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How Tractors Replaced Horses

They say that “necessity is the mother of invention.” This proved true during World War 1, when a shortage of horses and a demand for farm production propelled the tractor to take its place in American agriculture.


Horse-plowAt the height of World War 1, horses were in high demand – at one point, the average lifespan of a horse on the European front was just 10 days! By 1917, the loss of a horse was more harmful to many units than the loss of a soldier. Great Britain’s own supply of available horses soon wore thin, and the USA supplied a significant number, along with allies in Australia and New Zealand. Millions of horses served in the military forces, and very few ever returned home.


Farmers back in America felt the pinch – the government was asking them to increase agricultural production while at the same time asking for more horses! As the supply of available working horses dropped in the USA, the price increased – and the “iron horse” became a viable alternative. (While the term “iron horse” was most commonly used to describe steam locomotives, it was also used for early tractors).


While WWI and the global shortage of horses isn’t ultimately responsible for the adoption of tractors, it certainly sped things along! The military worked hard to develop tractors that could replace horses on the front lines, pulling wagons and artillery. At the same time, farmers began to seriously look into tractors as an alternative source of power.


The Fordson, McCormick-Deering 10-20, and John Deere Waterloo Boy (among many other manufacturers and models) stepped in to fill this need for power on American farms. Production Photo - bmatarozzo@yahoo_com - 778721skyrocketed during the war. In 1914 (the start of WWI) roughly 15,000 tractors were produced. By the war’s end in 1918, more than 130,000 tractors were rolling off the production lines.


While horses would still retain their vital roles in American agriculture for many more years, WWI was a great leap ahead for tractors.


A Trip to a Tractor Museum

Last Friday the BF Avery Collectors and Associates gathered in Davison Michigan at the Best Western for their Winter meeting and a day of tractor fun. After the morning meeting the group was picked up in a bus furnished by Steiner Tractor Parts with a first stop in Hadley Michigan at Chuck Schneider’s. Chuck owns one of the biggest Orchard tractor collections in the country, and many neon signs and other collectibles. It was a rare privilege to be invited to see this private collection and hear Chuck’s stories about how he came across these restored tractors.

After the tour at Schneider’s the group loaded back on the bus and headed to Steiner Tractor Parts in Lennon for a quick tour of the warehouse and store, an overview of how things are run and a history of how things began.

It was a great afternoon full of old iron history and stories of these antique tractors. Rows of Orchard, Vineyard and Grove tractors, an aluminum Ford, John Deere, Case, Oliver, McCormick-Deering, Massey Harris, Love Tractor, to the rare 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX with and without the cab.

Some more pictures, sent in from Mark Cunningham of the BF Avery Group. Thanks Mark.

Ford Tractors: Difference between a 9N, 2N, and 8N

One of the most popular tractors of all time, the Ford N-series tractor is an American icon. More than fifty years after the last 8N rolled off the assembly line, these tractors are still incredibly popular. You’ll see them all over – at auction sales and dealerships, but also alongside the road with a “For Sale” sign, at garage sales, and even at your favorite restaurant on date night (true story – as often as we’ve had to go home to get a trailer, we should really learn not to leave home without them!).



Ford 8N

As beloved as factory original N-series tractors are, I’ve seen plenty that are rather… unique. Like the one I bought from an old hippie that was painted bright yellow, with flowers all over the hood. I thought I’d have to repaint it, but before I got around to doing so it was spotted by another customer who just LOVED the paint job. Problem solved, no paint required!


For a more serious collector, though, being able to identify exactly which of the N-style tractors (9N, 2N, or 8N) you’re looking at is very important. While we’ve gone into specific details about the year-to-year improvements in N-series tractors before (click here), today I’m going to give you a quick “field guide” to determining the model of an N-series tractor.


Ford 2N

Ford 2N

First, a quick history lesson: the 9N was introduced in 1939. It was followed by the 2N in 1942, and early models were greatly impacted by wartime rationing. Once the war was over, a new and much improved 8N was introduced in 1948.


As my hippie tractor will demonstrate, paint color can’t always be counted on. But since it is the first and most obvious clue available, you should know that 9N and 2N tractors were painted all grey, while a red and grey paint job was for 8N tractors. Plenty of people are unaware of this, though, and will paint their 9N or 2N red and grey as well. So don’t trust the paint job too much.


9Ns and 2Ns are rather similar, but there are some big differences between them and the 8N. So it’s easiest to see if you have an 8N first, and save the smaller 9N v. 2N differences for later.


You are definitely looking at an 8N tractor if:

  • The rear wheel is dished, with a large nut in the center surrounded closely by 8 more lug nuts. In contrast, both the 9N and 2N models have a flat rear wheel with a ring of 6 lug nuts further out.
  • There’s a 4-speed transmission. 9N and 2N tractors had a 3-speed.
  • The hydraulic 3-point arms have a halfway position between fully “up” and “down”. 9N and 2N tractors only had draft control. The 8N introduced position control, which is a small up/down handle under the seat on the right side–this was an improvement to the hydraulic system.
  • Both brake pedals are on the same side – 9N and 2N tractors were split.
  • The serial number starts with an “8N.” I know this seems obvious, but it is important to note that both 9N and 2N serial numbers start with a “9N,” leading to confusion.

Of course, the 8N had plenty of other improvements over the 9N and the 2N – but these features are the easiest to spot and the hardest to modify.


If the tractor definitely isn’t an 8N, then you’ll need to examine more closely the differences between a 9N and a 2N. This can be hard to do, because the transition between the 9N and the 2N wasn’t as clean-cut as the transition to the 8N later on. Wartime rationing and a desire to reduce waste lead to a slower switch, as features were modified once the previous model’s parts were used up.


That being said, here are some clues that can help in most cases:


  • If the tractor has a cast aluminum hood and/or a starter switch on the right side of the dash, congratulations! You’re probably looking at one of the first 9Ns produced – rare and highly collectible.
  • Tubular radius arms indicate a 2N produced after mid-1944. All N-series tractors built prior to 1944 (every 9N and some 2Ns) had I-beam radius arms. However, 2Ns with I-beam radius arms are rather rare, so chances are good that any tractor with I-beam arms is a 9N.
  • If the dipstick is on the inspection cover, you are definitely looking at a later 2N.
  • If the serial number is readable, don’t assume that a “9N” prefix indicates a 9N tractor – as noted before, 2N tractors used this prefix as well. You’ll need to look up the entire number in a serial number guide (or my app!) to know for sure.

The dividing line is a little soft between a 9N and a 2N tractor. If these tips don’t give you a conclusive answer and the serial number isn’t readable, this article might help you figure out exactly what your tractor is.


But sometimes, you might have to settle for a 19N (9+2+8) – that’s what my family jokingly calls an N-series tractor that, over the years, has gained features from each model rather than staying true to it’s specific characteristics. The beauty of N-series tractors is that they are very common and very similar – this yields a steady stream of aftermarket modifications and parts swapping from one model to the next. While these happy hybrids with mixed parts and unreadable serial numbers might make purists cringe, I think Henry Ford would be happy to see his legacy of ingenuity and tinkering live on.


Battle of the Bluegrass Heritage Pulling Series Results

Steiner Tractor Parts was the title sponsor of the Bluegrass Antique Super Pull in Richmond Kentucky on March 20-21, 2015. If you headed out there we hope you enjoyed the show. If you did not make it check out their list of upcoming shows at  Below are a few pictures of last weekends winners sent to us from the nice folks at the Battle of the Bluegrass Pulling Series.


Winner of the Steiner Tractor's Baddest Antique in the World on Friday.

     Winner of the Steiner Tractor’s Baddest Antique in the World on Friday.

Some of the winners in their Steiner Tractor hats.

Some of the winners in their Steiner Tractor hats.

Driver that won on Saturday, being interviewed as the last tractor pulls in his class.

Driver that won on Saturday, being interviewed as the last tractor pulls in his class.

The winner, after he was awarded his hat, along with some other goodies and $500.

The winner, after he was awarded his hat, along with some other goodies and $500.

1941 Farmall M

I bought this 1941 Farmall M from my neighbor and got it running which didn’t take much. We’re going to use the tractor but we wanted to give it a paint job to make it last another 70 years. So with my other neighbors help and a lot of elbow grease this is the finished product! It was amazing how many parts are available for this old girl! Thanks for the help Mark, Steiner Tractor Parts, Napa for the paint and Tractor Supply.

James Rego
Waddell, Arizona

Tractor Story – 1954 John Deere 70

AfterMy completely restored 1954 John Deere 70 gas. With my godfathers help we resurrected this machine from a hedgerow near our home after fifteen years of sitting with a seized rod bearing. After two and a half years of meticulous labor, it’s again like new, with the help of a lot of Steiner parts!

Ryan Findlay
Osceola, New York

1953 Golden Jubilee – Think Pink

Matthew-LisI went to a barn sale for a farmer that was retiring. I asked his wife if they had any old tractors for sale. She said that they had an old one in the field. Her husband said he forgot about that one. We went out and looked at it. It was a 1953 Golden Jubilee. I bought the tractor right then and there. I went back the next day with my chain saw and cut it out and brought it home. I was able to get it running 3 weeks later. My wife thinks I am crazy but I always wanted one of these old tractors.

Matthew Lis
Dayton, Ohio

1962 John Deere 1010 – Think Pink

William-CookThe tune up restoration When my old 1962 john Deere 1010 special started to run poorly a couple of months ago I figured I would give it a little tune up. But when I started the tune up I started finding so many little things wrong with it and several items loose or just worn out from age, I decided I would take the tune up a little farther I was having so much fun working on it that the so called tune up turned in to a full restoration (my wife says the tune up was just an excuse to restore it) funny how wife’s can be so smart. So with her blessing and all the help from the great people at Steiner tractor and their ability to provide me with all the new parts I needed for the old tractor the old John Deere is now the talk of the mountain. My neighbors can’t believe it’s the same tractor and that I was able to get the parts I needed for such an old work horse so once again I say thanks to the great people at Steiner for their help and advice and in the next month the tractor will be done,  trouble free and looking great

William Cook
Attalla Alabama

Ford 8N ~ Think Pink

Kevin-PontelI made this Ford 8N for my girlfriend Sarah Garde who is a breast cancer survivor. She is on the board for the Jefferson County Cancer Coalition and the tractor is used in fundraising events around Wisconsin and anywhere. I cut ribbons in the wheels and other places. My friend Mark Kerttula airbrushed all of the Coalitions logo and the other words. Thie tractor has been signed by several Green Bay Packers players as well that we have met at the different events. it has definitely brought awareness to this awful disease.

Kevin Pontel
Whitewater, Wisconsin

1941 Farmall A ~ Think Pink

Murray-BennettThis 1941 Farmall A started its life with the Canadian military – being used to pull aircraft around. Shortly after my dad came home from the Second World War, he purchased the tractor from an Army Surplus Store in Smiths Falls, Ontario. Growing up as a young child, I have very fond memories of dad teaching me how to drive the tractor, and I will never forget the pride I felt as I drove all over the farm, my dad standing behind me on the drawbar. At one time, the tractor planted over 350 acres with a 4-row corn planter. My dad built a wooden plow to plow snow with it, and we’d even retrofitted it to milk cows! Unfortunately, in the early 1960s, as our needs changed, my dad decided that it was time for an upgrade, and the A was sold to a neighbour for $400.00. My dad passed away unexpectedly not long after that, but I never forgot about the old Farmall A that had such an influence on my early years. I learned that the neighbour had since sold the tractor, but amazingly, I was able to locate it fairly easily, as it had been sold to another neighbour. So, a quarter of a century after my dad had first brought that Farmall A home, I was $1200 lighter and it was back in the laneway of our family farm, in much worse condition than it was the last time I watched it drive away. I set to work restoring and overhauling the A, and went on to use it for many more years around the farm, including using it to teach my own children how to drive a tractor. It has been to parades, won plowing competitions, and been a constant, special reminder of my father who was taken far too soon.

In 2011, I was preparing to repaint it and do some major work to it, and had it completely stripped in my shop. Due to very unfortunate circumstances, my beloved tractor ended up outside in a field, completely exposed to our harsh Canadian winter, where it sat for the next two years. Using Steiner parts and a lot of patience, I slowly started to piece my tractor back together. Even after I had spent countless hours sanding, painting, and reassembling, I still had no idea whether or not the engine would even fire. I will never forget that sunny August day when I started that old tractor up, and it sounded like it had just come from the factory. So, 73 years later, with a few modifications, my Farmall A is still going strong, and I hope that it will be for many more years to come. I have included a photo of it laying in the field, and what it looks like today, with the restoration almost complete. FARMALL!

Murray Bennett
Ontario, Canada