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Who Invented The Tractor?

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The name tractor corresponds to engineering automotive exclusively designed to output a high tractive performance at slow speeds that can be used for hauling machinery or trailer used in the agriculture or construction industries. Most commonly, “tractor” refers to farm vehicles that power and traction mechanism required to carry out agricultural tasks. Tilling is the principal purpose of tractors. Owing to the technological advancements during these days, tractors are used for a variety of tasks. Agricultural implements can be mounted on or towed behind a tractor. In case of implements that are mechanized, the power needed to operate the implement can be supplied by the tractor.

John FroelichJohn Froelich, developed the first stable gasoline-powered tractor with forward and reverse gears.

Origins of the word

The word tractor is derived from the Latin word “trahere” meaning to pull. For the first time, the word meaning “an engine meant for wagons or other implements” was born in the year 1901, which replaced the earlier term “traction engine” used till 1859.

Froelich's tractorFroelich’s tractor.

In the early 19th century

Portable engines, powered by steam engines were used to drive mechanical farm machinery with the help of a flexible belt. The first traction engines were developed around 1850s and were widely used for agricultural tasks. The first tractors used for plowing were powered by steam engines. There were two engines fixed on opposite sides in a farm to haul a plow back and forth in the space between them with the help of wire cables. Under favorable soil conditions, steam engines were used to directly haul plows. Steam powered engines were continuously in use even into twentieth century. It was later that internal combustion engines were developed.

Dan Albone and his Ivel tractorDan Albone and his Ivel tractor.

The first gasoline powered tractor

John Froelich invented the first gasoline powered tractor in 1892 in Clayton County, Iowa, USA. In 1903, a firm set up by Charles W. Hart and Charles H. Parr, the graduates from the University of Wisconsin, developed an engine powered by two gasoline cylinders and manufactured 15 “tractors”. They were the first to coin the word tractor as it is the combination of traction and power. The tractor weighed about 14,000-pounds. The engine worked with the principle of a hit and miss power cycle that could generate 30 horsepower at the belt and 18 horsepower at the drawbar.

Dan Albone

The first ever commercially feasible design was that of the Ivel tractor made by Dan Albone in 1902. The Saunderson Tractor and Implement Co. of Bedford introduced the four-wheel design and became the largest manufacturer of tractors outside U.S. in 1908. Ford introduced the Fordson tractor in 1917. This was the first mass produced model. In 1920s, tractors powered by gasoline internal combustion engine became popular.

More on the tractor: Who invented the plow?