Wilmot Croitzer bought a lemon. He’d been duped by a fast-talking salesman, and now found himself the owner of a broken-down Ford tractor. Croitzer thought he was purchasing a reliable tractor produced by Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. Instead, he’d purchased a tractor made by the fraudulent “Ford Tractor Co.” of Minneapolis, who hired a young man with the last name of Ford to sign off on their tractor designs.
When Croitzer’s tractor broke, he unraveled the truth. Not only did the tractor fail to live up to the manufacturer’s performance claims, he was unable to obtain parts or service anywhere. The company seemed to have vanished into thin air, taking Croitzer’s money with him.
Lucky for us, the Ford Tractor Co. ticked off the wrong farmer. Croitzer was no country bumpkin – in addition to farming, he was also a legislator in the Nebraska House of Representatives. After purchasing two “excuses for tractors,” he got to work on drafting a law that would “induce all tractor companies to tell the truth,” and the Nebraska Tractor Tests were born.
A colleague in the Nebraska State Senate, Charles Warner, had a similar story. Together, these two men championed legislation that would require all tractors sold in the state of Nebraska to undergo testing and receive approval from a panel of three engineers at the University of Nebraska. Tractor companies who wished to operate in the state would also be required to have a service station and an adequate supply of replacement parts located somewhere in the state as well. The law passed in 1919.
By 1920, the University of Nebraska was ready to begin tests. The first tractor tested was John Deere’s Waterloo Boy tractor, quickly followed by 68 more tractors tested that year.
The Nebraska Tests quickly developed an excellent reputation. They caught on around the world. Today, the University of Nebraska is at the forefront of the global Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which coordinates tractor testing in 29 countries.