Written By Larry Gay
Meinrad Rumely started with a blacksmith shop in LaPorte, Indiana, in 1853 and soon expanded into building threshing machines and steam engines. By 1882, the operation was known as the M. Rumely Company. Two of Meinrad’s sons joined the company and became the operators after Meinrad died in 1904. A grandson, Dr. Edward Rumely, joined the company in 1907 and soon hired John Secor, an engine designer, and William Higgins Jr. The M. Rumely Company began producing Rumely OilPull tractors in 1910 with a Secor-Higgins carburetor for burning kerosene.
Dr. Edward Rumely went on a buying spree starting in 1911, purchasing the Advance Thresher Company; Garr, Scott & Company; the American-Abell Company; and the Northwest Thresher Company. When the economy turned south in 1913, the over-extended M. Rumely Company had to file for bankruptcy. Finley Mount, the receiver, kept the Advance factory, sold the other three purchased companies, and reorganized the company by late 1915 as the Advance-Rumely Company.
Advance-Rumely started producing two sizes of a small tractor developed earlier by Secor and Higgins. Identified as Rumely IdealPull tractors, they were long, three-wheel tractors with the engine and two large diameter wheels at the front. The four-cylinder, water-cooled engines burned kerosene. The wide right front wheel was the drive wheel and the narrow left front wheel was an outrigger wheel. A small steerable wheel was located at the rear with the operator and the controls positioned above it. The long frame provided space for mounting under the tractor and ahead of the operator a two-bottom plow for the 8-16 model and a three-bottom plow for the 12-24 model. When plowing, all three tractor wheels ran on the unplowed ground. For general farm work, the IdealPull tractors could be operated in the opposite direction with the patented operator’s seat and controls rotated 180 degrees around the vertical steering shaft.
Agricultural Engineer Phillip Rose made a survey of the tractor industry in 1915 by visiting 98 companies and published the results of his work as U.S. Tractor Industry 1915. In his book, Rose was critical of the M. Rumely Company, saying it had made a great many mistakes, management was extravagant, and its sales policy was faulty. Also he was not impressed with the IdealPull tractors, saying they were too long. Evidently, his evaluation was correct as the IdealPull tractors were produced for only about two years.
Larry Gay is the author of four tractor books published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, including Farm Tractors 1975-1995 and Farm Tractors 1995-2005. The four books may be obtained from ASABE by calling 800-695-2723.