C.O.D. Tractor


| March 2002



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C.O.D Gas Tractor

Breathless, with heart clanging at the wonders of this apparently best tractor ever built in the history of the world. That's how a reader studying the history of the C.O.D. tractor comes away feeling.

A 1917 brochure on the C.O.D., a Minnesota-built tractor, touts the essence of this machine in its motor: 'The C.O.D. motor has every desirable feature that mechanical genius could possibly design. The ignition system insures the hottest kind of spark at the proper time, and is the best that can be secured in the ignition world today. The motor is perfectly balanced and runs without vibration. It cools perfectly. The C.O.D. motor is the apex of modern motor construction.' Pretty lofty claims for a tractor that is not even listed in R.B. Gray's widely recognized reference book, The Agricultural Tractor 1855-1950, which chronicles tractors built and sold year by year.

The C.O.D's absence from Gray's book does not mean it was not built, though. It was. The C.O.D. Gas Tractor Company was organized in 1915 at Crookston, Minn., 'to build (Albert O.) Espe's latest design,' according to C.H. Wendel in his Encyclopedia of the American Farm Tractor. Espe was well known in the farm tractor field by this time. In 1907, he built his first tractor, the Universal, which eventually was bought by Advance-Rumely and turned into the Rumely Gas Pull. Espe also developed the Avery tractors, and as Wendel writes, 'J.B. Bartholomew over at Avery (Power Company) paid a handsome price for these patents, and put Espe on the payroll.'

How the company was named is open to conjecture. One theory holds the initials were taken from the last names of the firm's three major investors, but two sets of names come up: 'Conrad, Ogard and Daniel' and 'W.T. Clapp, A.E. Ogard and J.I. Daughenbaugh.' Also, there's 'Collect On Delivery' and the 'grandchildren's initials' theory.

And, late C.O.D. literature uses the three letters to tout the value of the tractor: 'Conservation, Opportunity, Determination' - but the words seem forced.

Though most historical references state that the C.O.D. tractor first was built in 1916, it was probably put on the market at least a year earlier. Advertisements for it appear in the Feb. 27, 1915, issue of Farm Implements magazine, offering the C.O.D. 10-20 for $700 from the St. Paul Foundry Co.