Classics for the Tractor Enthusiast
This spring brings a crop of four interesting new titles for the tractor enthusiast. Ranging from early tractors (the Fordson) to comparatively modern models (John Deere’s New Generation and Generation II tractors), and including a solid overview of the broad category and the story of a famed inventor, these titles deserve a second look.
In a new book tracing the history of John Deere New Generation and Generation II tractors, author John Dietz has done his homework and then some. A selection of solid resources adds rich detail to a legendary era in farm equipment manufacture in John Deere New Generation and Generation II Tractors: History, Models, Variations & Specifications 1960s-1970s.
Deere & Co. was already in a leadership position when it looked beyond two-cylinder equipment and commenced design of large, powerful tractors with stunning new advances in engine technology, ergonomics and safety. After seven years in development, the results were unveiled at D-Day in Dallas on Aug. 30, 1960. Company President William Hewitt capably steered the massive project, which helped transform Deere & Co. from a Midwestern manufacturer into the world’s largest producer of agricultural equipment.
Dietz’s book is a rich tapestry, weaving in the lineage of New Generation and Generation II tractors and equipment, behind-the-scenes details on design, development and corporate history during an exciting period of growth. Hewitt’s leadership had lasting impact. As the final generation of Deere leadership with actual ties to the company founder (Hewitt’s wife was Patricia Deere Wiman, great-great-granddaughter of John Deere), Hewitt exercised unique vision in guiding the decades-old company into its own new generation.
The book also offers a fresh visual perspective on collectible John Deere tractors and equipment. Although it includes photos of handsomely restored tractors with gleaming paint jobs, tractors in many photos are captured in their work clothes in the field or abandoned along fencerows. Based in Manitoba, Canada, Dietz (who took many of the book’s photos) opted to include many tractors from Canadian collections and those add particular shine to the book.
A regular contributor to Successful Farming Magazine, Dietz is a former field writer for The Furrow (published by Deere & Co.), and is the author of John Deere Two-Cylinder Buyer’s Guide and Classic John Deere Two-Cylinder Tractors.
Juicy little nuggets of little-known but carefully attributed Deere lore will delight green-and-yellow fans and should be of interest to anyone with an appetite for history of tractor development. With a sure grip on the steering wheel, Dietz knows when to dip off the beaten path into patio tractors, bicycles and even Elvis. Archival images of tractors in action, ads and brochures add fine context. In the vast library of books on Deere tractors and equipment, this one stands out.
John Deere New Generation and Generation II Tractors: History, Models, Variations & Specifications 1960s-1970s, by John Dietz, hard cover, 128 pages, color photographs, Voyageur Press, $25, available through Farm Collector Books.
If you’re a closet Fordson fan, you’re not alone. Consider Ed Bezanson your comrade in arms – except Ed has come out of the closet in a big way with his new book, Fordson Accessory Guide, Vol. 1. “If asked, I would say I collected Minneapolis-Molines or Cletracs but never Fordsons,” he admits. “I was in effect a closet Fordson lover who could not admit to his true love.”
Like Rodney Dangerfield, Fordsons get little respect. But the facts stand for themselves: Bezanson notes that nearly 1,000 companies around the world built Fordson parts from 1920 to 1930. Furthermore, during a 40-year period more than 1 million Fordsons were built and sold, “not bad for a tractor that most present day collectors consider as unworthy for serious preservation,” he says.
After a brief discussion of the Fordson’s unique position in tractor history, Bezanson launches the reader into a remarkable selection of vintage advertisements for various Fordson accessories. The ads are grouped in manageable chapters: steering control systems, magneto drives, governors, auxiliary hitches, power-take-offs and drives, auxiliary axles, aftermarket wheels, lawn maintenance equipment, yard cranes, wood processing machinery, air compressors, power units, winches, trailers, snow handing equipment and railroad conversions.
The ads come from Bezanson’s personal collection and that of Jack Heald, founder of the Fordson Tractor Club. Compilation of those ads into one volume is both a labor of love and a gift to the old iron world. Anyone who’s ever done research on this category well understands the immense educational value of vintage advertising. You could spend years sifting through old magazines and not scratch the surface of the wealth of material contained in this volume.
The author plans a three-book series. Volume 2 will feature more farm-related machinery as well as industrial, construction and crawler conversions. Volume 3 will include miscellaneous information and a photographic history of the tractor using original photos from the author’s personal collection built over 25 years.
For the Fordson enthusiast (and we know you’re out there, even if you won’t admit to it!), Bezanson’s book gives tremendous insight into how the tractor was designed and used. For the person who’s interested in tractor design and development, this book offers an invaluable look at an exciting period of industrial design. Either way, there’s no other book on your shelf with this information.
Fordson Accessory Guide, Vol. 1, by Ed Bezanson, soft cover, 366 pages, black-and-white photos and illustrations, Ertel Publishing, available (autographed on request) for $29.95 plus $6.05 s/h from Connecticut Yankee Trader, 85 Dayton Rd., Waterford, CT 06385.
If you’re looking for a solid, comprehensive overview on farm tractors, you can’t beat Farm Tractors: The History of the Tractor. Written by Robert N. Pripps and complemented by Andrew Morland’s stunning photography, the hefty volume starts with the first steam engines used in agricultural applications and moves at a brisk clip through the ensuing decades up to the Cat Challenger 45 in 1996.
First published in 2001 and re-released in March, Farm Tractors remains a classic. Heavy on very, very fine photos of beautifully restored rare and historic tractors, it offers more than the average share of tractor eye candy. Vintage ads and promotional materials lend depth, and concise, detailed text adds fundamental background information on manufacturers and technological developments.
Informative sidebars give bonus material: You’ll find terrific historical text on Henry Ford, Harry Ferguson and crawlers in wartime applications. Timelines add a useful frame of reference, and capsule segments explore various advances in engineering and design.
Author Pripps and photographer Morland know their stuff: The pair has collaborated on 11 books on classic tractors and Pripps has written five others on his own. This is a great foundation book for any old iron bookshelf. It can stand alone or it can be the starting point. Either way, it’s a super look at a historic category.
Farm Tractors: The History of the Tractor, by Robert N. Pripps with photography by Andrew Morland, hard cover, 256 pages, color photographs, Voyageur Press, $19.99, available through Farm Collector Books.
Fans of old iron have likely heard of the Marvel Schebler carburetor but are less likely to know its background. Retired carpenter and engine collector Joseph Greiwe has made it his mission to keep the memory of inventor George Schebler alive for a new generation through his booklet, History of the Schebler Carburetor.
Born in 1865, Schebler worked briefly as a carpenter then as a repairman of small musical instruments and a violin builder. Working around gas engines, he was well aware of the need for improvements to engine mixing valves. Inspired by an automatic hog watering trough that maintained a constant level of water, he began to experiment with a float system for a carburetor.
He received his first patent in 1902 and established a business partnership shortly after, creating the firm of Wheeler & Schebler. The rest, as they say, is history, and Greiwe has done a good job of bringing it back to life. He includes detail on Wheeler & Schebler factories, progressive management, annual sales and subsequent patents and the resulting models. He even digs in to the link between Schebler and the Indy 500, and Schebler’s design of the first V-12 engine used in automobiles. Also included: early ads for Wheeler & Schebler, historic photos and Schebler’s patents.
History of the Schebler Carburetor: George M. Schebler 1865-1942, by Joseph Greiwe, soft-cover, 54 pages, black-and-white photos and illustrations, $12.95 through the author: Joseph Greiwe, (812) 934-2747.FC
Between the Bookends: Art of the John Deere Tractor, Josephine Roberts Hits the Road & Kid Stuff
Looking at a group of intriguing new books: Art of the John Deere Tractor by Lee Klancher, Gwen and the Art of Tractor Travel by Josephine Roberts, the Tractor Mac series by Billy Steers, and Grandpa’s Tractor by Michael Garland.
Between the Bookends: Corn Husking Contests, Route 66, Christmas Remembered and more
Need great gift ideas? Look no further than these great books
Book excerpt: One Farm Kid’s Memory of his John Deere Model G
Philip Hasheider recalls his first experience driving his family’s rusty John Deere model G as a farm kid in an excerpt from My First Tractor: Stories of Farmers and Their First Love.