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

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.”