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Massey-Harris Joins the Tractor Revolution


By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
August 2005

Close-up of Massey-Harris tractor on display
Massey-Harris No. 2 on exhibit at the
Saskatoon Exhibition, August, 2005
WDM photo

Massey-Harris was a late-comer to the tractor business. Daniel Massey’s company, founded in the mid nineteenth century in Ontario, had for years been manufacturing harrows, plows, mowers and other farm equipment. The merger with Harris in 1891 made the company the largest farm machinery maker in Canada. But it was nearly 30 years before Massey-Harris got into the tractor market.

Between 1910 and 1920, literally dozens of companies in the United States and Canada developed and manufactured their own brand of tractors. They came in all shapes and sizes. For most, their success was brief; for others, their products never really caught on. Few went on to enjoy great commercial success. Names like Happy Farmer, Rock Island, Rumely, Reeves and Hart-Parr have long since disappeared–remembered by only a few avid collectors.

It was into this hey-day of tractor development that Massey-Harris entered the scene, first with a product designed and built by someone else. When their first attempt to sell the Bull Tractor Company’s Big Bull did not pan out, the company arranged with the Parrett Tractor Company of Chicago to build its tractors at the Weston, Ontario factory. The first models rolled out in 1919–they were essentially a Parrett tractor, marketed under the Massey-Harris name. Over the next four years, there were three models–the Massey-Harris No.1, the No.2 and the No. 3. Production ended in 1923 and few of these tractors remain.

The Western Development Museum is fortunate to have acquired a Massey-Harris No. 2, 12-22 HP, in 1957. It is believed that of the 400-500 originally produced, no more than a handful remain. The No. 2 has large steel wheels, front and back, and is powered by a cross-mounted four-cylinder Buda engine. The Modine Manfacturing Company radiator faces sideways.

The WDM’s Massey-Harris No. 2, serial number 1342, saw over three decades of service in Saskatchewan. Partners Toth and Mihalicz bought the tractor in 1925 in Lestock, SK. Along with their sons William Toth, Joseph Toth and Joseph Mihalicz, the No. 2 took off some 30 crops, the last in 1955. A couple of years later, the tractor was donated to the WDM.

A facelift by WDM conservation staff has given the Massey-Harris No. 2 new life. Disassembled and cleaned, replacements parts made, assembled, primed and painted, WDM staff Don Jouan and Dave Mess contributed many hours of TLC.

Visitors to the 2005 Farm Progress Show in Regina got the first peak at this newly-polished rare gem among tractors.

(See also Ledwith, Peter; Great Canadian Antique Tractor Field Days, Canadian Antique Power, July/August, 1994, p. 10)

Massey-Harris tractor on display
Massey-Harris No. 2 on exhibit at the
Saskatoon Exhibition, August, 2005
WDM photo


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