1921 IHC Titan 10-20 Tractor: South Dakota Family Heirloom

Bought new in 1921, this IHC Titan 10-20 still belongs to the same South Dakota family

| July 2010

  • Readying the Titan. When Axel Olson bought the Titan, it came with a 2-bottom plow. Several years ago, that plow was loaned out but never returned.
    Readying the Titan. When Axel Olson bought the Titan, it came with a 2-bottom plow. Several years ago, that plow was loaned out but never returned. "It was probably sold for iron," Red says.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • This 1921 International Harvester Titan 10-20 is now in the hands of the third generation of the Olson family. Designed to run on gas, kerosene or distillate, the Titan sold for $875 (about $10,600 2010's terms) in 1921.
    This 1921 International Harvester Titan 10-20 is now in the hands of the third generation of the Olson family. Designed to run on gas, kerosene or distillate, the Titan sold for $875 (about $10,600 2010's terms) in 1921.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • This 1921 International Harvester Titan 10-20 is now in the hands of the third generation of the Olson family. Designed to run on gas, kerosene or distillate, the Titan sold for $875 (about $10,600 2010's terms) in 1921.
    This 1921 International Harvester Titan 10-20 is now in the hands of the third generation of the Olson family. Designed to run on gas, kerosene or distillate, the Titan sold for $875 (about $10,600 2010's terms) in 1921.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • Cranking the Titan, Armond 'Red' Olson gives it everything he's got, under Bob Olson's watchful eye.
    Cranking the Titan, Armond "Red" Olson gives it everything he's got, under Bob Olson's watchful eye.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • Bob Olson shares the lessons learned over a lifetime.
    Bob Olson shares the lessons learned over a lifetime.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • Bob Olson at the helm of the IHC Titan 10-20.
    Bob Olson at the helm of the IHC Titan 10-20.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • A 1-1/2 hp McCormick-Deering engine from Bob Olson's collection.
    A 1-1/2 hp McCormick-Deering engine from Bob Olson's collection.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • Among Bob Olson's old iron treasures was this 1919 cement mixer purchased new by a rancher in Gann Valley, S.D. Bob's father, Axel Olson, used the mixer in the 1940s when he was erecting buildings near Fort Thompson for Agriculture Credit, a Minneapolis-based company.
    Among Bob Olson's old iron treasures was this 1919 cement mixer purchased new by a rancher in Gann Valley, S.D. Bob's father, Axel Olson, used the mixer in the 1940s when he was erecting buildings near Fort Thompson for Agriculture Credit, a Minneapolis-based company.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • Chad Olson, Red's son, represents the fourth generation of Olsons to preserve the Titan. He's shown here with his sons, already wrangling for a turn at the wheel.
    Chad Olson, Red's son, represents the fourth generation of Olsons to preserve the Titan. He's shown here with his sons, already wrangling for a turn at the wheel.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • Bob Olson's Sandwich gas engine.
    Bob Olson's Sandwich gas engine.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • A 1-1/2 hp Fuller & Johnson engine powers the 1919 mixer, which Bob Olson restored.
    A 1-1/2 hp Fuller & Johnson engine powers the 1919 mixer, which Bob Olson restored.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • Bob Olson and his son, Red, making adjustments on the 1919 cement mixer.
    Bob Olson and his son, Red, making adjustments on the 1919 cement mixer.
    Loretta Sorensen
  • Bob Olson had a unique understanding of antique engines, like the Sandwich shown here.
    Bob Olson had a unique understanding of antique engines, like the Sandwich shown here.
    Loretta Sorensen

  • Readying the Titan. When Axel Olson bought the Titan, it came with a 2-bottom plow. Several years ago, that plow was loaned out but never returned.
  • This 1921 International Harvester Titan 10-20 is now in the hands of the third generation of the Olson family. Designed to run on gas, kerosene or distillate, the Titan sold for $875 (about $10,600 2010's terms) in 1921.
  • This 1921 International Harvester Titan 10-20 is now in the hands of the third generation of the Olson family. Designed to run on gas, kerosene or distillate, the Titan sold for $875 (about $10,600 2010's terms) in 1921.
  • Cranking the Titan, Armond 'Red' Olson gives it everything he's got, under Bob Olson's watchful eye.
  • Bob Olson shares the lessons learned over a lifetime.
  • Bob Olson at the helm of the IHC Titan 10-20.
  • A 1-1/2 hp McCormick-Deering engine from Bob Olson's collection.
  • Among Bob Olson's old iron treasures was this 1919 cement mixer purchased new by a rancher in Gann Valley, S.D. Bob's father, Axel Olson, used the mixer in the 1940s when he was erecting buildings near Fort Thompson for Agriculture Credit, a Minneapolis-based company.
  • Chad Olson, Red's son, represents the fourth generation of Olsons to preserve the Titan. He's shown here with his sons, already wrangling for a turn at the wheel.
  • Bob Olson's Sandwich gas engine.
  • A 1-1/2 hp Fuller & Johnson engine powers the 1919 mixer, which Bob Olson restored.
  • Bob Olson and his son, Red, making adjustments on the 1919 cement mixer.
  • Bob Olson had a unique understanding of antique engines, like the Sandwich shown here.

In 1921, it took Fort Thompson, S.D., farmer Axel Olson eight hours to drive home his brand new International Harvester Company Titan 10-20 tractor.

He traveled 24 miles from the train station in Chamberlain, S.D., to his nearby farm. At top speed the tractor traveled 3 miles per hour.

The tractor Axel treasured is now cherished by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who are working together to preserve a significant and interesting piece of their family’s heritage.

Axel purchased the tractor from the International dealer in Chamberlain with the intention of using it to break sod and thresh grain. He also did custom plowing and threshing for neighboring farmers. As a youth, Axel’s son, Bob, farmed with him. Bob – who died in March at age 88 – remained on the home place most of his life, but much of the adjacent land went under water in 1960 when the Corps of Engineers built the nearby Big Bend Dam on the Missouri River.

Perfectly preserved

Over the years, Bob prized his father’s 10-20 Titan. He maintained and restored the relic, which has become a family heirloom. “I’ve been offered as much as $100,000 for it,” Bob said in an interview last fall. “But I wouldn’t sell it for anything. It goes to my son, Red (Armond).”



Even though the tractor has always been in good running condition, Bob completely disassembled the Titan in 1990 and conducted a total restoration. Very knowledgeable about gas engines, he did as much of the work as he could, and utilized the expertise of others to return the tractor to mint condition. Pistons were sent to New York where they were flame sprayed and new piston rings were made. A professional painter gave the Titan a new coat of paint and re-created original logos.

“This tractor has never been froze up,” Bob said, “but I wanted to go through it and make sure it was in top condition. The pistons were built up and I put new clutches in. The front wheels went to Spearfish (S.D.) to get the bushings cut and replaced. It might even be in better shape than it was when Dad rolled it off that rail car.”



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