The Ford-Ferguson tractor introduced in 1939, like the Model T automobile, was one of the great developments of the twentieth century!
This 9N tractor provided the first affordable alternative to horses and mules for powering family farm production. It transformed agriculture into what we now see as the norm. The young man next to Mr. Ford actually took the driver's seat and plowed straight furrows to show that a boy could operate the tractor.
Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson introducing the 9N tractor on Ford's Fairlane estate June of 1939.
This was the first view of the new tractor developed by Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson and it immediately became a sensation. It was set apart from other tractors of the time by its smaller size, lighter weight and Art-deco styling. The revolutionary characteristic that made it so valuable was its introduction of the three point, hydraulically controlled implement attachment system.
Prior to this invention, tractors drew their plows with a two point attachment aligned with the lower section of the tractor. When the plow hit a rock or large root that stopped forward motion, the tractor's torque often caused the tractor to rotate over backwards injuring or killing the operator. The three point system added a counter rotating point above the rear axle that prevented this and the hydraulic system would act to lift the plow free and reset it so the operator could resume his work.
Also of major importance was the price. Henry Ford himself dictated that it should sell at a price equal or less than the cost of a farmers team of plow horses, the harness and the ten acres of land required to feed and care for them. This turned out to be $585 and that is what they sold for. The average farmer, like the average worker buying Ford cars, could afford one.
In 1939 it was estimated that there were nineteen million farm animals powering agriculture in the United States. Only major farms could afford the tractors of that time. The 9N and the following 2N and 8N tractors completely changed that, and the use of farm animals for farm work was largely abandoned over the following ten years.
A working 9N in the field during harvest.
Image of a restored 1948 8N tractor
After the second world war Ford redesigned the tractor introducing the 8N model in 1947 (the number 8 signified the first model year of introduction and the N was a project designator for tractor) which had additional horsepower and several improved features and a red and grey color scheme. Also it was produced and marketed worldwide and greatly assisted reconstruction of farm economies in Europe after the war. Close to one million N series tractors were produced from June 1939 to July 1952 and it is estimated that about 40% of these are still operated on farms-three quarters of a century later.
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