Great American Tractors .com

Oliver Tractors

Emmigrating from Scotland as a young man, James Oliver found work on farms and later in an iron foundry. In 1839, he moved to Indiana and worked for South Bend Blast Furnace Company, where he learned how to cast iron.

In 1855 Oliver started South Bend Iron Works with two partners. Oliver experimented with ways to make a plow more resistant to getting stuck in soft soil and breaking when hitting stones. By 1860, he had perfected a casting method that made blade of the plow much harder, while keeping the center from becoming too brittle. In 1869, the patented the Model 40 of the “Indiana Plow.” By 1864, the plow was selling well, and the company employed 25 workers. In 1868, Oliver patented a larger plow that would require a team of horses to pull. By 1878, the company was selling 300,000 plows a year.

James Oliver did not live to see an Oliver tractor. When he died in 1908, his company had grown very large but had focused on plows. Oliver had registered a total of 45 patents. James’ son Joseph, who had been prominent in the management of the company took over as president. In 1912, the company became public, and with new capitol expanded into mechanized farm equipment .

In 1829, The Oliver Chilled Plow Company merged with The American Seeding Machine Company, the Hart-Parr Gasoline Engine Company, and the Nichols & Shepard Comany, which had developed an effective thresher and a successful corn picking machine.

The company, now known as the Oliver Farm Equipment Sales Company. continued to grow with other acquisitions and designed a new tractor.
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The Oliver Farm Equipment Sales Company hired Wilbur Henry Adams, a well known designer to develop a sleek look for its new tractor. The production tractor did not end up look exactly like the rendering, but it captured the same modern feeling.
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Oliver Row Crop 70. This photo must speak for itself. We know only that it was taken for the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information between 1935 and 1942.
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The purpose of this site is present an overview of the history of tractors in America as a part of our overall Great American project. By no means do we claim to be the best resource for tractor history. Others have done a much better job. One is the Oliver Heritage Magazine and web site written and edited by folks with a lifetime of tractor experience and knowledge:


© 2019 Phil Dickinson
Middletown, RI 401-847-2020

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