John R. Harvey
John Harvey Communications
John R. Harvey received his B.S. degree in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Missouri. For more than four decades he has been writing for and about United States farmers. During his career he has written for Missouri Farmer, Successful Farming and The Farm Journal. He served a president of the Agricultural Editors’ Association and also the Agricultural Relations Council. Mr. Harvey was the editor of the USDA Bicentennial Yearbook. He has received numerous awards and recognitions for his writing and photography.
Mr. Harvey was Public Relations Manager for DuPont Agricultural Products for 16 years. During this time he was associated with the introduction of 30 new crop protection chemicals. In connection with the introduction of a soybean herbicide called “Classic” he created the Classic Farm Tractor calendar.
After leaving DuPont in 1993, Mr. Harvey established John Harvey Communications which serves several companies with agricultural interests. He continues to produce the Classic Tractor Calendar and other products that appeal to people who restore, collect and admire antique tractors. He is author of a book entitled, “Classic Tractor Collectors: Restoring and Preserving Farm Power from the Past.” He has produced a number of videos about vintage tractors and their owners for television and leads tours for antique tractor enthusiasts to Scotland, England, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
Mr. Harvey and his wife, Carol, reside in Wilmington, Delaware.
Exactly 100 years ago three extraordinary events took place involving the gasoline engine: the first successful flight by the Wright brothers, three successful automobile crossings of the continental United States and the successful sale of 16 farm tractors. The farm tractor was a giant leap forward for American agriculture and launched the farm tractor revolution.
Only one of the original 16 farm tractors manufactured by the Hart-Parr Company remains (Figure No. 1). It has been restored and preserved by the Smithsonian Institution and will celebrate its 100th anniversary at the I & I Tractor Show in Penfield, Illinois in July, 2003. It featured a 2-cylinder, horizontal, 4-cycle engine, with a 9-inch bore and 13-in stroke. There were no spark plugs as the make-and-break ignition was powered by dry cells with points inside the combustion chamber. It sold for $1,580 and the original owner George Mitchell used it for 17 years.
In the early years, gasoline-powered tractors were massive, looking like clones of steam engines. The 1913 Rumely OilPull weighed 13 tons, developed 50 horsepower and its 2-cyclinder engine with a 10-inch bore and 12-inch stroke operated at 375 rpm. Its fuel was kerosene mixed with water. This tractor sold for $4,000.
American farmers needed a small, low-cost tractor and Henry Ford’s Fordson made its debut in 1917. It was the first lightweight, mass-produced tractor in the world and within 10 years nearly a million were sold (Figure No. 2). The Fordson was initially priced at $795 but during the tractor price wars of 1922, its cost declined to $395. Six years after its debut, Henry Ford claimed that 75 percent of all tractors on U.S. farms were Fordsons.
John Deere introduced the Model D tractor in 1923 that set the pattern for a line of 2-cyclinder tractors that remained in production for 30 years. The forward facing engine turned a massive flywheel. This family of tractors was simpler than its 4-cyclinder rivals, easier to service and repair. The Model D established John Deere as a major tractor manufacturer.
In 1924 the first all-purpose, tricycle tractor, called the Farmall, was introduced by McCormick-Deering (Figure No. 3). The tricycle design was especially useful for cultivation of row crops, but it could be used to pull other implements or used as a source of belt power. It could turn on an eight-foot radius. The Farmall sold for $950.
The John Deere GP (General Purpose) tractor was introduced in 1928. It was the first farm tractor to provide drawbar, belt pulley and power take-off for implements such as mowers as well as power to raise and lower cultivation and planting implements.
Massey-Harris introduced a General Purpose tractor in 1930 with four equal-size wheels, each of which was powered. This design was 25 years ahead of its time. It was not until 1950 that 4-wheel drive tractors became common. During the same year the Case Company introduced the Model CC, a row-crop tractor with nearly twice the power of the Farmall and capable of raising and lowering attached implements.
The Allis-Chalmers WC was released in 1933 equipped with either rubber tires or steel wheels. To promote the rubber tires, Barney Oldfield, a famous race-car driver, was engaged to take a tractor with special high-speed gears and rubber tires on a barnstorming tour, during which he set a world tractor speed record of 64 miles per hour.
In 1935 the Oliver Hart-Parr Row Crop 70 tractor was introduced that set new standards for the next 20 years. Attention was given to styling and it was equipped with a new motor capable of using 70-octane gasoline. With a high-tech engine and striking appearance the Row Crop 70 raised mechanical farming to another level.
The Minneapolis-Moline UDLX or Comfortractor made its appearance in 1938. It featured a cab with radio, heater, fan, upholstered seats, windshield wipers, headlights, horn, five-speed transmission and a top speed of 40 miles per hour. There was a chrome bumper, safety glass, defroster and foot accelerator. The price of $2,155 was too expensive for farmers during the Great Depression and only 150 were built. Today it is much sought after by tractor collectors.
In 1939 the release of the Ford-Ferguson 9N with a 3-point hitch represented another tractor milestone. The special hitch allowed quick attachment of dedicated implements. This tractor could do the work of tractors twice the weight and power because the orientation of implements forced the nose of the tractor down during hard pulling. It cost less than $600. Meanwhile the John Deere A which had been introduced five years earlier, had fewer parts and greater simplicity than any other row crop tractor on the market. Most John Deere As had tricycle-type front ends. The cost of this model was $850 and it became one of the all-time favorite John Deere tractors (Figure No. 4).
The Minneapolis-Moline UTS LP appeared in 1941. The motor used liquefied petroleum (hence the LP). This type of fuel was clean-burning, added to the life of the engine and increased power output. Only 90 tractors of this type were manufactured.
In 1947 the Farmall H could be purchased for less than $1,000. It was introduced in 1939 along with the Farmall A and the bigger Farmall M. More than 390,000 Farmall Hs were sold and many are still used on American farms.
The 1950s and 1960s were the golden years for farm tractors. Tractors were deemed essential for farming. Mechanical refinements such as power takeoffs, hydraulic systems, articulation, 4-wheel drive, diesel engines, multi-ratio transmissions and ergonomics continuously improved the machines. Ultimately the tractor market became glutted and many manufacturers failed.
The 1954 Farmall Super M-TA was a landmark machine. The TA stood for Torque Amplifier which permitted “shift-on-the-go” transmissions. The power shift feature was later adopted by all manufacturers and it remains a common feature on tractors today. The cost of the Super M-TA was $2,925.
John Deere introduced its first diesel, the Model R, in 1949. In 1955 the company introduced the John Deere 70 Diesel. The Model 70 set fuel economy records that stood for more than a decade. Other manufacturers introduced diesel tractors in later years and today most row crop tractors are diesel powered.
During the 1960s manufacturers started the introduction of more powerful tractors. The 1963 Allis-Chalmers D-19 was the pioneer in this new trend. It produced 70 horsepower at the drawbar but within three year other manufacturers were offering models with 100 horsepower. During this period John Deere introduced New Generation tractors with 4 and 6 cylinder motors. The John Deere 4020 was a New Generation model with a 6-cylinder motor rated at 78 drawbar horsepower was used on thousands of farms and was the first John Deere tractor to exceed a $10,000 sale price.
In the 1980s American farmers suffered through a depression and thousands were forced to leave the farm. Tractor manufacturers tried to adjust. Ford’s line of tractors ranged from 11 to 335 horsepower. During this period Ford bought New Holland and later Versatile Farm Equipment. One of the tractors offered during this period was the Ford 946 which weighed 22,000 pounds. Caterpillar returned to the farm market with its Challenger. The 1996 Caterpillar Challenger 55 was a row crop model that became a trendsetter. It offer an advanced type of rubber track system and everything about the model was high tech and sophisticated including the engine, transmission, a cab with electronic monitoring and an ergonomically designed air ride suspension seat that adjusted 8 ways.
The largest tractor built during the 20th century was constructed in 1977 and designated Big Bud 747 (Figure No. 5). This awesome tractor was fitted with a 16-cylinder Detroit Diesel engine retrofitted with the biggest fuel injectors made and produced 900 horsepower. It is more than 20 feet wide, 28 feet long and 14 feet to the top of the cab. It weighs 130,000 pounds with fuel in its 1,000-gallon tank and ballast in the specially made 8-foot tall duel wheels. It pulls an 80-foot chisel plow and covers an acre per minute. Big Bud 747 is owned by the Williams Brothers who operate an 8,000-acre wheat farm in Montana. They paid $95,000 for it used, spent another $15,000 to restore it and consider it the best investment they have ever made.
In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.