Hart-Parr / Oliver / White Tractor Collection Audio Tour
Hart-Parr / Oliver / White Tractor Collection
Charles W. Hart and Charles H. Parr, met at the University of WI while engineering students. Both were farm boys and thought there had to be an easier way to farm besides hand and horse. In 1897 while in Madison WI they started the Hart Parr Co. building stationary engines. In 1900 they moved to Charles City and with financial backing from local investors they established the Hart Parr Co. In the winter of 1901 they built their first Traction Engine, Hart Parr #1. Hart Parr #1 was sold to a farmer in the Mason City, Iowa area and it worked for the next 17 years. With that, the Hart-Parr Co. produced the first successful production farm tractor, making them "Founders of the Tractor Industry". By 1907 they were exporting tractors abroad and were first to use the word 'tractor' in their advertisements, prior to that tractors were called traction engines.
In 1929 Hart Parr and 3 other companies merged and the new company was called the Oliver Farm Equipment Company. In 1943 Oliver acquired the Ann Arbor Machine Co. manufacturers of balers, mowers etc, changing the name of the company to the Oliver Corporation or Oliver. Through various purchases, the Cleveland Crawler Tractor Co., Cockshutt and Minneapolis-Moline were acquired.
The company went thru a number of name changes with different owners: White Motor Corp. White Farm Equipment and White-New Idea, Division of Allied Products.
The last White Farm Equipment WFE Field Boss 4-270 left the Charles City assembly line March 9, 1988. The last tractor off the assembly line was a White 100 on March 25, 1988. Then tractor assembly operation was transferred to Coldwater, Ohio, the plant continued making transaxles and other parts.
After nearly a century of manufacturing tractors, Allied announced that its foundry and machining operation in the Charles City plant would close mid-year 1993. July 15, 1993 was the last foundry pour. On July 31, 1993- 400 production workers punched out for the last time.
In the meantime thousands of tractors were built here in Charles City and at times 3000 people worked at the tractor plant.
A few of the tractors the museum owns are unique. One of these was called the Little Devil: There were 725 Hart Parr Little Devils built from 1914 to 1916. The tractor was poorly planned and almost ruined the company's good reputation. It was reported in 1918 "The Little Devils have been bought back or traded in until they are largely forgotten." The tractor was aptly named.
Another of our tractors is the Experimental XO 121. In 1953 Oliver and the Ethyl Corporation developed a joint research program called the XO 121-"X" for experimental "O" for Oliver and "121" for 12:1 compression ratio. They were trying to produce more power in the gas engines. With the test results, Oliver made changes in future gasoline engines so they could develop more power. The experimental engine is in an 88 STD tractor.
The White 120, was an experimental version of that model tractor that later went into production. The Oliver 1655 with FWA is another rare tractor.
Sitting out amongst the tractors and memorabilia is the museum's turn of the century Cretor's popcorn wagon. Our wagon sat by Central Park for many years, making memories of buying popcorn, snow cones and cotton candy from the wagon for thousands of Charles City people.