Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Emerson Brantingham Big 4 tractor

We saw this tractor at the Tractor Pull at Longford, near Sale, in March this year. It is a Big 4, which was originally owned by East Bland Station at Quandialla, near West Wyalong, in N.S.W and restored by Norm Johnston. Big 4 tractors were the first tractors built with a four cylinder overhead valve and the prototype was created by D.M Hartsough in 1904. Previous to this, early American tractors with internal combustion engines were one or two cylinders. This four cylinder model proved popular with Canadian farmers, who had vast acres to clear and cultivate and for this reason also had some sales in South Africa and Australia. The Big 4 was manufactured by the Transit Thresher Company of Minneapolis from 1906. This company was later taken over by the Emerson Brantingham Implement Company, who manufactured these tractors until 1916.
The Big 4 weighed 17,500 pounds or nearly 8 tons and Emerson Brantingham introduced a six cylinder version in 1913, which only lasted until 1915 as it was too big and cumbersome. It weighed 23,000 lbs, over 10 tons. The Emerson Brantingham Company had its beginnings in 1852 when Ralph Emerson became a major shareholder in John. H. Manny, a harvesting equipment manufacturer. In 1853 the Manny Company changed its name to Emerson Manufacturing Company. In 1909 Emerson joined with Charles Brantingham to crate Emerson Brantingham Implement Company. They took over a number of Traction Engine companies such as the Geiser Manufacturing Company in 1912, the builder of the Peerless Traction Engine. Around the same time they also took over Reeves Company of Columbus, Indiana. J.I Case (Case Tractors) purchased Emerson Brantingham in 1928

There is a truck connection in this story. Emerson Brantingham closed down the Reeves plant in 1925 and part of it (the Assembly building) was sold to Will G. Irwin, a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist, the backer of the Cummins Engine Company, which was started in 1919 by Clessie Cummins. In late 1925 or early 1926 Cummins moved its main production into this building. Cummins still have their head quarters in Columbus, Indiana and are a major supplier of truck engines.

I got this information from the Magic of old tractors by Ian M. Johnston (New Holland Publishers, 2004) and Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines by Jack Norbeck (Crestline Publishing, 1976)

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