100 years of tractors

FOR MANY farmers, tractors are more than machines; they also invoke fond memories and inspire brand loyalty. A recently published book by longtime tractor photographer and historian Ralph Sanders recognizes this emotional aspect of the machine's identity. Sanders' work, entitled The Farm Tractor: 100 Years of North American Tractors and published by Voyageur Press, also comes close to earning the elusive label of “definitive.”

This large-format, beautifully photographed book is perfect for general browsing. After a smartly written first chapter hailing the rise of the tractor as an example of “muscles to motors,” Sanders provides thorough histories of the major and minor tractors organized by manufacturer. Readers are free to peruse the text, enjoying the engaging mix of old advertising and color photographs of restored vintage tractors.

The photography is first-rate and Saunders' prose is clear. The chapters on such stalwarts as Allis-Chalmers, J. I. Case, International Harvester and John Deere are impressive surveys that clearly demonstrate how the most successful companies constantly innovated to meet future needs. Yet the reader is also drawn to those companies that are no longer around. These “orphan” tractors provide fascinating glimpses into agriculture's past.

All told, The Farm Tractor: 100 Years of North American Tractors is an excellent book for those who know that tractors embody more than metal.

Price: $40.00. Contact Voyageur Press, MBI Publishing Company, 380 Jackson St., Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55101, 800/458-0454, www.mbipublishing.com. — John Kestner