The Sieve-Grip Samson Tractor

Manufactured with a unique tread pattern meant to provide better traction, the Samson tractor was one of the first to feature enclosed gears.

| June 2007

The name alone evokes a sense of power. Mention the name and some people think of the Bible story. For others, the name revives memories of Cecil B. DeMilles' 1939 film classic Samson and Delilah, with the bronzed and muscular Victor Mature playing the role of Samson.

In a memorable scene from the film, a blinded, battered and bruised Samson is chained to the pillars of a palace. He strains mightily at the chains binding him until he finally feels the gigantic stones begin to give. In one last gallant effort, he exhibits his awesome power by desperately pulling on the chains until the pillars give way and the entire structure collapses.

While the Samson tractor may not have had quite the brute strength of the Biblical powerhouse, it was powerful in its own right. The Samson could pull a 2- or 3-bottom plow in the soils of farms, groves and vineyards of its home near Stockton, Calif.

According to Bill Vossler's Orphan Tractors, J.M. Kroyer started the Samson Iron Works in 1884 to make engines and pumps to handle winter water runoff around Stockton. Samson began manufacturing tractors early in the 20th century. By 1913, the Samson tractor won the California State Fair competition against all comers in its size category. About a year later, it was offered in two sizes: a 6-12 model and a 10-25. Both were called Sieve-Grips.

Named for unique tread

The Sieve-Grip's wheel tread design was unusual. Although the Samson tractor used cleats, its open wheel design was unique among tractors. Samson's ads claimed the open tread provided better traction in the area's hilly terrain.

But the unusual design made some nervous. Farmers in that era were particularly concerned by soil compaction. Samson tractor ads did not address the point, but the wheel print suggests a significant ratio of pounds per square inch. Imagine, for instance, the difference in pressure exerted by a spiked golf shoe versus that from a woman's high-heeled shoe.


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