A Brief History of Tractors
We've all seen tractors, when out and about in the family car, or in a favourite television programme, but what exactly is a tractor and how long have they been around? A "tractor" is any vehicle specifically designed to deliver a pulling power ("tractive effort") at slow speeds. It's an idea way to pull big trailers or heavy machinery in all sorts of agriculture or construction work. For children, the tractor is most commonly associated with those distinctive big wheeled farm vehicles, and many kids have a pedal tractor toy of their own!
England developed steam powered traction engines in 1840 to work in the fields. These engines could provide 5 to 20 horsepower, and incredible amount of power for the time. By 1868, tractors were also used to haul loads and timber. The most popular model was called the Garrett 4CD.
John Froelich, a thresher from Iowa, thought the gasoline engine would work well for threshing. He put a Van Duzen gas engine onto a Robinson chassis and rigged up gearing so the machine would move forward. He used his threshing machine successfully in 1892 in South Dakota. The Froelich tractor would evolve into the Waterloo Boy tractor. It also eventually led to the John Deere two cylinder tractor.
The first tractor factory was built by Charles Hart and Charles Parr, who worked on gas engines while they studied mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin. In 1897, they formed the Hart-Parr Gasoline Engine Company of Madison. Hart-Parr is credited with coining the word "tractor" and they manufactured their first tractor, the Hart-Parr No. 1 in 1901.
John Deere established his company in 1837 to make steel plows. In 1918, they bought the Waterloo Boy tractors. In 1923, John Deere introduced the John Deere D tractor, which would continue to be produced for the next 30 years.
In 1907, the Ford Motor Company made its first tractor, although they called it an "automobile plow." Henry Ford understood the need to apply the technology of the automotive industry to farming. Ford was delayed by his board of directors until after the success of the Model T. Ford ended up creating a new company to build his tractors.
World War I provided the boost tractors needed to really catch on in farming. Food was needed to feed the armies, but most of the men who would be farming were called away to battle. Tractors allowed fewer farmers to produce more food. Ford's tractor was affordable and helped to revolutionize farming.
Massey Ferguson began in the mid-1800s as a manufacturer of agricultural equipment. Known then as Massey-Harris, they began to import tractors from Minnesota to supply their Canadian customers in the early 20th century. World War I forced the company to take a more serious interest in tractors. They chose to import the Bull Tractor Company's Big Bull. Meanwhile in Ireland, Harry Ferguson began designing farm implements for converted Model T's that were being used in the fields as makeshift tractors, then for the Fordson Model F tractors. Back in Canada, Massey –Harris began manufacturing their own tractors.
These companies kept introducing new tractor models throughout the 1920s – 1960s. By 1938, Ferguson made a deal with Ford to produce one of his tractor designs. It would be known as the Ford 9N. In 1953, Massey-Harris purchased Ferguson's company and became known as Massey Ferguson.
By the end of the 1960s, John Deere was the largest farm tractor company in the entire world and remains so to this day. Ford continued to make tractors until 1975, before halting production. Massey Ferguson is still part of the agricultural scene, making tractors for all kinds of farming purposes.
This is an original news article © The Kids Window