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Mass Production & War

War had a profound effect on the farmer and the farm tractor industry. Horses the primary source of farm power were in high demand by the military during World War 1; They were used for pulling artillery, ambulances, and supply wagons. The value of horses, and the increasing difficulty of replacing them, was such that by 1917 it was made known to some troops that the loss of a horse was of greater tactical concern than the loss of a human soldier. It is reported that over 8 million horses died on all sides fighting in the war. With some breeds nearly reaching the level of extinction. By the end of the war Brittan had exhausted nearly all their domestic horses supply and most all horses used by British troop were purchased overseas. Even the well supplied American army was lacking horses.

Ford tractor

War changes the Farm Tractor Industry

During the war, under the guidance of the Food Administration American exports of food to Europe almost doubled. In World War One, American farmers fed all of Europe. Even a few years after the war, American farming saved Europe from starvation as countries tried to rebuild. This caused high demand and high prices for farm products overseas.

Farming at that time was very labor intensive. Before the war good farm hands could be had from about two to three dollars [per day] and their board. During the war farmers needed to pay about the same as the factories, mills, etc pay.

With the advent of World War, more than ever the farmer needed the farm tractor with its surplus power. In this critical period, Henry Ford brought out his first farm tractor the Fordson. The Fordson was the first tractor to be built on a modern assembly line using all the mass production techniques Ford learned producing automobiles. Mass production meant lower prices to the farmer. Fords farm tractor was lighter than any ever built, yet had a great deal more power per pound.
Ford Farm Tractor More important, it sold for considerably less, and brought tractors within the buying range of thousands of farmers who had previously farmed exclusively with horses. It was closely followed by the McCormick-Deering 10-20, and John Deere's Waterloo Boy.

In an effort to boost war-time food production Great Britain pressured Henry Ford to release his long awaited Fordson farm tractor. In 1917 Great Britain ordered and received the first 7,000 American Fordson tractors. The order was filled in seven months. Fordson tractor production for American farming came next. For years prior to the Fordson's release roamers and even an announcement from Henry Ford himself caused many farmers to greatly anticipate Fords first farm tractor. When Ford finally did begin American tractor production the entire country responded with 13,000 orders for his tractor.

Mass Production and the Farm Tractor Industry

The Fordson was the first mass-produced farm tractor, and all of its other attributes were really secondary to this fact. Mass production made the tractor effectively available to the farmer for the first time. But more then that it revolutionized the tractor industry itself. The Fordson brought intense competition to the industry. That competition changed the tractor in innumerable ways, many were just minor changes. However the cumulative effect of those minor improvements would have an enormous effect on the farm tractor.

The competition that the Fordson stirred up eventually provided the motivation and pressure for Farmall to develop a row-crop tractor. Then the success of the row-crop tractor encouraged Allis Chalmers to produce the Model B which forced the the industry to move toward the ultimate down-sizing of the tractor.

Ford Motor Company's production was impressive. In March 1918, the company was finishing eighty farm tractors per day and was expanding toward a goal of three hundred units per day by December. By 1920 Ford boasted that he had sold one hundred thousand farm tractors. That number represented almost twice the number of tractors in use when the Fordson was unveiled in 1917.
fords first farm tractor
 farm tractor At first the older farm implement and tractor manufacturers were not prepared to compete with Ford. But as they recovered from the initial shock of the flood of farm tractors coming out of Detroit , and as they saw other automakers preparing to exploit the wartime tractor boom, the old farm equipment companies began programs of reassessment and retooling at a frenzied pace.

Left  A modern tractor with the same unit frame construction as the Fordson and earlier Wallis Cub emerged from International Harvester in 1923. Know as the McCormick Deering15-30. The farming tractor signaled the end of heavyweight IHC farm tractors.
click on image to enlarge
Power Take-Offs Introduced The power take-off (PTO) for tractors appeared toward the end of WW I. International Harvester introduced a kerosene tractor with a PTO as optional equipment in 1918. This was the first American farm tractor to offer a practical rear PTO mechanism for propelling trailed farming implements. The McCormick-Deering 15-30 (left) was the first tractor which was equipped with PTO as standard equipment. International exploited its familiarity with the farm equipment industry to introduce innovations that met the needs of working farmers better than conventional tractors. One of these innovations was the introduction and mass production of the power takeoff (PTO). John Deere farm implement
   The The farm tractor explosion
1904 6  
1905 6  
1906 9  
1907 8  
1908 6  
1909 9 2000
1910 15 4000
1911 20 7000
1912 31 11,500
1913 39 7000
1914 58 15,000
1915 61 21,000
1916 114 29,670
1917 124 62,742
1918 142 132,697
1919 164 164,590
1920 166 203,207
The PTO was designed to relay power directly from the tractor to whatever farm implement was in use. In earlier days when horses provided all farm power, implements such as binders or mowers drew their power from their own wheels. The farm implements wheels were fitted with cleats or lugs that forced to turn as the implement ran over the ground. It was an awkward system at best. When conditions were good, the implements wheels rolled and turned the rest of the machinery, but when the ground was soft or muddy, the wheels often slid along under motionless shafts and cogwheels. Yet this crude system continued well into the farm tractor era.

Top  In earlier days before the power takeoff (PTO) horses provided almost all farm power, implements such as binders or mowers drew their power from a "bullwheel", a large wheel with cleats or lugs that was forced to turn as the implement ran over the ground. The John Deere binder (above) illustrates the large "bullwheel" that transmits power to the implement.
click on image to enlarge

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Tractor Tires

The Allis-Chalmers WC was the first farm tractor to be sold with tractor tires that was not fitted with steel wheels The tractor tires were special, low-pressure pneumatic tires capable of meeting the varied service requirements demanded of farm tractors . And thus started one of the most rapid and striking changes in farm equipment history.
FORD 900

Ford 900
Wearing the famous gray and red color scheme of the historic Ford 8N Ford's "900" tractor series, introduced in 1955, was historically significant as the company's first "tricycle" or row crop tractors. The Model 961 was a later edition of the series, appearing around 1959. It was of row-crop design and part of Ford's Powermaster line.  

Ford Model T Tractor
Thieman Harvester Company
In 1936 the first Thieman tractor appeared. The Ford Tractor conversion was like other kits that used their tractor chassis to which the customer fitted a Ford Model A engine, driveshaft, and rear axle. The Thieman chassis could also be supplied for the 1928 Chevrolet or the Dodge Four. The Thieman chassis was sold until the early 1940's.

Allis-Chalmers B
From 1928 to 1933 Allis-Chalmers tractors were sold under the Cockshutt name by the Cockshutt company.


The Allis Chalmers B had a major influence and impact on Fords design of the small sized 9N. Soon after the B was introduced the small size, and high power-to-weight ratio caught the attention of Henry Ford. He had a number of Allis Chalmers new tractor on his various farms when he began working on the Ford 9N in 1938.
Allis Chalmers B Tractor Data  

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