Rediscovering the Sears Handiman Line

Sam Moore runs across a Sears, Roebuck & Co. sales brochure advertising the Sears Handiman tractor line at an antique shop.


| March 2016



Sears Handiman

A like-new Sears Handiman R-T at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, a few years ago.

Photo by Sam Moore

Some time ago, in an antique shop, I was rooting through a pile of books, magazines and other “paper ephemera,” as it is called by collectors. Occasionally, I find a real treasure at these places, and this was one of those times. Among the old Motor flat rate manuals and Hot Rod magazines was a 20-page sales brochure put out by Sears, Roebuck & Co. for their line of Handiman tractors.

Dated 1941, the booklet thoroughly describes the Handiman Jr. and the All Purpose Handiman walk-behind machines, as well as the 4-wheeled Handiman R-T riding tractor. There was a price list from 1941 for Handiman tractors and attachments, and even a blank order form.

A size for every need

Sears introduces the machines thus: “From the alert little Handiman Jr. to the amazing new 4-wheel Handiman R-T Riding Tractor, there is a power unit built to meet the requirements of every truck gardener, orchardist and small-acreage farmer. Besides plowing, preparing seed beds, planting, cultivating, spraying, mowing, etc., a Handiman provides power for dozens of belt jobs ... operating feed grinders, corn shellers, cream separators, light plants, pumps, saws, concrete mixers, lathes and other machine shop and belt-driven equipment.”

The Handiman Jr. was advertised as a Triple-Purpose Unit, meant for garden work, mowing lawns, and cutting hay and weeds, and was said to be “so easy to handle (that) any boy can do a good job of cultivating.” It was powered by a Briggs & Stratton, 4-cycle engine, and “air-cooled by blower fan ... No worry about boiling or freezing. Rated at 1 hp, but actually develops considerably more.”

The Jr. walk-behind tractor came equipped with a 6-shovel cultivator and was priced at $82.50 with 24-inch steel lug wheels. For $12 more, one could get neat spoked wheels shod with new 4 x 18 Goodyear tractor lug tires. For $86.40, you’d get the machine with 6 x 16 disc wheels and two used auto tires (for $82.50, you’d get the tractor with just the bare 6 x 16 wheels and put on your own old car tires). A front-mounted, 3-1/2-foot cutter bar mower cost $19.50, a 20-inch pull-behind reel lawn mower sold for $17.50 and a 1-row Columbia seeder with fertilizer attachment and row marker went for $26.65.

Unbeatable performance

The larger, Handiman All-Purpose walk-behinds were meant “for extra heavy duty in toughest soil conditions. Unbeatable in performance compared to any other make of garden tractor. Has modern refinements such as regular gear shift, fully enclosed roller chain final drive and simple controls.” These tractors had Briggs & Stratton engines, transmissions with two forward and one reverse speeds, individual wheel brakes for steering and a 2-inch flat belt pulley. Steel wheels with A-style lugs were standard, while cast disc wheels and 6 x 22 Allstate Traction-Grip tires were extra. The All-Purpose machines came with hand-lift cultivator frames that could be set up to cultivate one, two or three rows. The tractor wheels were adjustable from 22-1/2 inches to 36 inches with steel wheels, or 27 to 36 inches with rubber tires.