NOKOMIS, Ill. — On April 13, Aumann Auctions Inc. will be offering a rare opportunity to own a piece of American History — the 1925 Ford 5/8 size tractor that Henry Ford built for his grandchildren will be offered to the public.
It previously was in the Henry Ford Museum, spent over three decades in a private collection after being purchase in an inventory reduction auction of that museum in 1982 and now, loaded with provenance, is up for public bidding.
How did this come about?
Kurt Aumann with Aumann Auctions explained that a few months ago, the call began like most with a caller saying, “I’ve had an old tractor for over 35 years and I’m ready to sell it.”
Then the auctioneer asks the usual questions: “Model? Year? Tell me about it.”
And the answer came, “Well, it’s a Fordson and it’s from the ‘20s, but it’s small, a 5/8 size and built on a Model T frame.”
The auctioneer said, “Oh, it’s homemade?”
The seller answered, “No, Henry Ford had it built for his grandchildren.”
“How can you be sure about that?”
“My father bought it from the Henry Ford Museum auction in the 1980s and I have all the paperwork.”
And just like that, this call was now decidedly different from most, Aumann said.
When most people think of Henry Ford, it’s usually in relation to cars, such as the Model A and Model T. But in 1907 the first experimental tractor was built and Henry Ford called it his “Automobile Plow.”
The stockholders at the Ford Motor Co. initially rejected the idea of developing a tractor for the small farmer, so Henry Ford and his son, Edsel, formed a new company, Henry Ford and Son, to assemble the first Fordson tractor in 1917.
They quickly became the most popular tractors in America, and at one time, 75% of all tractors built in the United States were Fordsons.
In 1925, Henry Ford asked his special projects design engineer, Howard Simpson, to design a miniature tractor for his grandchildren.
At the Henry Ford Estate named Fair Lane in Dearborn, Michigan, along the Rouge River, Ford and his wife, Clara, had built to scale a small working farm for the grandchildren and requested of Simpson that the tractor be approximately 5/8 scale to accommodate a 10- to 12-year-old boy to drive.
Simpson and Gene Farkas, an engineer responsible for much of the Fordson design, built this tractor out of Model T, Fordson, and specially designed and cast parts — it even has a 5/8 size specially designed cast iron seat. It became part of the reduced size set of farm equipment for the grandchildren and displayed at fairs.
The four grandchildren were the sons and daughter of Edsel and Edith Ford and were named Henry II, Benson, Josephine and William, but were collectively and affectionately referred as Hy-Ben-Jo-Bill.
“When getting this amazing tractor started, we found a governor on the fuel line to control how fast it could go and a lock on the ignition to keep children from starting it without permission,” Aumann said.
The inventory sheets from the Henry Ford Museum show the original inventory numbers which still are on the tractor, and amazingly, the tractor retains much of the original paint.
Oddly, the name on the front of the radiator doesn’t say “Fordson.” It reads “Fordsons,” instead.
To learn more about this historic tractor or for information on bidding or attending the auction in Nokomis, visit AumannVintagePower.com, or contact Aumann at 888-282-8648 or Kurt@AumannAuctions.com.