Ag Depression Moved Fox in Unplanned Direction

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The short-lived Fox tractor. Few were produced before the company shifted into production of ensilage harvesters.

The Fox River Tractor Co. was started in Appleton, Wis., in 1919 for the purpose of building the 20-40 Fox tractor, a 4-cylinder machine with a 5-1/2-inch by 7-1/2-inch bore and stroke.

Fallout from the Agricultural Depression of the early 1920s, however, moved the fledgling company in other directions. After building perhaps two dozen Fox tractors, the company shifted to building ensilage harvesters, “and became a leader in the field,” writes C.H. Wendel in Encyclopedia of American Tractors.

Little is known of the company’s history for the next 44 years, except that the company built Fox harvesters and became part of Koehring Farm Equipment. An undated paper, “Koehring Farm Equipment Division,” lists the company’s address in Appleton, and notes completion of two new factory buildings totaling 189,000 square feet in 1963 and 1966. In 1977, the report says, “Integrating the Brady product line (from Ankeny, Iowa), plus the manufacturing toolage and machines with the Fox lines, required a complete renovation of this facility.” The facility could support a maximum of 500 hourly employees and support staff; 118 were on the job in 1977.

The new factory included a fabrication department with 500-ton-capacity presses, as well as shears and saws. Raw steel could be weighed on a scale capable of 20,000 pounds. The machine department consisted of milling machines and radial drills, as well as other equipment to machine parts. The welding and assembly department had 950 feet of overhead monorails and free conveyor lines to simplify movement. Nearly all welding was done automatically.

Shipping by truck and rail, more than 800 shipments of sales material could be put out in a single shift, along with 200 UPS parts shipments. Production ended in 1986. FC

Read about the restoration of a 1974 Fox 6644 corn chopper: “Second Act for a Fox.”
Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact him at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville, MN 56569; e-mail:
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