First Tractor on Rubber Tires in Minnesota

My grandfather had the first rubber-tired tractor in Meeker County, Minnesota, and according to Firestone, the entire state.

article image
courtesy of Milferd Smith
Milferd Smith, age 2 when this photo was taken in 1938, is dwarfed by the Allis-Chalmers Model U steering wheel.

My grandfather was a successful farmer, businessman, legislator, father and Christian. He had five sons; four were in their late teenage years and early twenties in 1920. At that time, a thresher with a big steam engine did the threshing. You had to put your grain bundles into stacks until he got there. Many times, it was December before he got done, depending on how much rain or snow they had.

Launching a business

With all of the help my grandfather had, he decided to buy a Huber thresher and an International Harvester Co. (IHC) Titan tractor. He used that equipment to start a custom threshing business. Silos were just coming into use, so he decided to go into silo filling. Next was corn shredding. In 1917, he built a new barn that held 20 milk cows plus eight horse and calf pens.

He had a fulltime hired man and my grandmother needed a hired girl in the house. The four older sons also did the milking. My father was the second son. He was in charge of the threshing machine, all of the other machines and the tractor. The oldest son was a horse man, so he was in charge of the bundle crews, and the next two were in charge of hauling the threshed grain to the granary.

Equipment upgrade

In 1927, my grandfather bought a new IHC 10-20 tractor and thresher. They used that equipment until 1932. My grandfather had been a legislator for six years but had Hodgkin’s disease. His mind was sharp but he was bedridden, so my father was the businessman. In 1932, my grandfather thought it was time to get a new tractor and threshing machine. He checked out all the available brands and prices.

When he got to the Ford and Allis-Chalmers dealer, they told him about the Allis-Chalmers Model U on rubber. The Allis and Firestone blockmen came out to see my grandfather and said they would give him a good deal because of his custom business. A lot of people would see this tractor on rubber. They said they would put on a pair of steel lug wheels for the same price plus a discount. He bought the Model U on rubber in the fall of 1932 and a new IHC threshing machine on Firestone rubber tires.

My grandfather died in 1933. In the fall of 1941, my father and uncle traded in the Model U for two Allis-Chalmers Model UC tractors. FC

Milferd Smith lives in Darwin, Minnesota.

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