Banking on Ferguson Tractors

Fledgling Ferguson tractor dealership launches Iowa man's career.

| October 2007

  • Ferguson dealership
    Jake and Joan Shafer in 1950 at their newly opened Ferguson dealership in Fairfield, Iowa. The neon Ferguson sign over the doorway is enough to quicken the heartbeat of collectors today.
  • Ferguson field demonstration
    Field demonstration showing the Ferguson’s adaptability to difficult terrain.
  • Jake Shafer
    Jake Shafer at a field demonstration in the 1950s. Jake enjoyed great success with the Ferguson line, selling 900 tractors in his 10 years as a dealer.
  • 2-row corn picker
    A 2-row corn picker mounted on a Ferguson.
  • Corn Picker and Ferguson 2
    Rear view of a corn picker mounted on a Ferguson.

  • Ferguson dealership
  • Ferguson field demonstration
  • Jake Shafer
  • 2-row corn picker
  • Corn Picker and Ferguson 2

In 1938, Orson Wells broadcast his adaptation of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, German troops entered Austria, Superman appeared in a new comic series and Harry Ferguson and Henry Ford introduced the Ford-Ferguson tractor in a handshake deal.

Based on the revolutionary Ferguson plowing system, the Ferguson and Ford partnership produced the Ford 9N in 1939. By shifting the weight of the plow to the tractor, the rear wheels gained more traction, allowing smaller, lightweight tractors to do the same work as larger, heavier tractors. Together with a hydraulic lift system, a Ford-Ferguson tractor was the thing to have.

At about the same time, Jake Shafer was a student at Fairfield High School in Fairfield, Iowa. The local Ford-Ferguson dealer offered a correspondence course on the tractor to students. After completing the course, Jake went to work for the local dealer.

"I was working for him when Ferguson came out with the TE-20 Ferguson tractor in 1947," Jake recalls. "The Ferguson company had a factory showing of their new line of tractors. I asked my boss for a day off to go see what we were going to be competing against.



"The next day, I came back to work and the boss fired me on the spot. He said someone told him I was the new Ferguson dealer.

"I had an elderly gentleman I confided in and it was his shoulder I went to cry on," Jake continues. The man, a GMC dealer, told Jake that losing his job might be a golden opportunity. At the time, Jake owned a Jeep and had $500 to his name. He commiserated with his friend that $500 wouldn't buy much.



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