Written by Larry Gay
The Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, decided to diversify in 1914 by entering the farm equipment market. Its first product was the 10-18 tractor with two rear drive wheels and a single front wheel which was in-line with the right rear wheel. About 1917, A-C added the General Purpose or 6-12 tractor. Its configuration used two drive wheels beside the engine and required an implement or sulky with an operator’s seat to complete the tractor.
By the 1920s, the Allis-Chalmers tractor line consisted of three models of standard-tread tractors, but sales were very slow. Harry Merritt was appointed manager of the Tractor Division in 1926 and was told to improve sales or close the division. Under Merritt’s leadership, Allis-Chalmers moved from a distant seventh place in industry sales in 1929 to a solid third place in 1936.
Merritt improved the A-C distribution system by buying Advance-Rumely with its extensive system of sales branches and dealers. The product line was expanded by buying the LaCrosse Plow Company (tillage tools), the Monarch Tractor Corporation (crawler tractors), and Advance-Rumely (harvesting equipment). Merritt improved the existing tractor models by simplifying their design, reducing their retail price, and changing their color from dark green to bright orange.
In 1932 Allis-Chalmers introduced low-pressure, pneumatic tires for farm tractors. The small Allis-Chalmers All-Crop combine, with its unique crosswise separator, lead the change from threshing rings to small combines in the Midwest. Other unique A-C products introduced later were the rear-engine model G tractor and the Roto-Baler that made small round bales.
The popular WC tractor, introduced in 1933, was replaced by the model WD in 1948 and in turn by the WD-45 in 1953. By the 1960s, the A-C line of tractors extended from the D10 with 28 PTO horsepower to the D21 Series II with 128 PTO horsepower. The Allis-Chalmers brand of farm equipment ended in 1985 when it was sold to Klockner-Humboldt-Deutz of Germany.
In 2012 the Antique Engine and Tractor Association will feature Allis-Chalmers tractors and equipment. Come see and enjoy the many Allis-Chalmers tractors that will be on display at the 2012 AETA September show.