How the Nebraska Tractor Tests Saved the American Farmer

Bill Vossler shares How the Nebraska farmer Wilmot Crozier created the Nebraska Tractor Tests to help American farmers have a better tractor for the farm.

| January/February 2007

  • RustyIron1cob
    The tractor that started it all: a Minneapolis-built Ford Model B.

  • RustyIron1cob

The Nebraska Tractor Tests gave American farmers the opportunity to have better tractors for the farm. 

Nebraska farmer Wilmot Crozier was perturbed. After wrestling with his conscience he made the momentous decision in 1916 to quit farming with horses and buy a newfangled tractor. Only problem was, his new tractor didn't do what the company said it would do. Nor did the second one he got. Nor the third.

Like many farmers of the era, he realized something had to be done to correct these failings. But what?

By the time Crozier bought his first machine — a brand-new Model B Ford made by the Ford Tractor Co. of Minneapolis — farmers had little recourse if something went wrong. Farm Implement News wrote, "It was not unusual for a farmer to buy a tractor one year from a traveler only to learn the next year, when he needed a repair part, that the firm was out of business." In Farm Tractors: A Living History, Randy Leffingwell writes, "Skullduggery was not uncommon in the first 20 years of gasoline tractor manufacturing. There were many . . . tractor makers organized solely for the purpose of making money, not tractors. One prototype would be produced, funds would be raised, and overnight the company was out of business, offices vacated, doors locked. The lone prototype had sold for cash to some unsuspecting victim."

There were other problems, said E.K. Greer in Gas Power in 1917. There were too many types of tractors. And many tractors were being made with parts not meant for tractors or were being made like automobiles, which made them inefficient for the work required of tractors on farms. If the tractor were needed on difficult ground, the farmer generally was out of luck.

"The average farmer feels that all of them are wrong," Greer wrote, "and that he had better wait until he can get something standard before he buys."

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