Farm Equipment Manufacturers in St. Louis

Early St. Louis farm equipment companies thrived in bustling river port.

| October 2013

  • Fulton Iron Works
    Fulton Iron Works of St. Louis built diesel engines. 
    Illustration Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • 1920 Kardell Ad
    This Kardell ad appeared before 1920. 
    Illustration Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Whitman Agricultural Co. Sultan Engine
    Whitman Agricultural Co. Sultan engine. 
    Illustration Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Kardell Four-in-One Tractor
    Kardell Four-in-One tractor. 
    Photo Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • The Kardell Utility Tractor
    The Kardell Utility tractor. 
    Photo Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Old 1914 Zelle Straddle Row Tractor
    Though these are poor photos, they give a general idea of what the earliest Zelle tractor looked like. Shown here, a 1914 Zelle Straddle-Row tractor. 
    Photo Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • 1914 Zelle Straddle Row Tractor
    Though these are poor photos, they give a general idea of what the earliest Zelle tractor looked like. Shown here, a 1914 Zelle Straddle-Row tractor. 
    Photo Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Fulton Attachable Power Driven Supporting Frame
    In 1945, C.C. Fulton won a patent for this “attachable power driven supporting frame for mowers and other garden implements.” 
    Illustration Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Zelle Tractor Illustration
    This illustration of the Zelle tractor was shown in all of Zelle Tractor Co.’s literature during its three years of existence. Note the height of the seat. The tractor was designed by engineer William Zelle. 
    Illustration Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • 1913 Whitman Agricultural Co Sultan Engine Ad
    “This is the engine you want,” crows this 1913 ad for the Whitman Agricultural Co. Sultan engine. “This is the saw rig you want,” Whitman Agricultural Co. declares — promoting their Sultan engine, of course. 
    Illustration Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Busch 450 HP Diesel Engine
    This Busch 450 hp diesel engine was a central station providing electric current and electricity for irrigation pumps in and around a New Mexico town. 
    Photo Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • The Ideal Installation
    This photo shows what Busch-Sulzer Co. called “The Ideal Installation,” consisting of two Busch 120 hp engines installed in 1907, and a 225 in 1912. 
    Photo Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Fulton Diesel Engines
    Fulton Diesel Engines
    Illustration Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • First American Diesel Engine
    The first American diesel engine was manufactured by Adolphus Busch in St. Louis on Sept. 19, 1898. The 2-cylinder machine developed 60 hp. It was installed at the Anheuser-Busch brewery and was the first diesel to be placed under operating conditions in the U.S. 
    Photo Courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Fulton 3-Cylinder Diesel Engine
    Fulton Iron Works of St. Louis made huge 1-, 2-, and 3-cylinder diesel engines in 1914, featuring an 8-by-9-inch bore and stroke. Fulton eventually shifted into cane mill production. 
    Illustration Courtesy Bill Vossler

  • Fulton Iron Works
  • 1920 Kardell Ad
  • Whitman Agricultural Co. Sultan Engine
  • Kardell Four-in-One Tractor
  • The Kardell Utility Tractor
  • Old 1914 Zelle Straddle Row Tractor
  • 1914 Zelle Straddle Row Tractor
  • Fulton Attachable Power Driven Supporting Frame
  • Zelle Tractor Illustration
  • 1913 Whitman Agricultural Co Sultan Engine Ad
  • Busch 450 HP Diesel Engine
  • The Ideal Installation
  • Fulton Diesel Engines
  • First American Diesel Engine
  • Fulton 3-Cylinder Diesel Engine

St. Louis was perhaps the first American city that manufactured farm equipment from A to Z, running the gamut from Alligator Equipment Co. to Zelle Tractor Co. Building on its proud heritage as both a leading port on the Mississippi River and as Gateway to the West, St. Louis proved fertile ground for the explosion of manufacturing that launched the 20th century.

McKinney Traction Cultivator Co.

A July 18, 1911, article in Implement Age magazine, headlined “The McKinney Tractor Cultivator,” announced news of a new company in St. Louis. “The (company) is now located in its new factory and has installed a complete line of high grade machinery for the manufacture of the McKinney tractor cultivator. The company writes that it will make deliveries of its tractor cultivator on or about Nov. 1 of this year.

“The McKinney Tractor Cultivator is one of the latest inventions in power machinery for agricultural purposes. It has been thoroughly tested in field work, and its successful operation proven.” Nothing else is known about the company or the cultivator.

Plantation Equipment Co.

The future of Plantation Equipment Co. was written in the last name of the company owners a trio of men with the last name Zelle: Arthur, William and Henry. It is unclear when Plantation began business, though it produced an enormous, ungainly Straddle-Row tractor as early as 1914.



In 1917, Plantation manufactured three Zelle Straddle-Row models: an 8-16, a 12-25 and a 16-32. They weighed 2,500, 3,500 and 4,500 pounds, with respective drawbar pulls of 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 pounds. Very limited information is available, but it appears that these tractors were later called the Ultimate 8-16, Ultimate 12-25 and Ultimate 16-32. Purchase price in 1917 ranged from $850 to $1,050 ($15,500 to $19,150 today).

Zelle Tractor Co.

It was probably not a huge surprise when Plantation Equipment Co. evolved into Zelle Tractor Co. But Zelle built only one model: the 12-25. The Zelle 12-25 tractor was noteworthy for its unlimited visibility. The operator’s platform was completely above the tractor, the seat a full 71 inches above the ground. The steering wheel and control columns were top-mounted.