Criswell’s Pedal Tractor Guide: Covering Cast Aluminum Pedal Tractors from the 1940s through 1998 is a pedal tractor lover’s bonanza, a cornucopia of knowledge for anyone interested in pedal tractors. You know this is a serious book when you open it and find not only an alphabetized table of contents of pedal tractor manufacturers, but also a parts identification index, information on paint colors and manufacturers (“The only address for … Graphic Reproductions … was a post office box… in Detroit, Michigan“), and a short section titled “Reproduction, Counterfeit, Fake, Replica and Fantasy.” That section defines each of those terms (and a couple more), and includes a paragraph about “What to do and how to know if it is genuine.” This section alone is worth the price of the book.
The parts identification index identifies all the parts in detail. It contains black-and-white photos of front and rear rims and tires, seats, steering wheels, hubcaps, push nuts and pedals, and uses an abbreviated two- or three-letter code for each part. For example, FMS is translated to “front (F) rim (M) with spokes (S).”
And then there’s the body of the book, 129 pages of glorious color; beautiful, clear photos showing both sides of each pedal tractor featured. Count on all the basic information a pedal tractor buff could ever need (or anyone wanting to identify cast aluminum pedal tractors would want). You’ll find the brand and model of the pedal tractor, who made it, the first year of production, and casting numbers.
Next to each 3 1/4″ x 4 3/4″ color photo is a listing using the abbreviated codes already mentioned, giving types and colors of the front and rear wheel rims, seats, pedals and all other parts listed in the parts identification index.
There’s also additional information, like the type and color of the front and rear wheel caps, and the colors of the rear axle housing and body. About 60 percent of the tractors featured have additional “Notes,” like these on the Ertl-made John Deere 30 from 1973, casting no. Model 520: “First few shipped from the factory had metal front wheels but without slots to mount hubcaps. These had ED caps on the front axle and pedal crank. Later models had black plastic seats and steering wheels.” You’ll also find warnings – where appropriate – of fakes, and admonitions to find an expert if you’re looking for a rare model.
Speaking of rare tractors, the Criswell book includes photos of the rarest piece in all farm toydom, the Eska-manufactured red “John Deere” coffin block red A, along with a short story on the tractor.
There are pages of photos of “Private Company Decals,” used on all American pedal tractors; a two-page section of “Customs” (custom-made pedal tractors); pedal tractor trailers, umbrellas and new releases from 1998. The book contains all the big-name companies: Deere, Allis-Chalmers, International, Minneapolis-Moline, as well as pedal tractors with less-common names, like Tractor, Heisler, All-American Farmer and others.
The back of the book contains a valuations guide (“condition is IMPORTANT,” the writers stress) indicating prices of all the tractors in the book, in good and excellent restoration/new conditions, along with information describing those conditions.
Most of the tractors shown are in superb condition, although a handful show the wear of actual use.
In their introduction to the book, the Creswell’s say that they took almost five years to put the book together. They fell into this “labor of love.” When they couldn’t find a pedal tractor reference book that contained all the information they wanted, they wrote the book themselves. The stunning results are obvious. The book is not only well-done, on high-gloss paper, but easy to use, clear and concise, and fun to look at.
About the only thing you could say is wrong with this book is that there isn’t more of it. It only covers cast aluminum pedal tractors from the 1940s through 1998, and not the many tin or plastic ones (“The tin tractor field is very large, and would require an entire book just for them,” the Creswell’s write.).
Nevertheless, this book – though expensive – is a rare treat and a necessary addition to the libraries of collectors who love cast-aluminum pedal tractors. FC
Criswell’s Pedal Tractor Guide: Covering Cast Aluminum Pedal Tractors from the 1940s through 1998, C. Lee Criswell and Clarence L. Criswell Sr., hard cover, 152 pages, color photographs throughout; available at $35 each (including shipping) through Criswell Press, 400 Criswell Ave., Lamar, SC 29069. Online at www.criswell.org.