Happy Days for Happy Farmers

| April 2003

When the Happy Farmer tractor and the Allis-Chalmers 10-18 tractor hit the market in 1916, both manufacturing companies must've been surprised. The two tractors looked nearly identical, though they differed by 15 inches in length, 1 inch in width, as well as engine details. That similarity raises a question. Did William Hartsough, who designed the Happy Farmer (as well as the Lion, Bull and Big Four tractors) copy the A-C 10-18, or was it the other way around? No one has ever found out, and no legal action ever came of it. The coincidence shouldn't be a surprise, because the history of the Happy Farmer tractor and its associated companies is filled with similar curiosities.

In the beginning

The first curiosity is mentioned in the earliest reference to the Happy Farmer tractor, in a Sept. 30, 1915 Farm Implements article. 'The Happy Farmer Tractor Company has been organized at La Crosse, Wisconsin ... to engage in the manufacture of a two-wheel farm tractor.'

The passage is strange because Happy Farmers came with three or four wheels, but never two.

Another curiosity is mentioned in a Dec. 31, 1915 Farm Implements article, which stated that the office and display of Happy Farmer tractors was 'at La Crosse Implement Company, 324 Third Avenue North, Minneapolis.' The Minneapolis location seems logical because B.F. Hamey, manager of the La Crosse Implement Co. of Minneapolis, was instrumental in the tractor's development and organization of the company. Ads of the time, however, refer to Happy Farmer Tractor Co., Minneapolis, Minn., which implies that's where the tractors were manufactured. However, it's still unclear whether or not Happy Farmer tractors were ever manufactured in Minneapolis.

That same Dec. 31, 1915 issue of Farm Implements contains two full-page ads touting the Happy Farmer as 'the sensation in farm power,' for $550 shipped from the factory, though it doesn't indicate where the facility is located.

Apparently nothing more was written about the tractor or company for 10 months, until the Oct. 31, 1916 issue of Farm Implements reports that the La Crosse Tractor Co. of La Crosse, Wise, was organized. The article combined the Happy Farmer Tractor Co. of Minneapolis and the Sta-Rite Engine Co. of La Crosse. The Nov. 30, 1916 issue of Farm Implements adds that, '...during the past year, the manufacturing facilities (of Sta-Rite) have been devoted largely to making the Happy Farmer tractor.' That probably means very few, if any, Happy Farmers were ever manufactured in Minneapolis. Most were made in La Crosse.