The legacy of Henry Ford's mass production methods remains alive today - over 110 years after introduction of the landmark Model T automobile. Less well known, however, is the impact Henry Ford also had on tractor design and manufacturing. Ford Motor Company's initial foray into tractors began in 1907 but early designs gained little attention and had only limited priority within the company. Spurred by renewed commitment from Henry Ford and perhaps WWI, Ford introduced the Model F tractor in 1917 - which proved to be the game changer. Marketed by Fordson (Henry Ford & Son), over 750,000 Model F tractors were sold during the 1917 to 1928 period, more than any other tractor before or since (Tractor Data - Fordson). In addition to traditional farming applications, northwest loggers found their own applications for use of tractors.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, CKK01747, Clark Kinsey photographer, circa 1923
As we can see above, Model F tractors were textbook Henry Ford. No frills simple, not very big and inexpensive. Tractors fitted with tracks also found a home in the northwest.
Photo courtesy Tacoma Public Library, Boland-B9801, Marvin Boland Collection, circa 1924
The above tractor was operated by the Tacoma Water Dept.
So what's the mystery? Why didn't Ford seek to establish/retain a dominant position in the tractor market too? Instead, most tractors were produced by Ford in Great Britain and despite several periodic forays in and out of the market with emphasis in the U.S., Ford lost interest and walked away from the market. Perhaps tractors and automobiles are such different products, markets and businesses that being in both businesses violated Henry Ford's keep it simple credo? Certainly interesting.