The First Tractor

By the year 1923, Henry Ford’s company had produced over 100,000 tractors and had more than 75% of this farm market. That same year, Emil Borreson bought his first tractor – a Fordson, probably a Model F – and gave his horses a more time off. Here’s what a Fordson looked like on a field flatter than Fitch Coulee.

Fordson disking in 1925 - source unknown

Clara Cook (Homestead, 35) wrote that her father bought this life-changing machine for “plowing, cultivating and field work.” Emil liked to have the latest in farm equipment, I understand, and he did work like silo-filling for his neighbors. The new Ford would have been a key part of this. The youngest of Emil and Gina’s children, Sidney, was born the year of the Fordson purchase, so perhaps  he has a memory of this tractor from his early childhood.

The Fordson gave farmers a cheap and reliable tractor, and for all ten years of its production, it was the number one seller in America. It went into mass production in 1917 (the year Garven was born) and sold for $750. By 1928 when Ford transferred production to Cork, Ireland, over half a million Fordsons had been built and sold. It was 1939 before Fords began being made and sold again in the U.S.A.

According to a Wikipedia article, “A government test concluded that farmers spent $.95 per acre plowing with a Fordson compared to feeding eight horses for a year and paying two drivers, which cost $1.46 per acre.” Click here to watch a video of 1930s farming.

Not everything was perfect with the Fordson – and some farmers died because of this flaw. One source has it that “Without warning when coming out of a furrow or up a small incline, the tractor would flip over on its back.” Another source said the extended fenders in the photo above were one of the company’s attempts to prevent this. The eventual solution came with Harry Ferguson’s tractor-mounted plow and three-point hitch. In 1939 when Ford resumed U.S.A. production with his 9-N model, this innovation was part of the package.

Old tractors like the Fordson are great favorites with toy tractor companies. In fact, I couldn’t resist getting one when I learned this was my grandfather’s first tractor. (And it’s easier to fit in the garage than the original.)

Fordson 1/16 model

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