The 1941 Farmall Model B

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The Farmall B:

Second Tractor on the Farm, But First in the Heart 


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 1993 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Volume 6, Number 6

Prior to early 1941, all Farmall Model B tractors were manufactured with a single front wheel and was called “the best little tractor on three wheels.”

Farm tractors brought much improvement to farming; however, farming with a single tractor was beginning to have its shortcomings by the mid-1950’s.  As witness of this, I have a picture that I took in the summer of 1958.  Although this picture seems to be a nondescript picture of our 1950 Farmall M powering the John Deere grain elevator during the oat harvest of July, 1958, it takes on more significance with a little explanation.  The picture embodies many of the experiences of single-tractor farming.

The 1950 Farmall M bearing the Serial No. 218137 powers the John Deere elevator during the oat harvest in the summer of 1958. The elevator leads to the corn crib on the Wells farm in LeRoy Township, in Mower County, Minnesota. The were being stored in the grain bin over the alley way of the double corn crib. On the lower extreme left of the photo, the leg of the A-frame jack that is described in the article can be seen. This jack is not needed for the wagon shown in the picture because the wagon has its own hoist under the box that can lift the front end of the box to let the grain flow easily out rear of the wagon box into the elevator pickup shown here.

The 1950 Farmall M bearing the Serial No. 218137 was our only tractor.  My Dad had purchased it new in 1950.  He traded a 1942 Farmall H to get the M.  Later, he would begin to speculate that he should have kept the H as a second tractor; however, the need for a second tractor did not appear as crucial in 1950 as it would in later years as this picture shows.  In this picture, the M had just returned from the field where it had spent the morning pulling the Massey-Harris Clipper combine.  From about mid-morning (when the dew was gone and the windrows dry) until noon the combine could fill our two wagons.  The M was then unhitched from the combine and hitched to the wagons which were brought to the building site for unloading.  This was planned so that the family could then have dinner and not waste time.  Nonetheless, after unloading the wagons, it would be well into the afternoon before the combine would be started in the field again.

The M had to be unhitched from the wagon and connected to the elevator, unconnected from the elevator and re-hitched to the empty wagon to pull it out of the way, and then hitched to the next wagon.  That wagon was then pulled up to the elevator and blocked so that the wagon would not roll when unhitched.  Then the tractor was once again connected to the elevator.  Additionally, all of our wagons were equipped either with hydraulic lifts under the box or fitted to use a home-made “A-frame” jack which would be placed at the front of the wagon.  This A-frame jack, which Dad welded himself, would be fitted with a hydraulic cylinder borrowed from M’s four-row cultivator.  The leg of this A-frame jack can be seen in the foreground of the picture with the John Deere elevator.  It is on the extreme left, leaning up against the granary which is to the left of the picture.

While running the elevator, the M would also be connected by long hydraulic hoses to the wagon or to the A-frame jack.  Indeed, the wagon in this picture is connected in this manner to the M, but the hoses cannot be seen.  Because we lived close to my mother’s family, Howard Hanks, we could occasionally borrow their Massey-Harris 22 or Massey-Harris 44.  (This is the same 44 that is described in the July/August 1993 issue of The Belt Pulley Vol. 6, No. 4.  The 22 is the same tractor that was pictured on the cover of the February issue of the Minnesota Edition of Fastline parts magazine, Vol. 6, No. 7, and is also pictured in the May/June issue of Wild Harvest: Massey Collectors News Vol. 10, No. 3.)  Both of these tractors had the Massey-Harris Depth-O-Matic hydraulic system and had the hydraulic bulkhead quick couplers which were compatible with the connections on our wagons.  However, these tractors were busy on the Hanks farm and were not always available to us.

My father, Wayne Alwin Wells, began to consider the great amount of time spent unloading the wagons as wasted time, especially since  my brother Mark, age 8, and myself, age 10, were of an age where we could unload the wagons ourselves.  We needed another tractor!  He must have expressed this desire verbally to our friend and neighbor Bob Heathman of LeRoy, Minnesota, one Sunday following church.  Bob replied that he knew of a Farmall B that was for sale.  It is no secret that my father was, and continues to be, a Farmall man; therefore, Dad quickly expressed an interest in going to see the B.

The 1941 Farmall model B, bearing the Serial No. 60237 on the Wells farm in the early spring of 1960. As this article relates, the 1941 Farmall B had only just been purchased by the Wells family in the summer of 1959. The model B was immediately put to work on the Wells Farm. Here the tractor is hitched to the Wells family Case T-6 manure spreader and is standing outside the milking parlor where the spreader is being loaded with manure. If this is Saturday, it probably will be the 11-year old author that will be taking the load of manure to the field. the current author had been instructed by his father to drive the Farmall B in second gear when spreading manure with this “tractor” spreader. The Wells family also had another four-wheeled “horse” manure spreader made by the Minnesota Prison Industries. The author had been instructed to spreader manure in first gear with that converted “horse drawn” spreader.

Bob Heathman and his family had moved to LeRoy in 1954 from Pocahontas County, Iowa.  Bob’s parents lived near the small town of Rolfe in Pocahontas County.  Bob’s father had a Farmall B with a cultivator (a model B-236, as seen on page 102 of C.H. Wendel’s 150 Years of International Harvester and called the “flat beam cultivator” in the movie Farmall B and Equipment) and a No. 16 direct-attachable mower (page 217 in Wendel and also seen in Farmall B and Equipment).  The B also would have electric lights and an electric starter.  The price of the entire package was to be $200.00.

Case Model T-6 manure spreader hitched to a VAC
This promotional picture shows the  Case model T-6 manure spreader with its unusual hitch in the “down” position. When the manure spreader is fully loaded the tracrtor will be pulled forward and the hitch will roll up to its “up” or “transport position and lock. This will have the effect of lifting the whole front end of the manure spreader although it is full of manure.

So early one morning in the fall of 1959, we decided to travel to Pocahontas with Bob Heathman to look at the B.  Dad hitched his hayrack behind Bob Heathmann’s 1949 Chevrolet pickup that morning and we all headed off for Pocahontas, Iowa.  Even at my early age, I knew that with the empty hayrack, this would not be a fruitless trip.  (Tractor enthusiasts still know what it means when a person comes to a swap meet or sale with an empty wagon.  They intend to fill the wagon with something before they leave!).  We were, however, disappointed to find, when we reached Pocahontas, that the tractor had already been sold.

Sadly, we started back to LeRoy along the same route we had followed traveled to Pocahontas County.  We passed through Algona, Iowa, the county seat of Kossuth County.  Driving along the street on the south side of the Kossuth county courthouse, Bob Heathman happened to spy a tractor that looked a lot like a Farmall B, parked next to a building on the street north of the courthouse.   Bob suggested that we turn around and take a closer “look” at the tractor and see if it were for sale.  We did and found that it was, indeed,  a used Farmall B that was for sale by a used farm equipment dealer occupying the building north of the courthouse.

This is the building located north of the courthouse in Algona, Iowa, where in 1959 the 1941 Farmall B bearing the Serial No. 602
This is the building located north of the courthouse in Algona, Iowa, where in 1959 the 1941 Farmall B bearing the Serial No. 60237 was first discovered in the used machinery lot on the near side of this building.

Given the earlier disappointment of traveling all the way to Pocahontas, Iowa, only to find we had missed an opportunity to purchase the tractor there, this Farmall B certainly looked like a gift from povidence. If ever there was a tractor that was a sure-sale for the dealer, this was going to be it!  This was the Farmall B that bore the serial number 60237.  The B had no electric lights, but did have the wiring harness for the lights.  The lights themselves had been removed.  More importantly, the tractor had an electric starter complete with the bell-housing over the fly wheel and clutch which had been molded with a hole for the starter motor.  This feature strongly indicated that the tractor had come from the factory with an electrical starter.  It would be hard for any subsequent owner of the tractor to swap out the bell housing on the tractor to retrofit an electric starter onto the tractor.  In addition to the tractor itself, the offer of No. 60237 included a McCormick-Deering Model B-236 mounted cultivator available for the Farmall B as a part of the package deal.

After some negotiations, which must have been hard for Dad to conduct with the eager look on my ten-year-old face and with the salesman casting an eye out the window at the hayrack behind the truck (he too knew what an empty wagon meant!), the deal was struck to purchase the used Farmall B, which bore the serial number 60237, for $200.00.  We loaded the tractor and cultivator up onto the hay rack and started out again on our slow journey toward LeRoy, Minnesota with No. 60237 and its matching cultivator on board the hay rack.

The Farmall Model B was part of the series of Farmall tractors that are called “the Letter-Series” tractors.  The Letter-Series Farmalls were introduced in the summer of 1939.  The smallest of the three new Letter-Series introduced in the summer of 1939 was the one-plow Model A.  The Model A went into production at the International Harvester “Tractor works” factory located at 24th Street and Western Avenue in Chicago, Illinois on June 21, 1939.  The 3-plow Farmall Model M went into production on July 15, 1939 at the “Farmall Works” located in Rock Island, Illinois.  While the two-plow Farmall H went into production on July 21, 1939 also at the Farmall Works in Rock Island.

Early advertisement of Famall Letter-Series reveals that the Letter-Series first consisted of only of three tractors–the Farmall three-plow Model M, the two-plow Model H and the one-plow Model A. The Farmall Model B was not  introduced until a short-time later on December 26, 1939.

The Letter-Series was replaced the F-Series tractors.  The tractors in the F-Series were tricycle style tractors.  The Farmall M replaced the three-plow Farmall F-30, the Farmall H replaced the two-plow  Farmall F-20.  Both the F-30 and the F-20 tractors were tricycle style tractors.   The Model A tractor was not really a replacement for the one-plow Farmall F-12/F-14.  As a wide-front tractor the Farmall A was a one-row cultivating tractor.  It was not a tricycle style tractor like the F-12/F-14 which is made for two-row cultivation.  Accordingly, the Farmall Model A was a new type of tractor.  A two-row replacement for the F-12/F-14 was put into production on December 26, 1939.  This two-row  replacement tractor was the new Farmall Model B.  Still the Model B was regarded by International Harvester as a mere variation of the Model A rather that an independent model tractor.  After December 26, 1939, rather than starting with a new set of serial numbers, the Model A and Model B shared the same group of serial numbers.  Thus, the serial numbers of the Model A and Model B are indistinguishable from each other.

Even without reference to the serial number of the tractor that we purchased in Algona, Iowa, we  knew that this Farmall Model B had to be a 1941 Model tractor.  We knew that the International Harvester Company had begun offering the Farmall Model A/Model B tractor to the public complete with an electric starter beginning on April 21, 1941 with the Farmall A or Farmall B bearing serial number 54387.  No. 54387 rolled off the assembly line at the International Harvester “Tractor Works” factory at 24th Street and Western Avenue in Chicago on April 21, 1941.   Therefore, the fact that the Wells Family’s new Model B was equipped with an electric starter meant that tractor had been made after No. 54387 and, thus, was made after the date of April 21, 1941.  .

Additionally, the new Wells Family Farmall Model B had 1-1/8 inch power take-off (PTO) shaft.  The International Harvester Company  had been the first farm machinery manufacturer to recognize the value of the PTO shaft.  Indeed the first tractor sent to the Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests which contained a PTO shaft was the Model 15-30 International Harvester tractor which arrived at Lincoln, Nebraska, on June 14, 1920.

The McCormick-Deering Model 15-30 Tractor.

Shortly, after the successful test of the International Harvester Model 15-30, other farm tractor manufacturers began to install PTO shafts on their own tractors.  However, every tractor manufacturer had their own type of PTO shaft.  There was no uniformity across the farm equipment industry.  This lack of uniformity threatened the growing farm tractor industry.  Consequently, the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (A.S.A.E.) which had been formed in December of 1907 which was to deal with the growing lack of uniformity with in the new farm equipment industry that threatened the continued growth of the industry.

The A.S.A.E. set standards for various machinery specifications and features.  The Society then urged adoption of the standards by the various farm equipment manufacturers for the good of the whole industry.  Since 1927, the  A.S.A.E. had been suggesting that the 1-3/8 inch diameter six-spline PTO shaft be adopted by all tractor manufacturers.  Now in 1941, the International Harvester Company was busy closing out production of their 1-1/8 inch PTO shaft for their tractors in favor of the more popular 1-3/8 inch sized P.T.O. shaft which was also the suggested A.S.A.E. standard for PTO shafts.

Accordingly, the first Farmall Model A or B which was fitted with the 1-3/8 inch PTO shaft was the Farmall A or Farmall B  bearing the  serial number 66670.  No. 66670 was manufactured at the Tractor Works in Chicago in the afternoon of July 28, 1941.  Thus, even without reference to the serial number we could deduce that the Farmall B purchased by the Wells family in Algona, Iowa was made some time between serial number 54387 and serial number 66670–between April 21, and July 28, 1941.  During this period of time their were 70 week days–which were potential work days.  However, this period of time included two holidays, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Thus, the actual work days at the Tractor Works in Chicago totaled 68.  This little exercise allowed us to divide the number of Farmall Model A and/or B tractors–12283 tractors–built at the Tractor Works in Chicago during this period of time, by the number of actual work days between April 21, 1941 and July 28, 1941–68 days–to arrive at the average number of tractors produced each day during this period of time–180 tractors per day.  By this means we can deduce that No. 60237 rolled of the assembly line at the Tractor Works on  the morning of Tuesday June 10, 1941.

The day in 1959 when the trip had been made to Rolfe and Algoma, Iowa, had been an eventful day full of ups and downs.  However, because of Bob Heathman’s sharp eye, the day had ended on an upbeat note.  The day was saved from being one involving a fruitless day- long trip with no reward, to a successful day in which the Wells farming operation actually did achieve the “second tractor” that promised to speed harvest process.

Once at home on the Wells farm No. 60237 could be inspected up close and in detail.  One of the first improvements that my father always makes to any tractor is a good muffler.  He says, “It allows a person to think clearly without all that noise.”  So No. 60237 soon had a new muffler.  Next, the B got a new set of tires for the rear wheels.

The next improvement was to obtain an adapter to fit over the 1-1/8 inch power take-off (PTO) shaft to convert it to the universal 1-3/8 inch shaft.  (In April of 1927, the American Society of Agricultural Engineers or “A.S.A.E.”  settled on the six-spline 1-3/8 inch diameter shaft as the PTO shaft the Society recommended as the standard for the whole farm equipment industry.  As noted below, the International Harvester Company finally adopted the A.S.A.E. standard PTO shaft in mid-1941. )  Converting the PTO of No. 60237  to an “A.S.A.E. standard” PTO shaft was easily accomplished by fitting the PTO adapter and the B was ready to run the elevator for the 1959 harvest season.

The power take-off shaft adapter that increased the size from 1-1/8 inch in diameter to the A.S.A.E. “standard size” of 1-3/8 inch in diameter.

The cultivator had an exhaust lift.  The exhaust lift was a particular power lift system that was exclusive to the smaller model Farmall tractors manufactured by the International Harvester Company.  However, the exhaust lift was most routinely associated the Farmall Model B tractor.  The exhaust lift was actuated by pressure from the exhaust of the tractor which would lift the cultivator or other implements.

An exhaust lift system mounted on a Farmall Model B tractor.

The exhaust lift that was purchased with No. 60237, suffered from the same design problem which was common to the exhaust lifts.  The control valve, located in the manifold opened and closed either to direct the exhaust into the cylinder and to raise the cultivator, or opened to expel the exhaust into the muffler and allowed the cultivators to fall to the ground again.  Repeated operation of this control valve or, indeed, the mere operation of the engine on the tractor, itself,  would cause the control valve to become red hot.  Eventually, the  hot exhaust would burn away the edges of the control valve even when the control valve was in the  open position.  Soon the valve would not form an air-tight seal and the lift would fail to work.

An exhaust lift system on a Famall Model B tractor with a two-row cultivator.

This design problem has meant that although today there are many Farmall B’s around the nation and many collectors have some of the parts for the exhaust lift, there is no complete exhaust lift in working order that I have been able to find in the entire nation.  The one part that is missing in every collectors exhaust lift is a functioning control valve in the manifold.  It was not surprising, then, that this same control valve along with some of the hoses were missing on the exhaust lift for the B-236 cultivator that we were looking at in Algoma, Iowa.

As noted above,  the International Harvester Company model A and model B tractors, manufactured prior to the particular tractor bearing the serial number 66670, were regularly equipped with the 1-1/8 inch PTO shaft.  Also as noted above, the newly purchased No. 60237 was one of these tractors equipped with the 1-1/8 inch PTO shaft.  Accordingly, the next improvement to No. 60237, following its arrival on the Wells farm  was to obtain an adapter to fit over the 1-1/8 inch PTO shaft on the tractor to convert the PTO shaft to a universal 1-3/8 inch shaft.  This was easily accomplished and No. 60237 was ready to run the elevator for the 1959 harvest season.

None of the Farmall model As and/or model Bs were designed or built or delivered from the Tractor Works in Chicago with hydraulics.  Accordingly, No., 60237 could not  take advantage of the hoists under the wagons that were becoming popular in the late 1950s.  Nor was No. 60237 able to use the  A-frame jack that Wayne A. Wells had built for use with .  Therefore, my father tried various ideas to retrofit a hydraulic system onto No. 60237.  The easiest solution, would have been to install a Char-Lynn hydraulic pump fitted to the PTO shaft.  However, to do so would prevent the simultaneous use of the Char-Lynn hydraulic system and the PTO shaft for operating machinery.

A Char-Lynn pump attached to the PTO shaft of a Farmall Model B.

Thus, No. 60237 would not be able to used to operate the PTO powered elevator, while also being used to lift the hydraulic hoist on the wagon.  We thought of mounting the Char-Lynn pump to the belt pulley shaft; however, the belt pulley shaft turned counter-clockwise which was the wrong way for the Char-Lynn.  Next, Dad bought a little pump at an auction.  Over the winter months of 1959-1960, Dad tried to get the pump mounted on the B with appropriate pulleys and a fluid reservoir.  It was a V-belt arrangement, with a twist in the belt to get the shaft on the pump turning the right direction.  Tests showed that the whole system moved fluid.  We were hopeful.  However, when we tried to lift an empty wagon box, the belt slipped and nothing moved.  Dad tried many other means to get the pump to work, but everything failed.  In the spring, the pump was tossed up on the scrap heap and we settled into the realization that the B would remain a tractor without hydraulics.

Even without hydraulics, the 1941 B greatly simplified our tasks around the farm.  One of the tasks for No. 60237 on the Wells farm was to go to the pasture to round up the milk cows for the evening milking session.  the dairy cows in the pasture at milking time.  Our sheep dog, “Peppy,” found room on the ample operator’s platform to sit next to the right fender and ride to the pasture.  She would jump off the platform while the tractor was still moving to round up the cows.  This additional room on the operator’s platform on No. 60237 for Peppy to ride to the pasture was made possible because at the time that No. 60237 had been  purchased in Algona, Iowa, the tractor no longer had the standard equipment seat for the Farmall model A and/or the model B.

A closeup view of the standard equipment seat on the Farmall B including an insert showing the exact location of the serial number tag on the left seat support of the Farmall Aand/or B.

The regular seat on No. 60237 had been replaced by the Knoedler Seat Company seat some time after the tractor had been sold to its first owner.  The Knoedler seat  was the “deluxe” seat that can be seen in the International Harvester Company parts book for either the Farmall Model H or Farmall M.  International Harvester had contracted with the Knoedler Manufacturing Company of Ontario, Canada,  to supply optional seats for the Farmall Model H and Model M only.  The Knoedler seat was not available even as an optional seat for the Farmall Model A and/or Model B according to the Model A and Model B parts book.

The Knoedler Manufacturing Company seat was supplied to International Harvester as a deluxe seat for the Model M or H.

Furthermore, there is proof that when No. 60237 rolled off the assembly line on June 10,1941, the tractor was actually fitted with the standard equipment seat for the Farmall A and/or Farmall B.  Although, the Knoedler seat had been retrofitted to No. 60237, the original seat support on the left side of the operator was still in place during the entire time that the Wells family owned number 60237.   The right side seat support had already been removed by the prior owner of No. 60237.   As it turned out the left side seat support had been left on the tractor because it was the location of the serial number tag on all Model A or Model B tractors.  This fact was drawn home to the current author when, as a child, he attempted to remove the left original seat support as a useless piece of metal which stood in the way of getting in and getting out of the operator’s platform.  The current author’s father, Wayne A. Wells, pointed out that the serial number tag for the tractor was attached to this support and that the support needed to be kept attached to the tractor.

In the spring of 1962, we re-painted and re-“decaled” the B.    The regular seat on No. 60237 had been replaced by the Knoedler Manufacturing Company seat that was the “deluxe” seat that can be seen in the International Harvester Company parts book for either the Farmall Model H or Farmall M.  International Harvester had contracted with the Knoedler Seat Company to supply seats for the Farmall M or Farmall H.  These would be optional seats made available to the buying public for the Farmall Model M and/or Model H only.  The Knoedler seat was not available even as an option for the Farmall Model A and/or Model B.

The Wells family dog, Peppy, got into the habit of crawling up onto the platform for a ride each time she heard the Farmall B started.  This habit gave my uncle John Hanks quite a scare one time when he came over to our farm in the dark of night and started the B!

Another common task for No. 60237 on the Wells farm was hauling manure to the field.  The family found the Model B to be a  very easy starter even in the cold  Minnesota winters.  The Model B started much easier than the 1950 Farmall M (No. 218137).  It was, however, more than a chore tractor.  After Dad built a lever and quadrant and fitted the lever to the cultivator, the B began taking on the majority of the cultivation work on the farm.

Dad found that he could weld an adapter to be bolted onto the drawbar of the B.  This allowed our McCormick-Deering No. 25 hinged A-frame mower with a rear caster wheel (Wendel, page 217) to be attached to the B.  The B thereafter did all the mowing on the farm.

A Model 25 McCormick-Deering semi-mounted mower attached to a tractor.

We came to feel that even though the No. 25 mower was made for use with the higher drawbars of the Farmall H’s and M’s, that fitting the No. 25 to the B was a better solution than the direct-attachable No. 16 which was actually made for the Farmall B.  (Wendel, page 217.  The No. 16 direct-attachable mower is also shown in the movie Farmall B and Equipment [1939]).  The No. 25 mower could be fitted to a wider selection of tractors and was much easier to mount on the tractor than was the direct-attachable No. 16.  (As evidence of this difficulty in mounting of direct-attachable equipment is the description by Al Jones of his father’s reminiscences of attaching the No. A-21 rear-mounted sickle-bar mower to their Farmall Super A contained in the article “A Super Obsession” in the September/October 1993 issue of Red Power Vol. 8, No. 3.)

A Massey-Harris pull-type Clipper combine powered by a Wisconsin Air-Cooled engine.

There was even a time during the soybean harvest of 1961 when Dad made another hitch which bolted to the drawbar to allow the B to pull the Massey-Harris Clipper combine in the fields.  This was possible because the Clipper was powered by an air-cooled Wisconsin V-4 engine.

The Wisconsin Engine Company’s Model V-E 4 engine was the original power source for the Wells family Massey-Harris Clipper combine.

This allowed the M, with its hydraulics, to be used on the wagons again.  However, this field experience was short-lived because in the winter of 1961-1962, Dad built a hitch for the Clipper combine which would allow a wagon to be towed beside the combine so that the grain could flow directly from the combine into the wagon.  This saved time, because the combine did not need to make stops at the end of the field any more merely to empty the grain tank.  However,  weight of the combine and the wagon became too much for the B to pull.  Furthermore, in the winter of 1961-1962 Dad bought a PTO drive for the Clipper.  The reason for discarding the Wisconsin V-4 as a power source will be familiar to all those collectors who have had experiences with this Wisconsin engine which also powered the Case NCM baler.  The engine was notoriously hard to re-start when it was hot!  (See the summer of 1993 issue of Old Abe’s News Vol. 8, No. 3, page 18, and the January/February 1993 issue of Antique Power Vol. 5, No. 2, page 26.)  The addition of the PTO also put the Clipper combine beyond the power range of the Farmall B.

A Massey-Harris pull-type Clipper combine powered by a PTO shaft of the tractor.

In 1964, the Wells family moved off the farm in LeRoy Township and moved to Mankato, Minnesota where Dad started attending Mankato State College to become a school teacher and principal.  The sale of the farm equipment was held in February of 1964.  Most watched were the two tractors–the 1950 Farmall M (No. 218137) and the 1941 Farmall B (No. 60237).  The Farmall M was sold to Dean Sherbourne a local LeRoy area farmer.  The Farmall B was sold to Herb Soltau, an electrician in the LeRoy area, who did some farming on the side.

In terms of design, the Farmall B represented a regression in tractor design for the 1-2 plow tractor market.  Prior to the Farmall B, International Harvester had filled this portion of the tractor market with the F-12.  One of the best design ideas of the F-12 was that it did away with the final drives at each rear wheel.  This meant that the rear wheels were fully adjustable to any tread width from the narrow position of 44-1/2 inches up to the full width of 79 inches in tread width.

A rear view of an F-12 Tractor with the rear wheels set wide apart.

The design of tractor differentials without final drives began with the Wallis Cub in 1914 (forerunner of the Massey-Harris Challenger).  Hart-Parr improved the design with taller rear wheels on their model 18-27 row-crop tractor introduced in 1930.  (One of these tractors is now owned by Dave Preuhs of LeSueur, Minnesota.)   Despite the lack of final drives on these tractors, there seems to have been no design that allowed as wide a range of adjustments as the F-12 when it was introduced in 1934.  John Deere also abandoned final drives in 1934 with the introduction of the model A.  Massey-Harris would follow in 1936 with the Challenger which allowed the rear wheels to be adjustable up to 80 inches.  International Harvester would do away with the final drives found on the larger two-plow model F-20 and the three-plow model F-30 only in 1939 with the introduction of the Farmall two-plow model H and the three-plow model M which replaced the F-20 and F-30 in 1939.

However, that same year they went back to final drives for the Farmall B which was the small one-plow tractor in the new “letter series” line of Farmall tractors.  This move back to the installation of final drives on the Farmall model B seemed like a backward step in technology.  Why would International Harvester take this backward step for their smallest tractor when they introduced their new line of tractors in 1939?  The picture immediately below may offer a clue.  The F-12 tractor was extremely narrow when rear wheels were set to the extremely tight position of 44-1/2 inches.  When working in the field, the F-12 was susceptable to rolling over on its side when the steel rear wheels hit a rock on a hill side.

At least one family from northwestern Minnesota who owned a Farmall Model F-12 had experience in this regard.  The family of Emil and Hilda (Hanson) Mellem owned a farm in the largely Norweigan-American township of New Solum in Marshall County, Minnesota.  Both Emil and Hilda were children of Norweigan immigrants who had arrived in the United States in the 1880s.  In about 1940, the family was composed Emil and Hilda and their three children, a son Ervin Howard born in 1925, a daughter Enid Mercer born in 1929 and another son Harlan Duane born in 1931.  Emil had been educated as an engineer and had worked on a road construction crew along with working on the family farm.  By 1940, sons Ervin and Harlan, aged 15 years and 11 years of age, and thus were old enough to help out on the farm when their father was gone working on the road crew.  Both boys, operated the family’s F-12 tractor in the fields over the years.  Both boys experienced the tractor falling over on its side when working on uneven ground in the field.  This mishap occured twice with Ervin at the steeering wheel and once while Harlan was operating the tractor.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt in these accidents.  It seemed that the large diameter of the rear steel wheels prevented the tractor from rolling over on its back.  Surely alarming reports from the field must have reached International Harvester headquarters in Chicago, regarding this tendency of the F-12 to roll over.  These reports must have been influential causing changes in the design of the replacement for the F-12 tractor in the new letter series line of Farmall tractors resulting in the lower more stable design for the Farmall model B by returning to the old fashioned final drives on both sides of the rear axle.

A picture showing the F-12 with the rear wheels set close together.  This narrow rear end setting may have been the cause of accidents like that which happened in the Mellem family and may have caused the International Harvester Company to retun to the more stable design of placing final drives on the rear axle on the F-12’s successor model 1-plow tractor in the new letter series line of Farmall tractors–the Model  B.

The F-12 tractor was also notred for the optional power lift that was available for the tyractor.  This power lift can be seen operating at the end of the movie Quickest On, Quickest Off (1936) and appears in a drawing on page 100 of Wendel’s book.  In the movie Practical Magic (1937) it is suggested the F-12 was available with a “hydraulic lift.”  The 1937 movie does not show the hydraulic system and does not mention the power lift.  However, it seems unlikely that the term “hydraulic lift” would be used in 1937 to describe the same lift system that had been called the “power lift” system just the year before.  Reference to both a “mechanical power lift” and a “hydraulic lift” have appeared in print.  (See The Belt Pulley, Volume 4, Number 6, November/December 1991, page 9.)  Therefore, it appears that the “hydraulic lift” system was a new and distinct system from the power lift.  This hydraulic lift may have been an early version of the “Lift-All” system  that appeared on the Farmall M and Farmall H in 1939.  This author has been unable to find information on the hydraulic system that was available for the F-12.  Nonetheless, given this advance in lift systems for their tractor in the 1-2 plow category, it is curious why International Harvester went to the slow, problematic exhaust lift system for the Farmall B.

Eventually, International Harvester would have to cure both of these problems by doing away with the B in 1947 and by introducing the Farmall C with its larger rear tires and hydraulics.  As noted on page 349 of Wendel’s book, the C was a design that belonged to the same family as the H and the M.  Given IHC‘s experience with the successful F-12 (123,000 sold according to The Belt Pulley, Volume 4, Number 6, page 11), we wonder why this change which was necessary in 1947 could not have been made in 1939.

With the introduction of the Farmall Model C in 1947, the day of final drives on the ends of the rear axle were gone forever.

It is interesting to note that apparently International Harvester toyed with the idea of equipping the B design with hydraulics.  They apparently made a prototype of this tractor.  Collectors with whom the author has conversed remember seeing the prototype in 1947.  It was to be called the “Super B” and would have been the companion to the Super A which was introduced in 1947.  Dan Hughes from Roanoke, Indiana, a collector who specializes in Farmall B’s exclusively, is attempting to replicate this prototype by installing a hydraulic system and a clutch housing from a Super C or a Super A onto one of his Farmall B’s.

A closeup of the left side of a homemade Farmall Model Super B.

Incidentally, it was Dan Hughes who, while trying to collect one B from each year they were made, 1939-1947, found that the decals available for the B which have “Culti-Vision” written over the letter “B” on the side of the hood are appropriate for B’s made from 1942 through 1947.  Prior to this time, the letter B should appear alone on the side of the hood.  This change was made prior to the 1946 addition of the IH symbol to the decal further back on the hood as described in the article on the Farmall M in the November/December 1989 issue of Antique Power Vol. 2, No. 1.  When we repainted our 1941 Farmall B in the spring of 1962, we noticed that we were covering over a plain letter B with a decal which included “Culti-Vision” on the decal.  At that time, the “Culti-Vision” decal was the only decal available from International  Harvester.

A closeup picture of the Farmall Model B “Cultivision” decal.

Despite the fact that small rear wheels and final drives made the Farmall B a retrograde design, the Wells family found that the Farmall B was and is a lot of fun to drive.  The Wells family’s 1941 Farmall B bearing the Serial No. 60237, was sold at an auction in the spring of 1964 when the family moved to Mankato, Minnesota.

Herb Soltau of LeRoy, Minnesota was the buyer of No. 60237.  The B was taken to the Herb Soltau farm to the north of the town of LeRoy.  Herb employed No. 60237 on his small farm in the years following 1964.  Because Herb needed to park the tractor under a small shed on the farm.  The tractor was modified to elimination the muffler on the hood.  A curved piece of exhaust pipe was mounted on the exhaust manifold header protruding through the hood of the Farmall Model B.  This directed the exhaust down and backwards under the axle of the tractor where a muffler was mounted the end of the new exhaust pipe.   This modification of the exhaust pipe on the Farmall B made No. 60237 sound like a Ford tractor.  With his natural mechanical ability, it was perhaps Herb’s youngest son, Richard Soltau,  who took the lead in modifying the tractor.  In March of 1975, Richard Soltau married Ann Renee’ Elliot from Union Township in Iowa just south of Lyle, Minnesota.  Together Dickie and Ann Renee’ settled in a new home on  County Line Road on the eastern  edge of LeRoy.  Following the death of Herb Soltau in July of 1985, Richard Soltau obtained No. 60237 and brought the tractor to town and stored No. 60237 in one of the new buildings that he and Ann Renee’ build on their large lot on County Line Road so that Richard could exercise his mechanical abilities.

A view of the left side and the rear of the 1941 Farmall Model B in 1996 during the time that Richard Soltau  had the Farmall B in the town of LeRoy, Minnesota.  This picture shows the hydraulic system installed behind the operator’s seat which is powered by the belt pulley shaft.  This picture also shows the curved exhaust pipe which directed the exhaust down and under the tear axle–an early  modification of the tractor made by Herb Soltau.  Careful observation of this picture reveals that the left seat support of the standard equipment seat on the 1941 Farmall Model B is missing. Thus the serial number tag is missing from the tractor.

The Soltau family continued to farm, Herb Soltau’s farm after Herb’s death.  Accordingly, they had a need for a hydraulic system to be mounted on the Farmall B.  As he tried to build a hydraulic system for the Farmall B, Richard Soltau faced many of the same problems as Wayne A. Wells during his attempt to fix a a hydraulic system to the same Farmall B tractor,  Richard needed a hydraulic system that would act as a “single-action” or “one-way” hydraulic system which could be used to lift wagon boxes on the Soltau farm during the harvest season.  Additionally, just like Wayne A. Wells, Richard Soltau wanted the PTO shaft of the Farmall B to remain free to operate the elevator or other PTO farm equipment while the being able to simultaneously operate the hydraulic sytem on the tractor. Accordingly, like Wayne A. Wells many years before, Richard Soltau was forced to concentrate on the belt pulley shaft as a source of power for the proposed hydraulic system on the Farmall B.

Without knowing the story of Wayne A. Wells’ earlier attempts to fit No. 60237 with a hydraulic pump system, Richard constructed and fit a single-stage to the Farmall B.  In many ways, this was the successful conclusion of the dream that Wayne A. Wells had regarding a retrofitted of a hydraulic system on No. 60237.  Indeed, the hydraulic system constructed by Richard exactly paralleled the same thoughts that Wayne A. Wells regarding a hydraulic system for this very same tractor 30 years previously.  For instance, the hydraulic system envisioned by Wayne A. Wells was a single action hydraulic system rather than a dual action, which would run off the rear mounted belt pulley drive, that would leave the power take-off (P.T.O.) shaft free to operate elevators and other P.T.O. implements. Whereas the dual action hydraulic system allowed a hydraulic ram to operate under power in both directions–to “push” and/or “pull.”  In this way a dual action hydraulic system did not need to have a reservoir to store.

No. 60237 shown as it looked in 1996 following some of the modifications made by Richard Soltau. This picture clearly shows the reservoir tank of the single-stage hydraulic system that was Richard Soltau constructed on No. 60237.

In the spring of 1988, Wayne A. Wells, now retired from teaching and living in LeSueur and, father of the current author, purchased  a 1945 Farmall B from the late Carl Pinney, a noted farmer and seed corn specialist in the LeSueur area.  This is the Farmall B which bears the Serial No. 130161.  No. 130161 rolled off the assembly line at the International Harvester factory located at 24th Street and Western Avenue in Chicago, Illinois in the first full week of July,  1945.  The Second World War was still in progress and wartime restrictions were on the United States’ manufacturing economy were still in full effect.  Following the building of Serial No. 130161 was transported to the Paul Meyer International Harvester dealership in LeSueur, Minnesota.  Because of the wartime restrictions, the number of tractors that International Harvester was allowed to make was severely restricted.  Thus, the Paul Meyer Dealership was also severely limited in the number of tractors that he could sell to the public.  Instead, Paul Meyer had been compiling a list of potential buyers through out the war.  As the tractors had been trickling into the dealership, during the war, they were sold only to the potential buyers on the list at the dealership starting with the names at the top and working down.

Carl and Mildred (Bucek) Pinney, prior owners of the Farmall Model B bearing the Serial Number 130161.

When No. 130161 was delivered to the Paul Meyer dealership the name at the top of the list at the dealership was Carl Pinney.  Carl Pinney had been waiting for some time for his new Farmall Model B.  He was anxious to put the new little tractor to work in the fields of hybrid seed corn on his farm this summer.  Carl Pinney bought No. 130161 to be used predominately in cultivating the the hybrid corn plants in the test plots where he raised the various strains of seed corn that he developed.  Quite a few people in the LeSueur area remember cultivating the Carl Pinney corn when they were teenagers.  Some of them drove this particular Farmall B!  One person in particular, the late John Sullivan, later worked with the current author at the Minnesota Security Hospital, in St. Peter, Minnesota.

The 1945 Farmall B bearing the Serial No. 130161 was the first tractor restored by Wayne A. Wells.  The 1945 Farmall Model B was originally owned by Carl Pinney of rural LeSueur, Minnesota.

The 1945 B reminded Wayne A. Wells family, so much of the 1941 B that he had purchased we almost expected to to find our dog, Peppy, jumping up onto the operator’s platform!  The tractor is stored at the LeSueur Pioneer Power site, where it has become one of the most used chore tractors.  The Carl Pinney Farmall Model B was used to power a McCormick-Deering 4-E grain binder to cut the wheat and oats in preparation for the Threshing Show.  The B is also used during the show on the veneer mill, pulling wagons.  In the off-season, the B continues to be used in various chores around the site.  We are sure that the members of the Pioneer Power Association will also find it to be an easy starter in the winter and that the B is as much fun to drive as we did when we first purchased our 1941 Farmall B–the second farm tractor the Wells family purchased in 1959.

The Rest of the Story:

As noted above, Wayne A. Wells became involved in the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association and toward then in 1988, had purchased the Carl Pinney 1945 Farmall B as his first antique tractor restoration project.  This was the start of the Wells collection of restored antique tractors.   By 1988, the Wells  family was dreaming of obtaining both of the tractors that they had used on the farm in LeRoy prior to 1964.  However, as the years passed, the Wells family became convinced that they would not be able to be able to obtain the 1941 Farmall B.

Still the current author wished to write more of the history of the 1941 Farmall B tractor.  One of the primary pieces of information would be any information on the 1941 Farmall Model B bearing the serial number #60237 between June 10, 1941 when the particular tractor was built at the Tractor Works in Rock Island, Illinois and the spring of 1959 when the Wells Family purchased the tractor.  One tip is that the location of the tractor at the time of its purchase in the spring of 1959 by the Wells family.  Algona, Iowa was located in southern Kossuth County.  To the south Kossuth County is Humboldt County, Iowa.

The hemp mill located in rural Humboldt County, Iowa, in the 1940s.

During the late 1930s, Humboldt County became locally famous across North Central Iowa for the processing of tall hemp for the manufacture of ropes.  Tall hemp was not the same plant as the hemp that was grown for use as a recreational drug.  Short hemp properly grows to a height of only 18 to 36 inches and is grown for the intoxicating agent–THC.

Hemp as a short THC producing plant versus the tall hemp plant used in rope production is compared with each other.

Tall hemp is grown for the long  fibers in the stem of the tall plant and is grown to an exceedingly tall  height of up to a twelve feet.  The strong fibers in tall hemp is highly valued for the production of ropes. Short hemp, on the other hand is unsuitable for making ropes.

Even modern motorized ships employ an extensive amount of ropes for rigging.

The commercial production of hemp for ropes  had been conducted in the United States since 1900.  However, the raising of hemp was limited to certain areas of Kentucky until the dawn of the First World War in 1914.  Although the United States did not become actively involved in the First World War until 1917, the United States was actively trading with both sides as was allowed under the international neutrality treaties.  The increased amount of shipping involved in this trade, created a huge demand for rope.  Additionally, the United States Navy contracted to build more ships to guard the trading ships as they crossed the Atlantic Ocean toward Europe.  All of these new ships had to be supplied the necessary ropes.  This created even more demand.

An interior view of the stem of a hemp plant showing the desired fibers for rope making.

In the pre-World War I era, farmers had been used to a price of 18 cents per pound for any hemp that they grew.  However, by the end of the war, the price of hemp had risen to the degree that Iowa farmers had increased their acreage devoted to hemp by 5 times–up to a high of 10,000 to 15,000 acres nationwide.

However, when the First World War ended, demand for hemp predictably fell and many hemp mills around the nation began to close up for a lack of profitable business.  The Great Depression of the early 1930s made matters worse for the local hemp mills around the United States.  In the state of Iowa farmers reduced acreage planted to hemp all the way down to 1,200 acres.

This double picture shows (on the left) the incredible height to which the tall hemp can grow and (on the right) a single bundle of hemp and in the background on the right a “shock” of bundles stacked together in the hemp field. .

As the war clouds gathered and darkened over Europe and China, however, the United States Navy began to contract with companies that owned “hemp processing mills,” to purchase hemp to process into ropes to meet these shipping and Navy contracts.  Furthermore, to meet the ever increasing needs for ropes during the Second World War, the United States began a program of building forty-two (42) additional new hemp mills in various locations across Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin at a cost of $350,000 apiece.   .

By 1941, Iowa farmers had raised hemp acreage to 7,000 acres  The next year, 1942, production of hemp in Iowa was nearly doubled to 13,500 acres.  In 1943, Iowa production of hemp reached 176,000 acres.  Tall hemp  could be planted in fields by individual farmers in The rows close together could planted thick enough to produce 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 tons of properly dried and “retted”hemp for every acre planted in the spring of the year.

Modern mowers cutting the tall hemp and turning the hemp 90 degrees all in the same operation.  In the fore ground, are swaths of  hemp properly laid out for “retting.”

The hemp was harvested at a time in late August or early September of the year after the crop had reached the maximum height, but prior to the formation of the seeds on the plants.  Hemp seeds contained as much as 29 to 34% to moisture.  If the seeds were allowed to form on the hemp plants prior to harvesting then the seeds would dry out the desired soft tissues inside the stems of the hemp plants.

The hemp was cut and laid on the ground of the hemp field in rows to “rett.”  Retting was induced by exposure to the dew and rain over a period of four (4) to six (6) weeks.  However, the hemp could not properly rett if the hemp were cut by a mower and allowed to lay in a swath like hay–with part of the stems covered by the plants cut subsequently fell on the top of the stems cut first as the mower moved across the field in the manner of hay being cut.  In the past hemp was cut in the manner of hay.  Then the farm family would required to work days in the hemp field  “turning” the stems of the hemp around 90 degrees to be ready to bound into bundles by the gatherer-binder.  However, in later years, technology developed mowers which would turn the hemp 90 degrees at the same time the hemp was cut.

Properly, cut and “turned” hemp which is being exposed to the dew and rain for four to six weeks to induce “retting.”

After retting on the ground of the hemp field, for four to six week, the swaths of hemp are gathered and bound into bundles, the outer tissues of the stems of hemp plants had dried while the tissues inside the stems of the hemp plants, which are desired for rope making retained moisture and the desired softness.

The properly “retted” hemp is bound up in bundles.  Then the bundles are stood up on end and leaned against each other in shocks.

After the binding of the hemp in the field the bundles were stacked up and leaned against each other in shocks which can be seen on the left side of this picture.  The shocks are a method by which the hemp can be stored in the hemp field and protected from an earlier frost or frozen grounds.

Shocks is a good way to store hemp in the field, even into the winter, if the hemp cannot be taken immediately to the hemp mill.

whtqa whight fter the covered plants.  the way o propIn the past However, ats

Additionally, any records of the actual serial number of the 1941 Farmall B had been lost by the Wells family.  Furthermore, a careful observation of the picture of the 1941 Farmall B taken in 1996 by Fred Hanks in the town of LeRoy while the tractor was owned by Richard Soltau revealed that the left support of the standard equipment operator’s seat (and thus the serial number tag of the tractor) had been removed.  (This picture can be seen above as a part of this article.)   A call to Richard Soltau revealed that left support of the operator’s seat may no longer exist.  There was one last hope of finding the serial number of the 1941 Farmall B that had been purchased from a used tractor in Algona, Iowa could still be found on the tractor.  In the early years of the production of the Farmall Model A and or Model B tractor, care was taken to match the serial number of the engine of the tractor with the serial number of the tractor itself.

When the current author stopped off to see the 1941 Farmall B at the Richard Soltau residence in the town of LeRoy, Minnesota  in the summer of 2016, he found that the engine serial number was 60237.  This was how the serial number of the 1941 Farmall Model B which had been purchased in Algona, Iowa, was recovered.  The engine serial number of the 1941 tractor was 60237.  Because the engine had never been replaced during the time that the tractor was owned by the Wells family or by the Soltau family, 60237.  Thus, the serial number of the tractor itself was known without need to refer to the serial number tag on the left seat support.

One thought on “The 1941 Farmall Model B”

  1. Have you been able to locate a working exhaust lift as of this date [9/9/18 ? I have one and I use it from time to time to lift a rear mounted cultivator. Although it is sluggish it does work, I have replaced the leather cup inside the lift cylinder which did help it to lift better but I havent felt it was working properly and suspected there was a problem within the valve I just wasn’t able to quite figure out the exact componant that was at fault until I found your article. I would like to thank you for the information as I have been looking for information on the exhaust lift for several years and kept finding nothing untill today. I would like very much to find a manual that would allow me to better understand the overall working of it, My Grandfather bought the tractor used in the seventies with the lift on it and it was working but had to rev the engine to get it to lift and even now I have to rev the engine but not much over a high idle. it wasn’t until the early two thousands that I began to look into making it work better we did have another B that was for parts and before I scraped it there were some parts that I removed most of which were the exhaust lift parts. I don’t remember if I still have the valve anymore though ! which now I realize just how important a manual would have been to me all those years ago. I have an ITE manual but there isn’t any mention of an exhaust lift what so ever. I didn’t have any idea just how much of a work horse these little tractor were and was totaly amazed when I began to use mine a lot but I remember many years ago my Grandfather and I were left with no choice but to use it when the farmall H brke the pto shaft while bailing hay, we hooked up to a Massy 35 bailer and started to try and start the bailer and the B tractor with the pto ingauged! well that wasn’t going to happen with the bail chamber full and starting the bailer first wasn’t the solution either since the pto isn’t live power but with a good hard and quick jab it went into gear and the bailer fly wheel in motion gave me a lung and we went to bailing hay, it was a one time thing but it still amazed me that the little tractor did that much work. It’s biggest down falls are they are geared a little to high and for the amount of work the are capible of they haven’t got enough weight to give them the traction they need and with mine it is a tricycle front end and turning is a bit of a problem at times. I could go on and on about the problems it has presented to me and I have repaired or overcome them and I do plan on a full restoration of it that just hasn’t been possible thus far. So for now Ill quit before I have written a novel and I will attempt to locate the other exhaust valve, it did also work. have a nice day and thanks again for the information you provided in your article.

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