Taking Sears New Economy Tractors on the Road

A Wisconsin man travels far and wide with his collection of 16 Sears New Economy tractors, which includes three built in 1938 and 13 built in 1939.

| July 2018

Talk about a guy who likes to travel. That would be John Baum, who likes to entertain his acquaintances by dismissing a trip that’s “only” 10,000 miles round trip. “Their eyes sure get big,” he says with a grin.

For John, a trip of 10,000 miles would be one in which he hauls one of his 16 Sears New Economy tractors from his Appleton, Wisconsin, home through Canada and into the largest state in the U.S. to the Alaska State Fair Antique Tractor Pull in Palmer, an hour north of Anchorage. “Going to Alaska had always been on my bucket list,” he says.

Having gotten that far, John’s going to see what’s down the road. He traveled on to check out Deadhorse, Alaska, near Prudhoe Bay, a distance of another 421 miles. And why stop there? John drove on to Anchor Point in the Kenai Peninsula. By the time he slept in his own bed again, he’d driven more than 10,000 miles.

Discovering the Sears New Economy

John, 72, got interested in Sears New Economy tractors by accident. He checked out a Ford Model A well-drilling rig for sale back in 1976. “I’m kind of a Ford person,” he says, “and I thought it would be neat to have one on the farm, because it was different.”

Instead, he found something even more unusual. Next to the well-drilling rig was a black tractor wearing a Sears badge. “I saw it had a model A Ford engine,” he recalls. “Although it’s too small for any real farming, that one fit our farming better. So I bought it instead of that well-drilling truck. That’s where it all started.”

“All” would mean a collection that’s grown today to a total of 16 Sears New Economy tractors. The Sears New Economy was built only in 1938-39. John’s collection includes three 1938 models with electric starters (“which was just coming out about that time,” he says) and 13 built in 1939.