Last month, I wrote about the trend that developed during the late 1930s and early 1940s toward brighter paint colors and more streamlined sheet metal (read Tractor Designs: Styled or Unstyled? from the February 1999 issue).
I ran across an interesting story from 1937, about a contest sponsored by the Oliver Farm Equipment Company, that let farmers choose the color combination they liked best on their Oliver tractors.
The Oliver Company conducted the “Oliver ’70’ Tractor Color Voting Contest” at the principal state and sectional fairs of 1937. The Oliver fair exhibit consisted of a voting table surrounded by six specially painted Oliver Row Crop 70 tractors. Farmers were asked to look over the differently painted machines and indicate their choice on a ballot.
A “nationally known color specialist” had selected the six color combinations:
– chrome green body, red trim and ivory lettering;
– regatta red body, aluminum trim with white lettering;
– chrome green body with tangerine trim and white lettering;
– yellow body, black trim and red lettering;
– China gold body with tangerine trim and ivory lettering;
– ivory body, Chinese gold trim with red lettering.
Oliver gave each farmer who voted a “handy leather pocket key case.”
A major event in Charles City, Iowa, at the time was the annual Oliver Tractor Plant employee picnic. Farmers from all around, as well as the residents of Charles City, turned out to watch the big parade of Oliver farm equipment. At the Aug. 14, 1937 parade, “six of the prettiest young ladies in the Oliver organization” were chosen to drive the six specially painted tractors in the two-mile-long parade.
The article claimed that voting had been very heavy at the Illinois State Fair and at two Michigan fairs, but it was too early to announce the results. Apparently one of the chrome green combinations won, as Oliver used that color well into the 1950s.
Wouldn’t it be a fantastic stroke of luck to find a 1937 Oliver 70 that had been painted one of these custom colors? I’ll bet an ivory Row Crop 70 would raise a lot of eyebrows at shows. Do any Farm Collector readers remember seeing these Oliver exhibits at the local fairs? I’ve seen the little leather key cases that were given as prizes for voting, but I doubt that many have survived.
Oliver was one of the first tractor manufacturers to successfully copy modern automotive design and marketing techniques. The automobile’s high compression engine and streamlined beauty symbolized smooth, modern power. The Oliver Row Crop 70 tractor, introduced in 1935, was touted as “presenting an unusually trim appearance with an almost complete absence of projecting parts. It is fully enclosed and streamlined, modern in every respect; as simple to handle as any automobile.” Much emphasis was placed on the “smooth, vibrationless power of the six cylinders, which lessens driver’s fatigue, assures greater comfort and more efficient operation.”
For two weeks prior to the Oct. 15 unveiling of the 1938 Row Crop 70, Oliver dealers employed the same methods used by the automobile companies when announcing a new model. Newspaper and magazine ads and white-washed display windows, as well as canvas-covered tractors on delivery trucks and showroom floors, all served to bring interest in the new tractor to a fever pitch among farmers. I imagine there wasn’t a farm boy within 25 miles of an Oliver dealer who didn’t pester his father for weeks to go see the new tractor at one of the “Oliver National 70 Days.”
In fact, a 1937 news release by Mr. Tucker claimed the nationwide selling campaign was keeping Oliver’s big Charles City tractor plant running in capacity shifts to produce the new Oliver streamliners.
Speaking of Oliver tractors, I’m currently restoring a 1946 Oliver 60 Standard. It’s a really neat little machine, and adds to my collection of small, standard tread tractors, which includes examples from John Deere, McCormick-Deering, Allis-Chalmers, Case, Massey-Harris, Minneapolis-Moline, Fordson and Centaur. FC
Ever since his days as a boy on a farm in western Pennsylvania, Sam Moore has been interested in tractors, trucks and machinery. Now a resident of Salem, Ohio, he collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact him by e-mail at email@example.com.