The Ford-Ferguson Story -Short Version

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Posted by Tim Daley(MI) on August 11, 2011 at 13:33:26 [URL] [DELETE] :

Here is a short synopsis of the Ford/Ferguson saga and some of my personal observations and opinions:

We all know Ferguson was only a salesman, the real genius behind the 3-point lift was John Chambers, Archie Greer, and Willie Sands. Ferguson was not an engineer, neither was Ford, but at least Ford had the sense to see in his mind what he wanted then convey that to his engineers. Once there was a model of his concepts, he could understand the functions. Both had visions of improving life for the farmers of the world and that is what drew them together. My opinion has always been that neither would have done so well on their own -they needed each other to feed off of. Both Ford and Ferguson had to co-exist in the same plane in order for all to be right with the world. With the Ferguson saga, I have broken it up into three categories and that is where a lot of both Ford and Ferguson enthusiasts get lost.

The first leg would be the Ferguson Plow, as he and the Sherman brothers established Ferguson-Sherman Inc; in 1925, with the Duplex Hitch that Ferguson introduced for use with the Fordson Tractor. The year 1925 was also when Ferguson applied for the first draft control patent and it was granted in 1926. It was almost too late as Fordson US tractor production was about to cease, and in 1927, finally moved to England. Ferguson stuck with the Sherman Brothers in pursuit of a better tractor and plow. He took a break and partnered with David Brown in 1936 in England to produce about 1200 Ferguson-Brown Type A tractors that were real dogs and often called the "Ferguson-Black" tractors because they were painted all black, but the partnership soon failed. This is the famous tractor Ferguson brought over to demonstrate at Fairlane, in Dearborn, with the new 3-point design his team created and improved on. This 3-point design was not functional in US soil conditions until Ford engineers made improvements and introduced it to the world with the new 1939 9N Ford Tractor with Ferguson System after Fergusonís partnership with Ford with the famous 'handshake agreement' in 1938. Ford would build the tractor; Ferguson would be control of sales, distribution and implement procurement.

This second phase was the Ford-Ferguson partnership from 1938 until 1946 when Henry Ford II, in 1945, as the new president of the Ford Motor Company, took the reins due to his grandfathers' poor health. On April 7, 1947, Henry Ford died at age 83.

The third phase, after the demise of the Ford partnership, Ferguson went to Coventry, England to build his TE20. I think a lot of folks get confused when talk of Ferguson comes up in Ford Tractor discussions. When with Ford, Ferguson and the Shermans were the distributors as Ferguson-Sherman Inc; until 1941 when Ferguson went solo simply as Harry Ferguson Inc. With the Shermans gone, Harry started shopping around 9N blueprints ( behind Henry Ford's back ) to outside manufacturers to start building a similar tractor only with his designs; i.e. 4 speed transmission, O/H valve engine to name a few. When he succeeded with the TE20 in England, he then built a plant right next to Dearborn, in Southfield, Michigan, and began producing the TO20 in 1948 in direct competition with the new Ford 8N Model. He was so successful in both US and overseas markets that many feel that is what hurt him in his lawsuit against Ford and caused him to settle for about 10 million dollars -a fraction of what he started out suing for. The period following that, he partnered with Massey-Harris, then eventually just Massey-Ferguson and that is where the company stands today. Harry Ferguson died of a barbituate overdose in 1960 at age 76. Ford Tractor eventually faded out and around 1990 the FORD TRACTOR brand name longer appeared on a tractor as a world class competitor.

My personal experiences with both Ford and Ferguson tractor members have pretty much been equally satisfying with the discussions and exchange of stories and ideas mingling with both groups either on-line or at actual tractor shows. There can be a good, friendly rivalry between the two, but there are those from both camps who refuse to recognize the other as being a part of each other's success. Some Ferguson members believe Ferguson was the one and only almighty genius and they refuse to recognize Henry Ford and all he did with Ferguson and the 9N. They block out everything prior to 1946 when the TE20 came out and some will say that if it wasn't for Harry Ferguson, Ford would've never got into production with the 9N. The same is true with some Ford members as they won't acknowledge that the Ferguson design of the 3-point lift helped them both achieve the success both strived for and that wasn't making money, rather, but to better the world farmers by eliminating the need for horses, when they combined their ideas and efforts.

There are some good videos available on both Ford and Ferguson tractors and implements as well as several good books with lots of very good color pictures. We did not go into the implements here but bear in mind that the Ferguson-Sherman implements, and after 1941, Harry Ferguson Inc; tagged implements were designed for the 9N and 2N Tractor. In 1946 when the TE20 was produced in England, Ferguson had suppliers in England and Ireland building implements for the new 'little grey Fergie' tractor and many of these implements were never exported to the US. There are some implements that simply would not be practical for use in US soils. The NTC offers some good old films on DVD for a modest donation and books and videos can be found at Diamond Press, Old Pond Publishing, on Ferguson trcators and implements. Two very excellent videos that I recommend on Ferguson implements are called "Ferguson on the Farm" parts 1 and 2, filmed on Harold Beers farm in Ireland and produced by Stuart Gibbard. Harold demonstrates many of his original Ferguson implements on his TE20 tractor, and as stated earlier, many of which were never exported to the United States. One of my favorite books in my personal library is called "Tractor Pioneer: The Life of Harry Ferguson" written by Colin Fraser. Also, some decent Ford books written by Chester Peterson Jr. and Rod Beemer by MBI Publishing, are available. One of their books is titled "Ford Tractor Implements" and lists most of the early Ferguson-Sherman; Harry Ferguson Inc; and Dearborn Motors Corporation implements and model numbers in the index. Not all are covered in the text but the book makes for good reading on the bedside or coffee tables. Enjoy.

Tim Daley(MI)

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