Initial stockholders who started Ford Motor Company in 1903 made Henry Ford the general manager to utilize his expertise in making automobiles. As early as 1905, however, Henry was experimenting with gasoline engines for possible use in a farm tractor. The other stockholders did not want anything to do with tractor experimentation. As a result, Ford’s tractor business became a personal endeavor, not associated with the Ford Motor Company.
When Henry did start tractor production, he called the enterprise Henry Ford and Son.
In 1910, he rented a barn on Woodward Avenue and employed six men on his own payroll to work on developing a tractor. Ford’s early experimental tractors were tested on his family’s farmland in Dearborn.
In 1915, Henry purchased land on the Rouge River. Being a visionary, Henry could see the land had potential for his future undertakings, which would eventually include building tractors.
To guarantee that tractor activities remained independent from Ford Motor Company and presented no conflicts for shareholders, Henry Ford and Son was formed on July 27, 1917. A tractor plant was then built on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. The first mass-produced tractor, called the Fordson, rolled off the line on October 8, 1917. Henry Ford and Son then received a contract from the British government to make thousands of tractors to help World War I efforts in Great Britain.
By 1920, Ford Motor Company was owned solely by Henry Ford; however, he kept the name Fordson on tractors. Tractor plants were eventually set up at the Rouge, in Britain and in Cork, Ireland — the hometown of Henry Ford’s father. Later, in the 1930s, another large plant was set up at Dagenham, England.
Fordson tractors were designed to be a replacement for a horse and plow. Most farm implements during this time period were only designed to be horse drawn. A tractor had to be attached by chains to the implement, sometimes even leading to breaking the equipment. When a horse-drawn plow hit a large rock the horse stopped. A tractor tried to keep going, which often resulted in the tractor flipping over.
Henry Ford looked for years for a better implementation system. He finally found Henry Ferguson, who had a system already designed. They agreed to a handshake deal allowing Ford to utilize the three-point hitch, and Ferguson to utilize Ford Tractor designs. In 1939, after the handshake, Ford introduced the 9N tractor featuring the Ferguson system of interchangeable implements and the three-point hitch. This was the perfect fit — a great tractor with a great hitch. Throughout the years, many models of Ford tractors emerged. Between 1991 and 1993, Ford sold off its Tractor Division due to continued competition and the reduction of small farms.