Flash in the Pan

| July 2002

In the early days of farm power, tractors were designed for one main purpose: to plow, to turn the virgin sod from North Dakota to Texas. To accomplish that job, many were monstrous -the Pioneer 30-60 weighed 23,000 pounds and its sister 45-90, 31,000 pounds; the Avery 40-80 hit 22,000 pounds; and the Hart-Parr 30-60, cooled by 80 gallons of oil, tipped the scales at 20,500 pounds.

No lightweight, maneuver-able tractors existed until the ill-fated Little Bull in 1914, and the reasons were simple: tractor manufacturers did not listen to farmers, who were crying for smaller tractors. Also, nobody was sure yet just exactly what the tractor might do best on the farm. Except plow.

In time, tractor designers and manufacturers began to find out, though, and in this process, they went through a phase of testing whether 'combination' tractors might be the answer. As C.H. Wendel writes in his Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors, '... countless attempts were made at combination machines - tractor-trucks, tractor-plows, automobile-plows and various other combinations.'

Auto plows

Of all the varieties of combination tractors, the auto-plow (also called a tractor-plow or a motor plow) was, to nobody's surprise, the most common. The auto-plow differs from the automobile plow of the time, such as the Smith Form-A-Tractor or the Staude Mak-A-Tractor, which added large drive wheels to the rear axle of an automobile, usually a Ford Model T, to convert it into a plowing machine.

Some auto-plows - like the Hackney Auto-Plow and the Nevada (Nah-vay-dah) Auto-Plow - are well-known and share a common look.

Others, like the Denning 6-12 tractor, are little-known and look different. The Denning 6-12, manufactured in 1913 by the Denning Motor Implement Co. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had a frame of lightweight tubular steel and looked like a glorified go-cart with a single-bottom plow slung under it.