Titan Tractor on Muddy Creek

Growing up on Muddy Creek, Perry Piper remembers his father's Titan tractor pulling the load


| June 1999



Titan tractor

Titan tractor

That old Titan tractor that came to Muddy Creek in the early part of 1917 was aptly named. Titan! A mythical Greek god known for his gigantic power and strength. It was a giant compared to the four-footed horse power, or even to the speedy and popular Fordson that could and did run circles around it. The old Titan tractor plodded along at its 2.5 mph road speed. It pulled a three-bottom, 14-inch plow to open a furrow 10 inches deep. Appearing much like the uneven contest of Aesop's fable, the tortoise and the hare, the Titan could turn 10 acres of sod in a "can see to can't see" 10-hour work day, while the smaller, scampering Fordson was doing 15 but pulling two 12-inch bottoms that opened but a four- or five-inch deep furrow. 

The Fordson had the unpleasant habit of "rearing" and even turning over backwards, much to the dismay of the operator, when the load was suddenly increased, especially at excessive speeds. That, probably, is why most operators plowed so shallow.

The Titan tractor was built by International Harvester, and Dad bought his first one through H.O. Stout in Sumner. This would have been in the spring of 1917. By that time, more than two years had passed since the first one was built, and the Titan tractor had joined the long list of mechanical monsters that were steadily but slowly replacing that old dependable hay burner, the horse.

Every Titan operated successfully on low-grade and low-priced kerosene. "You can always get a plentiful supply of distillate or kerosene at reasonable prices," reads the full-page ad in the October 1917 Country Gentleman. There were two sizes offered: a 10-20 and a 15-30. Dad owned two over the years, both 10-20s. That is, 10 hp on the drawbar, and 20 on the belt for wood sawing, silo filling or feed grinding. The 1917 ad reads further that "the smaller size is recommended for most farms. It has two plowing speeds, 1.85 and 2.50 miles per hour, which means it can turn 7 to 10 acres of ground in an average day, pulling a three-bottom plow."

A full-page ad in a 1920 Prairie Farmer gives a bit more sales talk and a smattering of information. It reads "Next spring, you will suddenly decide that the time has suddenly arrived when you cannot possibly get along without a tractor: a Titan 10-20 to be specific. This is the tractor you will want to buy for the simple reason that it operates successfully on kerosene, and you get more real value for the $1,000 purchase price than in the price of any other tractor, to say nothing of our unexcelled repair service rendered through the 92 branch houses and thousands of dealers.

"So you go to your dealer, and then, to your surprise and dismay, find that the dealer is sold out of Titans – that the demand has absorbed the entire spring stock which he ordered months previously. You may find that you will have to wait, perhaps indefinitely, for your tractor. This happened hundreds of times during the fall of 1919. Be forewarned: Don't take chances on an over-demand, or on a possible railroad or other strike that could tie up production, or more likely, the possibility of the price of steel and all steel products going up. Order your Titan today, so that it will be ready when you are ready. The wise buyer looks ahead."