While driving up through Sussex County near the Delaware beaches recently, I spotted a lone Farmall H, rusted and vine covered near a dilapidated soy bean farm- soon to be replaced by condos and beach housing. I wondered if anyone knew the pedigree of that old tractor, and how it revolutionized the farming system of the United States. Silently rusting in the honeysuckle, a piece of history. The rusty red was a far cry from the Farmall Red, but the signature profile remained.
With its innovative tricycle design, the 1924 roll out of the Farmall Tractor spelled the demise of the work horse as farm power. From it’s narrow front and high ground clearance it was a strange looking beast, but nimble and precise in the rows. It was an unexpected hit, and a boon for farming.
In 1932 the updated design was christened F-20. International Harvester had thus christened the birth of the “F series:” the F-30 in 1931, the F-12 in 1932, and the F-14 in 1938. The change from the grey paint to the signature blood red took place here too.
The H line is by far my favorite, and amongst the other models I’ll write more about the H and the Cub here as I know more about them. For me the H symoblizes the perfect Farmall. But that is just my pet passion.
When sales began to decline I don’t think we realized how much of our agricultural history we would lost with the end of production of the Farmall. It reminds me of the loss to New York of their signature taxi cab, the checker. One hasn’t been on the road in 20 years, but in every movie, every television show everyone gets out of a checker.
The last Farmall of any kind rolled off the assembly line in 1975, and the 5,000,000 th Farmall was the end of an era. But folks like us, who see them against a field of golden grain and blue sky remember why the Red Farmall was symbolic of a more innocent america. As apple pie and fourth of July. The farmall did the job.
The Farmall tractor I saw in the Delaware field rusting away echoed the the sweat and tears that farmers spent in the hot sun, on fields of grain to build the America.
Thankfully, folks with a passion for these beasts restore them so we can share their wonderful provenance with our children. Farmall antique tractors are in museums, collectors barns, and even available for you to purchase. Every Farmall, no matter the model, has a history of hot fields in the summer, of the plow, and of the feeding of our great nation. And of the farmers who cared for them like the horses before them. That old tractor build this nation.