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The Oliver Tractor: Product of a Successful 1929 Merger

The Oliver tractor is a product of the Oliver Corporation which was formed from a merger in 1929 between the Hart-Parr Company, Nichols and Shepard Company, American Seeding Machine Company, and finally the Oliver Chilled Plow Company. But the main players in this merger were Oliver Chilled Plow and Hart-Parr. Initially, the company was named the Oliver Farm Equipment Corporation and later shortened to the Oliver Corporation.

Before the Oliver tractor was the Hart-Parr traction engine. The Hart-Parr Company was a joint venture between Charles Walter Hart and Charles H. Parr. The two met around 1896 while in the midst of completing their Special Honors Thesis at the University of Wisconsin. As part of this thesis, they designed their first tractor engine. They then went on to form the Hart-Parr Company in Charles City, Iowa on June 12, 1901. Of course, at the time (1901), the term “tractor” did not exist and it was called the traction engine. Tractor as a term did not come out until 1906 and it is credited to Hart-Parr. Hart and Parr were known as the founders of the tractor industry most likely because of their early appearance on the industry scene.

James Oliver was famous for the chilled plow. Thus, he was founder of the Oliver Chilled Plow Company. James Oliver became the owner of a cast iron plow business when he took the opportunity to buy it from someone looking to sell one quarter of their interest in a foundry. After this, he designed what became to be known as he chilled plow which was much more efficient at scouring soil so that it would not clog the implement.

The Hart-Parr Number 1 was their first tractor. When it was released, it did not have the popularity expected as it had a few problems. Through field testing, the problems were identified and worked to produce the Hart-Parr Number 2 in 1903. Hart-Parr Number 3 was released in the same year. Hart-Parr tractors during this time resembled their steam tractor predecessors and had weights measured in tons. For example, the Hart-Parr 40/80 was built between 1908 and 1914 and weighed 18 tons.

Oliver-Hart-Parr released their Row-Crop tractor after the 1929 merger. The Oliver Chilled Plow Company had been working on row-crop design since around 1926. The row-crop design consisted of wheels in a tip-toe configuration that would not get bogged down in sticky mud as was found in Texas farm fields. The first Oliver Row-Crop tractor was released in 1930. In addition to having wheels on “tip-toe”, their spacing on the axle could be adjusted so that they could have an optimum fit on the farm rows. Oliver-Hart-Parr also had two other standard tractor lines: the 18/28 Series and the 28/44. Both were built until 1937 and the 28/44 would go on to become the Oliver Model 90. The latter also had 4 or 6-cylinder engines.

The Oliver-Hart-Parr Row-Crop 70 was released in October of 1935. This was a very popular model for Oliver and in the February following its release they sold 3,000 more units than expected for total sales of 5,000 units. In 1937, after the 70 was streamlined, Oliver dropped the Hart-Parr from its name and released the improved model. The 70s were built until 1948.

Other models included the Row-Crop 80 in 1938. The 90 and 99 models were built from 1938 until 1952. In 1953, the 90 was dropped from model nomenclature and both became the 99. The 99 was built from 1953 until 1957. The Row-Crop 60, which was a smaller version of the 70, was released in 1940. There were numerous other models to include the 44, 55, 66, 77, and 88. After 1958, the Super Series came on the scene with 950, 990, and 995 tractors.

The Oliver Corporation was purchased by the White Motor Corporation. The White Motor Corporation resided in Cleveland Ohio and bought Oliver in 1960. By 1976, White had totally replaced any products bearing the Oliver name with its own. Today, the only product made by White is a series of corn planters and garden tractors with AGCO owning the patents.

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