Huber Tractors: A Proud Tradition

Huber tractors among early leaders in innovation, design

| April 2011

Although Huber Mfg. Co. made fewer tractors during all its years (a total of about 14,000 tractors) than either Farmall or John Deere in any one year, Huber tractors had a long and fruitful history. The company’s product line was rather impressive for a small company. Based in Marion, Ohio, Huber tractors were produced from 1898 until 1942, when the U.S. War Department decreed that Huber cease making farm equipment and concentrate instead on road construction equipment in support of the war effort. After the war, Huber did not return to the farm equipment business. 

In 1892, John Froelich produced the first recorded successful gas tractor. He used a Van Duzen vertical cylinder engine on a Robinson running gear and incorporated a traction drive of his own design. In 1894, Van Duzen Gas & Gasoline Engine Co., Cincinnati, built a tractor very similar to the Froelich tractor using its own 1-cylinder, vertical engine. This tractor met with some success.

Early experimental tractors

Manufacturer Edward Huber was so impressed with the Van Duzen engine that he bought the company. In 1898, Huber Mfg. Co. produced its first gas tractor. These tractors incorporated a traction engine frame, transmission and steering mechanism upon which the Van Duzen gas engine was mounted. They were specifically designed for belt power for Huber threshing machines. Huber built 30 units to sell, making Huber one of the earliest manufacturers to mass produce a gas farm tractor for commercial use. This first tractor was less than fully successful, in part because the engine had no true ignition or carburetor system. Huber discontinued production of gas tractors for the next 10 years.

Formative years, 1911-17

When Huber returned to gas tractors in about 1910, significant improvements had been made in both ignition and carburetion systems. The earliest effort was called the “Farmer’s Tractor” with the driver perched in front of the machine. The company’s sales record starts with number 100. The tractor had a 2-cylinder engine with a 5-3/4-by-6-inch bore and stroke. It was sold as a portable power unit. Serial no. 103 lists the same machine as a traction engine.

By serial no. 106, sales records show a 17-19 (17 hp at the drawbar and 19 at the belt) tractor, but do not distinguish whether this 17-19 is the same as the previous tractor. Records do note that the tractor used a Stintz engine. During this period, Huber conducted extensive testing. 1911 sales records for serial no. 148 show this tractor to be a 15-30 with a 7-by-8-inch bore and stroke engine. Later notations show the engine to be an opposed 2-cylinder engine manufactured by Stintz-Wallen. Rather than a radiator, this tractor used an evaporative cooling system.

Serial no. 178 (built in 1911) shows a 30-60 tractor using a 4-cylinder engine with a 6-3/4-by-8-inch bore and stroke. This tractor became the famous “Prairie” tractor. Huber built the 15-30 2-cylinder and 30-60 4-cylinder tractors until 1916. In 1916, the 30-60 was re-rated as a 35-70. In 1915, Huber brought out a 20-40 2-cylinder engine with a 8-1/4-by-9-inch bore and stroke. Records suggest that these tractors were made only in 1916-17. None are known to exist.


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