Ohio Manufacturing Company built early tractors

One of the early tractor builders in Ohio was the Ohio Manufacturing Company in Upper Sandusky. In 1899, Samuel S. Morton built a crude tractor in York, Pa., with a large, horizontal, one-cylinder, hopper-cooled Otto engine mounted on a relatively, for the time, light-weight chassis with a short wheelbase.

The final drive was gear driven, although the forward and reverse drive from the engine to a countershaft was friction drive.

Kept improving

Morton kept improving his machine and, in 1902 and 1903, was granted patents for a traction truck, upon which could be mounted almost any of the large stationary engines of the day.

The Morton traction truck consisted of a frame, a gear driven differential and final drive, as well as wheels and chain steering, almost identical to the running gear of the steam traction engine.

Besides provisions for mounting a six to 50 horsepower engine of the buyer’s choice, the package included a friction drive transmission, and the levers to control it.

Sam Morton soon moved to Upper Sandusky, Ohio, where he built the Morton Traction Truck at the Morton Mfg. Co. In 1904, the firm was renamed the Ohio Manufacturing Co. and the machine, which was offered until 1913, was often called the Ohio Patented Traction Truck.

When IHC decided to enter the tractor business in 1906, they already had a line of successful stationary engines, so the first International tractors consisted of International 15 HP Famous engines mounted on the friction drive Morton Traction Trucks made in Upper Sandusky.

Around 375 International tractors were built at the Ohio Manufacturing Company plant between 1906 and 1910. After IH production ceased at Upper Sandusky, Ohio continued to offer the Morton Traction Truck until about 1918 when a regular wheeled tractor came into being called the Whitney.

Whitney 9-18

An article in the August, 1918 issue of Tractor World magazine describes the claims made for the new Whitney 9-18 thus: “Power and light weight with excellent efficiency in all kinds of farm and road work. The machine will draw two 14-inch bottom plows, two 8-foot binders, two 5-foot mowers, a hay loader; that for belt work it will drive a medium size ensilage cutter, corn sheller, feed grinder, hay baler, or other similar farm machine. Because of the light weight it can be worked on soft soil and yet have sufficient traction for any reasonable work. The machine can be handled by a boy and yet do the work as well as though operated by a man.”

The Whitney tractor weighed 3,000 pounds with an 82-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 123 inches. The rear drive wheels were four feet in diameter with 10-inch rims, while the 2 1/2-foot diameter front wheels had 5-inch rims.

The cast steel front axle was mounted to the 5-inch channel steel frame by a coil spring at each side to absorb the shocks of running over rough ground.

A Gile, 2-cylinder, opposed engine of 5 1/2-inch bore and 6 1/2-inch stroke, that was rated by the manufacturer at 24.1 horsepower at 923RPM, sat between the frame rails at the front and was lubricated by a Madison-Kipp force feed oiler.

Drive to the rear wheels was through a hand-operated clutch and a 3-speed and reverse sliding gear transmission, along with a final drive by sprockets and roller chain to a differential on the rear axle.

Speeds were 1/34 MPH in low gear, 2 1/2 MPH in intermediate, and 4 MPH in high. Full fenders protected the driver from the rear drive wheels and he was provided with convenient hand levers and a horizontal steering wheel on a vertical post.

It was claimed that the steering gear was a special construction that is irreversible and steady steering is assured without tiring the driver.

The round fuel tank was mounted on brackets in front of the radiator.

Smaller machines

Around 1915 or 1916 Ohio Mfg. also seems to have built a few Whitney 6-12 tractors for the International Harvester Company, which was reacting to the demand for smaller, lighter and more nimble machines.

Little is known about the Whitney 6-12, but photos show it to have been virtually identical to the 9-18, only smaller and lacking rear fenders. In the event, while according to Guy Fay IHC may have sold a few of these machines, they instead concentrated on the Mogul 8-16 and the Titan 10-20 as their entries into the small tractor market.

As for Ohio Manufacturing, the agricultural depression after the Great War seems to have done for them. R.B. Gray indicates they may have merged with the Post Tractor Company of Cleveland, Ohio, to form the Post-Whitney Co., but it didn’t last long.

By the way, Post had been making a weird 12-20 tractor with a 20 HP, 4-cylinder Waukesha engine mounted amidships between a front and rear steering and drive wheels similar to a big motorcycle.

The thing was balanced by a steel outrigger support wheel on either side, much like the training wheels on a tot’s little 2-wheel bike, but without the little wicker basket in front.

Who bought it?

There is at least one Whitney 9-18 still in existence that was owned by Jim Erdle of Canandaigua, N.Y. In September of 2013 Auman Auctions sold Mr. Erdle’s collection and the Whitney sold for $125,000, but I don’t know who bought it. Perhaps a reader knows.

Jim Erdle’s Whitney 9-18 and to hear it running.

About the Author

Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules. More Stories by Sam Moore

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