megson. According to that source, Rumely produced two sets of cards. Series AD-499 consisted of eight colored cards numbered 380A to 380H. The second set consisted of just one card, an unnumbered Michigan Litho card with a heading on the front that read “Type F and six-bottom engine gang.” My cards were the Rumely-produced AD series with divided back (printed after 1907).



Rumely innovation

Born in Germany in 1823, Meinrad Rumely came to the U.S. in 1848. A millwright by trade, he soon found work and eventually ended up with a blacksmith shop in La Porte, Ind. He sent for his brother, Jacob; in 1853 the M. & J. Rumely Co. was founded. The brothers began producing portable steam engines; within a decade they were building steam traction engines. In 1882, Meinrad bought out his brother’s interest and renamed the company M. Rumely Co.

After his death in 1904, Meinrad’s sons, Joseph and William, took over management of the company. Edward Rumely (William Rumely’s son) was the third generation of Rumelys to work in the family business. He met Rudolph Diesel in Germany and became interested in internal combustion engines. In 1906, with design engineer John Secor, they developed a farm tractor, the Rumely OilPull, that burned kerosene on light loads and a mixture of kerosene and water when heavy loads were required. Kerosene was less expensive than gas at that time, and easier to obtain. The OilPull ran hotter than most engines, so oil — with a higher boiling point than water — was used as a coolant in the radiator, preventing rust and corrosion in the process.