BETWEEN THE BOOKENDS


| February 2001


New Release Celebrates Allis-Chalmers

Anyone with even a modicum of interest in tractors that wear the Persian orange paint will delight in a new book by Lynn K. Grooms: Vintage Allis-Chalmers Tractors. Fact is, even if you know nothing about this breed of tractors, you can learn a lot about A-C by simply admiring the many photos (by Chester Peterson) and captions in this informative, well-structured, and handsomely illustrated book.

Interspersed with more than 100 photographs are illustrations and ads from the early days when Allis-Chalmers was a major player in the tractor business.

Growing up in Missouri during the 1950s, I was a member of an FFA chapter composed mostly of green supporters and red enthusiasts. Those John Deere guys and Farmall advocates were always arguing about - or bragging on - their color of tractors. But other voices almost always joined the verbal battles, those whose families owned and operated Allis-Chalmers tractors.

Roger Welsch, whose name immediately brings a smile if you've seen him on TV or read some of his humor, was the perfect selection to write the foreword and introduce the uneducated to the many virtues of Sweet Allis. He loves his orange tractors with a passion, and after many years is still trying to convince his wife, Linda, that the incurable disease that causes him to buy one Allis-Chalmers after another isn't fatal, so long as the habit itself doesn't die.

The book traces the roots of the company to the early days of the last century. A fetching postcard picture of the Allis-Chalmers works in Milwaukee suggests a going, growing company.

In the 1920s, the Allis-Chalmers tractor was dark green with red wheels, but that was about to change. The story goes that Tractor Division Manager Harry Merritt visited California and was taken by the vibrant orange color of acres of wild poppy. He brought some poppies back to Milwaukee, investigated to see if the color was possible for tractors, and wound up adopting the Persian orange color in 1928. Why? It could always be distinguished from the landscape, even though the tractor might be covered with dirt or dust. The 1929 Allis-Chalmers Model U was the first in a long line of tractors and implements boasting Persian orange paint.






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