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Huber Manufacturing: Underappreciated Part of Tractor History

Henry Ford’s Fordson may have been one of the first production tractors to employ the concept of unit-frame, or unitized, construction. However, Huber Manufacturing perfected the unitized design in its 1926 introduction of that firm’s Super Four tractors, led by the model 18-36.

Huber’s 18-36 distinguished itself not only for offering a stout frame, but also for providing such engine advance firsts as overhead valves and forced-feed lubrication.

The Super Four 18-36 was one of the few tractors that made good on claims of being a workhorse on the farm. Indeed, it went beyond those claims by providing exceptional reserve power. In fact, so strong was Huber’s reputation as a manufacturer of powerful tractors that from 1910 to the late 1930s, its machines became an industry standard for competitors to match or beat. During this time, the firm certainly could count itself as one of the top 10 tractor companies in the world.

Yet, today, Huber is often little recognized for its enormous contribution to tractor development. Little wonder, as the firm stepped out of the tractor market at the onset of World War II never to return. Try as it might to produce super tractors, the Marion, Ohio-based manufacturer could not.

A new tractor and a new name

Huber did build some 30 tractors based on the VanDuzen design in 1898. But he withdrew from the business disappointed with those machines. It would take The New Huber Manufacturing Company 13 years (after Huber’s 1904 death) to get back into tractors, doing so with the 1911 introduction of three Farmer’s Tractor models. During the next five years, The New Huber would introduce lightweight models called the Light Four line (Four representing the fact they employed four-cylinder engines).

Edward Huber did, however, leave the farm equipment industry a massive legacy of innovative contributions. He secured his first patent at the ripe age of 26. Before he died, Huber had secured over 100 patents on a wide variety of farm and construction equipment innovations.

The company expands

The New Huber Company would continue in Huber’s footsteps by providing many advances in threshing and hay harvest equipment. The tractors the company built established the firm as a serious contender in the then-bustling industry. 

The Super Four models were joined by the Master Four 25-50 (introduced in 1922) followed by three additional Super Four tractors: 21-39, 32-45, and 40-62. A row-crop model (shown above) came out in 1937. But Huber was being left behind by other tractor giants. As such, the company opted to never build a tractor again after World War II.

After the war, Huber focused on road-building equipment and then was eventually sold to A-T-O Inc. in 1969. That firm closed Huber’s manufacturing doors in 1984. All that remains of Huber today is the cornerstone of the original plant, which is on display at the Huber Machinery Museum at the Marion, Ohio, County Fairgrounds. 

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