On the Trail of the Mysterious Hackney Auto-Plow

Tracing the Hackney Auto-Plow, an early mechanized plow that performed multiple farm tasks

| April 2000

  • One of the selling points of the Hackney Auto-Plow was that it was a
    One of the selling points of the Hackney Auto-Plow was that it was a "one-man outfit," which was important in the days when farm labor was much needed.
  • The Hackney was a beautifully colored machine, as shown by this illustration
    The Hackney was a beautifully colored machine, as shown by this illustration. Note the angled steering wheel; some illustrations show it, some don't. Perhaps the steering wheel could be tilted when drivers exchanged seats (and direction of the vehicle)
  • This 1913 Hackney, shown at Tulare, Calif., in 1999, is owned by the Tulare County Museum
    This 1913 Hackney, shown at Tulare, Calif., in 1999, is owned by the Tulare County Museum.
  • The Hackney also came with a grader attachment, as shown here.
    The Hackney also came with a grader attachment, as shown here.
  • A Hackney Auto-Plow being demonstrated, probably in North Dakota, circa 1914
    A Hackney Auto-Plow being demonstrated, probably in North Dakota, circa 1914. Notice that the guard around the sprocket and chain (just below and to the right of the driver's right leg), and the fender around the large wheel, have been removed. Ads usually show these protectors; photos of actual use in fields usually show these guards removed.
  • This Nevada Auto-Plows bears an eerie resemblance to the Hackney Auto-Plow
    This Nevada Auto-Plows bears an eerie resemblance to the Hackney Auto-Plow.
  • The Hackney wasn't just for plowing: This one is pulling a grain binder
    The Hackney wasn't just for plowing: This one is pulling a grain binder. Note that this Auto-Plow is going the "wrong" direction, with the large wheels in back, and the small, single wheel in front, opposite of all other available photos.

  • One of the selling points of the Hackney Auto-Plow was that it was a
  • The Hackney was a beautifully colored machine, as shown by this illustration
  • This 1913 Hackney, shown at Tulare, Calif., in 1999, is owned by the Tulare County Museum
  • The Hackney also came with a grader attachment, as shown here.
  • A Hackney Auto-Plow being demonstrated, probably in North Dakota, circa 1914
  • This Nevada Auto-Plows bears an eerie resemblance to the Hackney Auto-Plow
  • The Hackney wasn't just for plowing: This one is pulling a grain binder

The Hackney Auto-Plow story is a tale of a pair of inventive brothers, their innovative inventions and several unsolved mysteries. 

The brothers, Leslie S. and William L. Hackney (known to their family and everyone else as "L.S." and "W.L.," says their niece, Lucille Howe), made their stake in North Dakota at the turn of the 20th century, buying and quickly reselling railroad land.

In a 1977 article in Good Old Days Magazine, Mrs. Howe explains how her uncles got their start.

"As you know," Lucille Howe says, "the government granted huge tracts of land to railroad companies to encourage the building of new roads. In the early years of the century, much of this land was available at very low prices. It was sold also at nominal rates, but the turnover was enormous."



In 1901, with that money, and partners W.A. Law and A.L. Law, the Hackney brothers formed the Law Manufacturing Company in St. Paul, Minn., manufacturing hay tools, " ... and increasing their business and line in six years," says Farm Implements magazine of Jan. 30, 1909, "so they were compelled to move twice during that time to larger factory quarters, each time tripling the size of their factory, the last move being to one of the best manufacturing sites in the Twin Cities, which they purchased in order to avoid further moves."

In early 1909, the company was renamed Hackney Manufacturing Company, probably because their big seller – above their hay tools and sundries, patent gable end door fixtures, litter carriers, hay and stock fixtures, steel lever harrows, steel boss harrows, and hardware specialties – was a farm gate, invented by W.L. Hackney. As Lucille Howe says in Good Old Days, "I remember being fascinated by a working model of a gate opener and closer invented by W.L. No electronic device this, just a simple combination of ropes and pulleys, but, with it installed, a person could open and close the gate without getting out of his carriage or car."

MIKE HACKNEY_1
5/7/2009 10:43:31 AM

LS HACKNEY WAS MY GREAT GRANDFATHER. I HAVE ONE OF THE ORGINAL SALES BROCHURES OF THE FARM IMPLEMENTS BUSINESS AND ALSO ONE FOR THE HACKNEY AUTO PLOW. I HAVE THE ORGINAL PATENT FOR THE HACKNEY AUTO PLOW. OUR FAMILY IS VERY INTERSTED TO LEARING MORE ABOUT OUR GRANDFATHER AND HIS BUSINESS. WE HAVE BEEN TO NORTH DAKOTA AND WERE FORTUNATE TO DRIVE THE ONLY KNOW AUTO PLOW THAT IS STILL IN WORKING ORDER.


MIKE HACKNEY_2
5/7/2009 10:42:45 AM

LS HACKNEY WAS MY GREAT GRANDFATHER. I HAVE ONE OF THE ORGINAL SALES BROCHURES OF THE FARM IMPLEMENTS BUSINESS AND ALSO ONE FOR THE HACKNEY AUTO PLOW. I HAVE THE ORGINAL PATENT FOR THE HACKNEY AUTO PLOW. OUR FAMILY IS VERY INTERSTED TO LEARING MORE ABOUT OUR GRANDFATHER AND HIS BUSINESS. WE HAVE BEEN TO NORTH DAKOTA AND WERE FORTUNATE TO DRIVE THE ONLY KNOW AUTO PLOW THAT IS STILL IN WORKING ORDER.