Veteran Tractors (Series I)

Release Date:  02 February 2021


Artist: David Lundberg
Design: Sofia Valtersson/Strax
Date of Issue: 02.02.2021
Denominations: €1.60, €3.00
Edition: 90 000 each denomination
Size of Stamps: 40 x 30 mm
Size of Sheet: 2 x 12 stamps per denomination
Perforations: 13 per 2 cm
Printing Method: 4-colour offset
Printing House: Cartor Security Printing

Design #1: Fordson F (1924)






Design #2: Cletrac








Full Sheet of 10 Stamps










Full Sheet of 10 Stamps











First Day Cover (front)













First Day Cover (rear)














Maximum Card #1 (front)















Maximum Card #1 (rear)
















Maximum Card #2 (front)

















Maximum Card #2 (rear)



















2 February sees the start of a new 3-year stamp series featuring Veteran tractors. Shot by Åland photographer David Lundberg, the first two gems date back to the early 1900s. The American Cletrac crawler tractor is believed to be the first tractor in Åland, preserved today at the Åland Forestry and Agricultural Museum in Ringsböle, Jomala. Brothers Karl and Johan Söderlund of Ödkarby, Saltvik, are said to have acquired it in 1919. Portrayed on the second stamp is a Fordson iron wheel tractor, model F from 1924. This tractor has been on the same farm in Näfsby, Hammarland, since it was purchased in the 1920s. Today, the old classic is maintained by Ralf Fagerholm, third generation farmer on the family farm.

Monument to Fordson model F. Photographed by Michal Maňas in the Czech Republic on 23 July 2006.

Fordson was a brand name of tractors and trucks. It was used on a range of mass-produced general-purpose tractors manufactured by Henry Ford & Son Inc from 1917 to 1920, by Ford Motor Company (U.S.) and Ford Motor Company Ltd (U.K.) from 1920 to 1928, and by Ford Motor Company Ltd (U.K.) from 1929 to 1964. The latter (Ford of Britain) also later built trucks and vans under the Fordson brand.

After 1964, the Fordson name was dropped and all Ford tractors were simply badged as Fords in both the UK and the US.

Between 1917 and 1922, the Fordson was for tractors somewhat like the Ford Model T was for automobiles—it captured the public’s imagination and widely popularized the machine, with a reliable design, a low price affordable for workers and farmers, a widespread dealership network, and a production capacity for large numbers. Just as the Model T helped the public to appreciate how soon cars and trucks might replace most horses in transport, the Fordson helped people to appreciate how soon tractors might replace most horses in farming (advancing the mechanization of agriculture). As with cars, Ford never had the market to itself, but it dominated the market for tractors, roughly 1917–1925, and again 1946-1953. Ford was the only automotive firm to sell cars, trucks and tractors simultaneously from 1917 to 1928.

For a decade between 1928 and 1939, Ford of the U.S. left the tractor business. During that decade, Ford of Britain continued to build Fordsons and to develop new variants, which it exported widely. In 1939 Ford of the U.S. reentered the tractor market with an all-new model, this time with the Ford brand. Ford of Britain continued to use the Fordson brand until 1964.

Fordson logo found on a tractor at the Keys Desert Queen Ranch in Joshua Tree National Monument, San Bernardino Country, California. Photographed on 29 December 2009.

Fordson production took place in the U.S. (1917–1928); Cork, Ireland (1919–1923 and 1928–1933); and at Dagenham, Essex, England (1933–1964). Tens of thousands of Fordsons, most from the U.S. and some from Ireland, were exported to the Soviet Union from 1920 to 1927. Soviet Fordson clones were also built at Leningrad from 1924 and at Stalingrad from 1930.

Henry Ford grew up in an extended family of farmers in Wayne County a few miles from Detroit, Michigan in the late 19th century. At the time, farm work was extremely arduous, because on the typical farm virtually nothing could get done without manual labor or animal labor as the motive power. As his interest in automobiles grew, he also expressed a desire to “lift the burden of farming from flesh and blood and place it on steel and motors.” In the early 20th century, he began to build experimental tractors from automobile components. Four years after founding the Ford Motor Company in 1903, Ford finished his first experimental tractor in 1907 on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, referring to it as the “Automobile Plow”. Approximately 600 gasoline-powered tractors were in use on American farms in 1908. Fordson tractor design was headed by Eugene Farkas and József Galamb, both involved in the design of the successful Ford Model T automobile.

Traction engines had been around for a while, but they were large, heavy, expensive machines suited to prairie grain farming more than to small family farms in other regions. In the early 1910s, North America and Europe were hungry for small, inexpensive tractors, and many people seized on the Model T as a platform with which to create them. Clearly the idea of an auto-like tractor, made using auto-like parts and methods or by conversion from autos, was ripe. American engineer, inventor, and businessman Henry Ford built experimental tractors from automobile components during the early 20th century, and launched a prototype known as the Model B in August 1915. Further prototypes, with a dedicated tractor design, followed in 1916. With World War I raging in Europe, the first regular-production Henry Ford & Son tractors were exported to the U.K. in 1917 to expand British agriculture. In 1918, exports continued, the tractors began to be labeled as Fordsons, and U.S. domestic sales began. Sales boomed in 1918 and 1919.

Henry Ford experimented with both auto-plows and heavier tractors. In August 1915, at a plowing demonstration in Fremont, Nebraska, he introduced a newly designed tractor known as the Model B. It used a 16 horsepower, two-cylinder, horizontally opposed engine, a spur gear transmission and three wheels – two front drivers and one rear steerer. The Model B was never produced, but did gain enough publicity to let the world know Ford was interested in developing a tractor.

Knowing there was demand for a Ford-built tractor, a group of entrepreneurs in Minneapolis organized The Ford Tractor Company, paying a company clerk surnamed Ford for the use of his name, with the intention of getting sales and attention from the confusion of this Ford with Ford Motor Company. The company built and sold some tractors, but anticipated a settlement with Henry Ford for permission to use their already-trademarked name. However, Ford thwarted them by using another name.

Fordson Origins, Model F, and Model N

An overview of the original Fordson tractor, with principal parts labeled. From ‘The Ford Motor Car and Truck; Fordson Tractor: Their Construction, Care and Operation’ by Harold P. Manly (1919).

The first prototypes of the new Henry Ford & Son tractor, which would later be called the Fordson, were completed in 1916. World War I was raging in Europe, and the United Kingdom, a net importer of food, was desperate for tractors in its attempt to expand its agriculture enough to feed Britain despite the great shipping disruption of the war. In 1917, the British Ministry of Munitions selected the Fordson for both importation from the U.S. and domestic U.K. production. It was thought that domestic U.K. production was preferable because so much Atlantic shipping was being sunk that exporting tractors from the U.S. would be counterproductive, as many would be lost at sea. This was soon modified to exclude the London area because of concerns about its vulnerability to German attacks. Henry Ford decided to build the tractor at Cork, Ireland (which at the time was still part of the U.K.), partly because he wanted to bring jobs to, and foster industriousness in, southern Ireland. But the Cork plant did not begin production until 1919, after the war had ended. As events turned out, thousands of tractors were exported from the U.S. in 1917 and 1918.

The tractor used a 20 hp (15 kW), inline four-cylinder engine. The engine was similar to the Ford Model T engine in many respects. Like many engines of its day, it was multifuel-capable; it was usually tuned for gasoline or kerosene, but alcohol could also be burned. (Tractor vaporizing oil [TVO] existed in 1920 but was not yet widely used. It entered broader use in the 1930s and 1940s.) Like many other multifuel machines, the Fordson started on gasoline from a small auxiliary tank (just a few quarts) and then switched over to the main fuel tank once warmed up sufficiently (no more than 5 minutes). To handle the kerosene (or, rarely, TVO), the intake system had a vaporizer downstream of the carburetor. The mixture coming from the carburetor was intentionally rich, and the vaporizer heated it and mixed it with more air to lean it out to the final ratio before entering the intake manifold. The intake system also had a water-bath air cleaner to filter the dust out of the air inhaled by the engine (an invention that did not originate at Ford but that was still rather novel in 1917). Air cleaning is critical to engine lifespan, even for road vehicles and most especially for farming and construction vehicles (which work in environments where dirt is frequently stirred up into the air). The Fordson carburetor and air cleaner were designed by Holley. In later decades, the water bath would be replaced with an oil bath for better filtering performance.

Fordson Model F tractor in seaport Odessa, Ukrainian SSR 1925. The Soviet Union imported 25,000 Ford tractors from 1921 till 1927. The Soviet industry produced the inferior copy of Fordson F under the brand Fordson-Putilovets (Krasny Putilovets/Kirov) from 1924 till 1932. The original simple design was for the light work of individual farmers and did not fit for the heavy-duty use on collective farms. From Projector (Spotlight) issue 9 (55) May 15, 1925

The ignition system was similar to that of the Model T,with a flywheel-mounted low-tension magneto and trembler coils. The ignition timing was manually advanced or retarded with the spark advance lever mounted near the steering column, which rotated the timer. The cooling was by thermosiphon. (In later decades, a high-tension magneto and a water pump would be added.) The transmission was a three-speed spur gear (the three forward speeds ranged from approximately 2​1⁄4 to 6​1⁄4 mph). A worm drive reduction set and a differential made up the rear. The design of the rear was patented for its ease of manufacture and service. Brakes were not provided on early Fordsons, as high-ratio worm sets generally transmitted rotation in one direction only, from the worm element to the gear element, because of the high power loss through friction. To stop the tractor, the driver depressed the clutch.

Ford engineer Eugene Farkas successfully made the engine block, oil pan, transmission, and rear axle stressed members constituting the frame. By eliminating the need for a heavy separate frame, costs were reduced and manufacturing was simplified. Ford held a patent on a unit-frame tractor. The rear wheels were fabricated steel, spoked and cleated. The earliest ones were 12-spoke; a 14-spoke version followed. Several models of front wheel were used, including 10-spoked fabricated steel and 5-spoke cast iron. Industrial models also used other wheels designed for specific tasks, including aftermarket wheels.

In 1916 and 1917, the name “Fordson” was not yet used as the tractor’s make or model name, nor was “Model F”. During this period, terms such as “the [real/genuine] Ford tractor” or “the Henry Ford tractor”, as well as “the MOM tractor” (because almost all output was going to the British Ministry of Munitions), were used. “The Ford Tractor Company” had already been registered on March 15, 1915 by W. Baer Ewing and Paul W. Ford. In early 1918, the name “Fordson” was trademarked, and within a few months it was being marked on the tractors. Published sources vary somewhat on the origin of the name. All agree that the name reflects the contemporary name of the tractor company, “Henry Ford & Son”, and its obvious eponyms: Henry and Edsel. Some claim that the company had been using the cable address “Fordson” for several years, which would mean even before the company was officially incorporated in July 1917. Another implies that February 1918 marked the first use of “Fordson” in a cablegram. Regardless, by April 1918 the name “Fordson” was established as the brand, and its eponyms were obvious. In that month, U.S. sales began under County War Board distribution rules. The Model F designation (for essentially the same model, with improvements) began in 1919. Sales boomed in 1918 and 1919.

There was nothing about the Fordson’s design or farming capabilities that was a “first ever” among tractors (Ford’s version of a unit frame was novel for tractors, but that didn’t give it special farming advantages). But it was the first tractor that combined all of the following factors: it was small, lightweight, mass-produced, and affordable; it had a large distribution network (dealers nearby in many locales); and it had a widely trusted brand (via Ford). Such factors made it possible for the average farmer to own a tractor for the first time. Thus Henry Ford and colleagues had done again, for the tractor, what they had recently done for the automobile with the Ford Model T. Ford incorporated his private company, Henry Ford and Son Inc, to mass-produce the tractor on July 27, 1917. The Fordson tractor went into mass production in 1917 and debuted for sale on October 8, 1917, for US$750.

The Soviet industry produced the copy of Fordson F under the brand Fordson-Putilovets (Krasny Putilovets/Kirov) from 1924 till 1932. Red Army soldiers are pictured during tractor driver’s training exercises. From Projector (Spotlight) issue issue 6 (228) March 29, 1930

At a hurriedly built factory in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford used the same assembly line techniques he used to mass-produce the Ford Model T. It took thirty hours and forty minutes to convert the raw materials into the 4,000 parts used for the tractor assembly. At this time, the Fordson sold for US$750; each cost $567.14 to manufacture (including labor, materials and overhead), leaving a profit of $182.86. Soon Dearborn was sending knock-down kits to final assembly plants in various U.S. states, including New Jersey, Iowa, and Missouri. The core of Fordson production later moved to the new Ford River Rouge Complex.

The Fordson succeeded in being cheaper to maintain than horses, as the Ford Model T had previously done. A government test concluded that farmers spent $.95 per acre plowing with a Fordson compared to feeding eight horses for a year and paying two drivers, which cost $1.46 per acre.

Despite several early design flaws and reliability issues such as engine failure and unbearable heat, the Fordson established a firm foothold on U.S. farms, with more than 70% market share in earlier years. By mid-1918, more than 6,000 Fordson tractors were in use in Britain, Canada, and the United States.

In the U.S., Ford established a policy in 1919 to loan Fordson tractors to educational institutions with vocational training programmes. Agricultural colleges could use a Fordson for six months and then exchange it for a new one. Under this arrangement, forty-two tractors were loaned to such universities as Cornell, Idaho, Michigan, Maryland and Prairie View State Normal in Texas. Others went to the orphanage at Nacoochee Institute in Georgia, the Berry School at Rome, Georgia and Camp Dix at Hutchinson, Kansas.

Annual production reached 36,781 in 1921 and 99,101 in 1926. By 1925, Ford had built its 500,000th Fordson tractor. Ford was the only automotive firm to sell cars, trucks, and tractors simultaneously from 1917 to 1928, during which time 552,799 Fordson tractors were built.

Cletrac Inc. was a manufacturer of tractors for military and civilian use, was organized by ROLLIN H. WHITE as the Cleveland Motor Plow Co. in 1916, with capital of $6 million. White, a founder of the White Motor Company, had 10 years earlier formed this new firm to produce the crawler-type tractor he had developed for general farm use.

First located at Euclid Ave. and Lamb, the plant later moved to 19300 Euclid Ave. Renamed Cleveland Tractor Co. in 1917, the company sold 40,000 tractors in the U.S. and 70 foreign countries during its first decade. In the early 1930s, the needs of the Civilian Conservation Corps. and public works projects kept the plant open, and by 1937 the firm, which employed 1,500 workers, enjoyed record tractor sales here and abroad. Two years later, the company introduced 3 new lower-priced tractors with 4-cylinder engines for use by the small farmer.

The military application of Cleveland Tractor’s products became dominant during World War II when the firm manufactured a new, high-speed tractor for hauling artillery. Although the company received a steady flow of orders, the low profit in defence work and the research costs for new products convinced company President White to sell the company to the 96-year-old Oliver Corp. of Chicago in 1944. Oliver invested $3.5 million in the aging plant to develop new products.

However, Cleveland Tractor remained unprofitable until the Korean War revived its business. When White Motor Company took a 2-year option to buy the tractor plant and acquired exclusive rights to the Oliver name in 1959, Oliver renamed its Cleveland facilities Cletrac Inc. In 1961 White Motor bought the local Cletrac inventories, engineering designs, and machine tools and closed the plant, consolidating all production at a second plant in Charles City, Iowa.

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