The Wheat Tractor

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The history of the Hession Tiller & Tractor Corporation is murky at best. One source claims that George Pierce of Pierce-Arrow automobile fame, established the firm in 1917 in Buffalo, New York, but that seems highly unlikely as Pierce died in 1910. Then there was a Daniel F. Hession from Springfield, Massachusetts, who received a patent for a motorized rotary tiller in 1918 that was assigned to the Hession Tiller & Tractor Corporation of Detroit, Michigan, although a story in the July 1919 issue of Tractor World magazine says the firm was in Buffalo. No matter, the company made a tractor they called the Hession Farm and Road Tractor, later renamed the Wheat Tractor with the company name changed accordingly, and the Wheat tractor is featured in the following story from that 1919 magazine.

“Prior to the beginning of the National Tractor Farming Demonstration at Wichita, Kan., July 15, the exhibit of the Hession Tiller and Tractor Co., Buffalo, N.Y., was augmented by the arrival the Wheat tractor, with road wheels and rubber tires, that left New York City, May 29, en route for Los Angeles. The tractor has been driven up to that time approximately 2,000 miles, hauling a covered trailer that serves as a shelter for the crew of three men.

“The road wheels were changed for field wheels at Wichita and the machine was worked at plowing the four days of the demonstration hauling a three-bottom gang plow. The machine attracted a good deal of interest for it has been driven hard for a considerable part of the distance and after leaving Philadelphia the tractor climbed the Allegheny Mountains and from Wheeling, W.Va., went on to Columbus, O. over fine brick roads. The maximum was 100 miles a day until Terre Haute was reached and then progress was slower, for the roads were deep with mud from heavy rain.

“St. Louis was reached June 30, several days ahead of schedule, and then a stop was made at Columbia, Mo., to demonstrate to the students taking the summer course at the agricultural department of the University of Missouri. The tractor was next driven to Kansas City, where a worn clutch collar was adjusted and the tractor would have reached Wichita with three days to spare had not it skidded into a small steel bridge spanning Hickory Creek, 8-1/2 miles east of Ottawa, Kan. The main girder of the bridge was buckled and repairs were necessary to the front axle and radius rod of the tractor and a front spring of the trailer. With this delay the tractor arrived at 10 o’clock the morning of July 14, on time to the minute.”

A super rare Wheat tractor sales brochure I’ve seen tells us, “From the days when Joseph became the power behind the Egyptian throne because he had advanced the wheat market, wheat has been the accepted standard of value in the world’s markets. And as wheat is the farm crop by which all other crops are judged, the Wheat tractor is the farm tractor by which all other tractors are judged.”

Two or three Wheat tractors have survived and one can be seen if you Google the following, “Wheat Tractor,” then click “Images,” and scroll down to about the middle of the eighth row and you’ll see a dark red tractor with green wheels and gold lettering – that’s the Wheat.

That must have been quite a trip in 1919 – 2,000 miles on a farm tractor. Most tractors of the day had only one or two speeds with a high gear of about 2-1/2 mph, although the Fordson would run 8 mph in third gear. The Wheat, however, being a “Farm and Road” tractor could be equipped with hard rubber tires and a road speed of 10 mph. Even at that breathtaking speed, 2,000 miles would be slow going as attested by the fact that it took 47 days to do it.

It also doesn’t say much for the state of the roads west of Indiana that they were so muddy the tractor was slowed considerably.

I wonder if they ever made it to Los Angeles.

– Sam Moore

The Wheat tractor equipped for road use and the trailer “Pullman” for the crew on their “coast-to-coast” trip. (From the July 1919 issue of Tractor World magazine)

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