Pre-1920 Lesser-Known Classics
Most manufacturers in the early part of the century purchased their engines, transmissions, clutches and final drives from other firms. No so for the Quincy, Illinois-based Electric Wheel Co., who took pride in fabricating a tractor from the company’s own parts.
The two-cylinder engine in the Avery 12-25 featured reversible cylinder walls. Built from 1916 to 1922, the 7,500 lb. model 12-25 offered a two-range transmission with speeds of 13⁄4 and 23⁄4 mph: It sold for $1,280 FOB.
Those spade-tips were distinctive of Fageol tractors and were designed so they wouldn’t sink into the sandy soils prevalent in California farmland, the target market for these machines. The Fageol brothers, Frank and William, began in manufacturing by building cars in Iowa. But the lure of California had them move to Oakland, where they opened a tractor factory in 1917.
FRICK C 15-28
The Wayneboro, Pennsylvania-based Frick Company began business in 1853 building steam engine and grain threshers. The model 15-28 and its little brother, the model 12-20, weren’t introduced until 1921 and were the only tractors Frick manufactured.
GRAIN BELT 18-36
Grain Belt Tractor Company was one of the numerous firms that appeared in the 1910s building tractors aimed at breaking the prairies. The company got its start in 1917 in Fessenden, North Dakota, selling plow and thresher tractors like the Model 18-36 shown here.
Three-wheeled tractors like the Happy Farmer attracted farmers with their simple design and low cost. This lightweight machine employed a two-cylinder engine featuring horizontally opposed cylinder. That power plant generated 16 belt horsepower and ran smooth as silk.
MINNEAPOLIS THRESHING 22-44
Weighing in at 6 tons, the Minneapolis Threshing Model 22-44 is a giant by today’s tractor standards. But it was the smallest tractor in this manufacturer’s line. Its big brother, the 35-70, weighed over 11 tons!
RUSSELL AMERICAN 12-24
The Massillon, Ohio-based Russell & Company was a major contributor to steam power in North American before the turn of the century. Russell engines were sold far and wide thanks to such innovations as a shifting eccentric valve gear.
General Motors launched the Sampson Model M in 1918 to try to compete with the success Ford Motor Company was enjoying with their Fordson. Samson Tractor Works originally manufactured this Fordson look-alike tractor before they were purchased by GMC.
Toro is a household name, no doubt, with hundreds of thousands of garden tractors and lawn mowers bearing testimony to the brand’s popularity. But a short time in the early 1900s Toro built full-sized farm tractors.
MINNEAPOLIS STEEL TWIN CITY 17-29
This Minneapolis, Minnesota-based firm was organized in 1902 and would make its mark on horsepower by building the famed Corliss steam engine. The company would later go into internal combustion engine manufacturing at which time it took to building tractors for J.I. Case and Bull Tractor Company.
The late 1910s saw an unprecedented explosion in tractor development as tractors of all sizes, shapes and designs.