International Harvester Company Reveals Return of the Large Tractor at Burr Ridge Farm

International Harvester Company comes out of the 1957 Recession with a grand showing and a return to the large tractor.


| January 2014



Red Tractors cover

"Red Tractors 1958-2013" (Octane Press, 2013) is author Lee Klancher's meticulously researched look at the history of International Harvester Company, a landmark American company that defined agricultural business for a century.

Cover courtesy Octane Press

Red Tractors 1958-2013 (Octane Press, 2013) is an authoritative and unparalleled look at the tractors built by International Harvester Company and Case IH. Author Lee Klancher leads a research team that has collected more than 380 pages and 700 images, documenting these beloved machines built in America and abroad. In this six-part series, Farm Collector shares the first chapter of Red Tractors, "1958-1959 The Hinsdale Connection." The following excerpt covers International Harvester’s initial forays to weather the 1957 Recession, and a decision to once again make the large tractor a focus of their business.

1958-1959 The Hinsdale Connection

"If we are able, in our engineering, to keep abreast of, or ahead of, any competitor, there isn't any question about this business going on indefinitely."
— John McCaffrey, Harvester World, 1958

In 1917, International Harvester purchased a 414-acre farm just 20 miles from downtown Chicago. The original Farmall was tested on the farm’s gently rolling hills, along with hundreds of other pieces of agricultural equipment. Annual demonstration outings for International Harvester Company executives and staff were held there, complete with orchestra accompaniment, circus tents, and lavish catered meals. In the early years, the place was known as the Hinsdale Farm, and it later became known as Burr Ridge.

During heavy investment into research and engineering in the 1950s, Hinsdale was selected as the site for the $5 million Farm Equipment Research and Engineering Center (FEREC). The eight-acre site would consolidate Harvester’s engineering efforts and put 1,360 engineering and support staff together under one roof. FEREC was state-of-the-art, complete with an indoor “field” used for tractor and implement testing, a tractor-sized photographic studio, and temperature-controlled rooms capable of exposing machinery to 130 degrees of heat and 50 degrees below zero.

When the plans for the new center were made public in 1956, a nearby community decided to change the name of their village from the Hinsdale Countryside Estates to Harvester, Illinois.

All of this was part of a concerted effort to make up for lost time. In the early 1950s, Harvester had spread their development resources among many products. While cash was funneled to construction, trucks, and refrigeration divisions, tractor development focused on refinements and accessories rather than new platforms. The hundred series and the 30-50 series were both re-skins of existing platforms with upgraded features such torque amplification to ease on the fly shifting and Fast Hitch. Too many of the upgrades were gimmicky additions, such as Electrall, a heavily promoted portable electric generator unit that sold so miserably they are rare and prized collectibles today.