The information was compiled by R. B. Gray and the book was first published by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. It is now published by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.
The book is divided into two sections. The first section discusses mechanical farm power from its beginning until 1920. The second catalogs chronologically the development of both track and wheel type tractors through the year 1950.
Excellent photographs help make the book more than a listing of names and dates. Illustrations abound, and the information is further enhanced by charts showing comparative performances of various machines.
In addition to giving year-to-year information about tractors and tractor manufacturers the book stresses highlights and historical events which played major roles in the growth of the farm machinery industry.
The opening of the West after the Civil War, for instance, and the need to break open the prairie soil, stimulated manufacturing.
20 HP, 1,000 r.p.m., 4-cylinder vertical engine mounted lengthwise. Ignition by low-tension flywheel magneto and high tension coils; clutch, multiple disc in oil; worm-gear final drive; two-piece case-iron frame bolted together at middle; splash lubrication oil from fly-wheel splash caught in funnel and conducted to individual trays in which connecting-rod cap projections dipped.
1918 Case 9/18
1894 Van Duzen
In 1915 interest in tractors was fed by the increased demand for food products brought on by the First World War. As the United States got further into the war in 1917 and 1918 the farm tractor helped meet the problems of labor and animal shortage. About this time small, versatile tractors appeared on the market and tractor demonstrations were held in the Midwest. These demonstrations were valuable in publicizing the worth of tractors and in spreading knowledge about their performance.
After the Second World War emphasis was placed upon the development of attachments to help in planting, cultivating and mowing.
The first step in mechanical power farming was the invention of the 'steam' or traction engine. After McCormick invented the reaper in 1831 demand grew for belt power to thresh the grain crop which was now harvested mechanically. One thing led to another. Each invention brought on the need for another.
The next big step was the portable steam engine, then the self-propelled steam traction engine.
Although the origin of the internal combustion engine dates back to 1678, experiments were largely neglected for more than a century. In 1794 an Englishman, Robert Street, 'patented the first real engine,' using turpentine as the fuel.
In 1801, Frenchman Lebon D'Humbersin, called the father of the present-day engine, patented an explosion-type engine. With the N. A. Otto engine of 1876 the internal combustion engine began to look like a practical power unit.
The development of the gasoline tractor was similar to that of the steam traction engine first a stationary engine, then portable, then self-propelled. Gasoline burning tractors were being made in the 1890s, and in the early 1900s competition was strong between steam and gas tractor manufacturers.
In 1908 the public had its first real chance to compare 'steamers' and gas tractors in the field at the Winnipeg Trials held at the Winnipeg Industrial Exhibition in Canada.
1917 was a watershed year. Ford produced his first tractor, the Fordson. This was also the first tractor made of cast iron unit frame construction. Soon all manufacturers followed suit. By August of 1920 Ford claimed to have sold 100,000 Fordsons.
In 1928 rubber casings were successfully used on wheels in the Florida orange groves to prevent root damage. In 1931 B. F. Goodrich introduced a 'zero pressure' rubber tire which was a rubber arch on a perforated wheel base to be attached to steel tire drive wheels. In 1932 Firestone came out with pneumatic tires.
From 1920 to 1950 power farming showed a remarkable development. From the first crude machine there was a steady progression to the sophisticated general-purpose tractor with attachments. In 1950 there were nearly 4 million tractors on American farms.
In the competition between steam and gasoline the winner, of course, was gasoline. The competition between the two ideas was healthy, as was that between the big firms in the search for greater efficiency and better design of the tractor.
The development of the tractor has been a vital element in the growth of the United States, helping to make it one of the world's leading granaries. The Agricultural Tractor 1855-1950 tells us all about it, in concise, businesslike terms, with no chaff or fanfare. It is an honest, reliable, informative and important story of the growth of the tractor and of the great manufacturing firms which made these machines.
If you are interested in tractors, you should get this book. $12.50 a copy, postpaid. Order from Stemgas Publishing Co., Box 328, Lancaster, PA 17604. Pa. residents, include 6% sales tax.