Buckle your seatbelts: it’s going to be quite a ride. As the authors of Ford Tractor Implements warn in their introduction “Documenting the development of the three-point system of mounted implements can lead you on an interesting journey. It has been for us. Things that are fascinating, however, aren’t always clear-cut. Nor is the path invariably straight.” That certainly sets the tone of this recently released title by Motorbooks International.
To understand the history and evolution of farm implements is to read Ford Tractor Implements. This 128-page book is loaded with historical photos, anecdotes and historical accounts of the famed Ferguson Three-Point System developed by Henry Ferguson, and its use on the Ford 9N tractor.
Ferguson’s three-point hitch was a revolutionary mark in agricultural progress. It allowed a tractor to raise and lower a plow safely and efficiently, and kept it at an equal draft through different types of terrain. As authors Chester Peterson Jr. and Rod Beemer note: “Ferguson’s plow was a radical departure from plow designs of the time, as it weighed a third of its contemporaries’ weights, was mounted directly to the Ford Eros tractor, and – wonder of wonders – it had no wheels.” The three-point technology would later evolve into a line of Ford farm implements.
The authors tell a fascinating story of Henry George “Harry” Ferguson, a mechanic and noted tinkerer captivated by the mechanics and engines of airplanes, automobiles and, of course, agricultural machinery. Born in County Down, Ireland, in 1884, Ferguson rose from his “bit better than poverty” background to become a successful entrepreneur who designed and built engines and mechanical systems and linkages to improve agricultural machinery.
The book represents extensive research over some 40 years of archival materials on implement design, research, production runs, advertisements and manuals. The reader will learn the detailed story of how Ferguson entered into partnership with Henry Ford and his Ford Tractor Manufacturing operation, and the stumbling blocks both faced along the way. The Ford 9N tractor with the Ferguson System was introduced in 1939. The three-point system had been introduced and produced by other manufacturers, yet it was Henry Ford who saw the three-point system as both revolutionary and the key to improving efficiency on farms throughout the pre-war world.
What’s fascinating about Ford Tractor Implements is the hodgepodge of nostalgia and archival memorabilia contained in the book, including early Ferguson advertisements, metal barn signs, drawings, photographs of Ferguson and Henry Ford together, and historical sidebars.
The authors steer away from the Ferguson and Ford story, instead giving individual histories in the latter half of the book’s 10 chapters (separate chapters are dedicated to plows, harrows, cultivators, middle busters, mowers, planters, weeders, rakes, dozers, scoops and loaders). One advertisement for the Ford planter begins, “As in plowing, cultivating and other work, the Ford tractor with Ferguson system of implement linkage and hydraulic control helps you do better planting easier. In only a minute or two, you can attach the planter to the tractor.”
Ford Tractor Implements is loaded with glossy color photos showing Ford tractors and implements, and some close-up views of key implement mechanisms. A useful appendix gives specifications and descriptions of almost all Ford implements for anyone with any interest in those innovative machines. A collector with an interest in Ford tractor implements and their development will be well served by this book. FC
Ford Tractor Implements, Motor Books International, 1998; ISBN 0-7603-0428-9; 128 pages, soft cover.
Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Va. He is the author of The Autograph Source Book. For details, contact the author at 1008 Weeping Willow Drive, Chesapeake, VA 23322.