Massey-Harris – A History

Massey-Harris: A Short History

In issue 100 of the Journal I was more than interested to read in John Selley’s article about its history and that, on the formation of the Ferguson Club, there was an intention to publish articles on Massey-­Harris. Being a serious Massey-Harris enthusiast I thought that it might be worthwhile to try and arouse some new interest in the make. However I am not solely a Massey-Harris fanatic but have written widely on the whole history of Massey Ferguson.

Massey-Harris was founded in 1847 by Daniel Massey who was a descendant of immigrants to North America from Knutsford in Cheshire. He founded his agricultural implement business in Haldimand, Ontario, Canada soon to move to nearby Newcastle, and then in 1891 merged his business with fellow competitor Alanson Harris of Brantford, Ontario to form Massey-Harris. This went on to become the largest farm machinery manufacturer in the British Empire. Then in 1953 Massey-Harris took over Ferguson and the rest is history as the saying goes. The merged company was first named Massey-Harris-Ferguson but after five years became Massey Ferguson which is now a brand name owned by AGCO. Hence Massey-Harris and Ferguson history are inextricably intertwined. I have constructed and restricted this article to giving a brief overview of specifically M-H tractor history.

Daniel Massey started on a small scale manufacturing horse implements for cultivations, grass and grain harvesting and came to include a large array of barn machinery pertinent to the day. This came to include domestic items such as stoves and freezers – indeed in Canada M-H was a very paternal company the length and breadth of the nation acting through its branches and agents. Over time it came to have manufacturing facilities in six countries.

One of the first Massey-Harris built tractors a 1918 No.2. This one won Massey Ferguson’s worldwide search for the oldest working Massey tractor in the world in 1984. Then in Canada it is now in the UK.

However M-H was a little late in getting into the tractor market. Its first venture in 1917 was the marketing of the USA built three wheel Bull tractors made in Minnesota. This was to be a short lived arrangement and in 1918 M-H made an agreement with the Parrett Tractor Co. of Chicago in the USA to manufacture under licence the Parrett design of tractor in their plant at Weston, Ontario for sale in Canada. 546 of these tractors in the form of the similar Nos.1, 2 and 3 models were made in 1918-1921. Weighing in at almost 2.5 tons these were substantia] tractors with a four cylinder transverse mounted engine which were very easy to drive. They were based more or less on the original Parrett tractor design but with small differences and rated at 12-15 draw bar hp.

M-H’s third and highly successful venture into the tractor market was when it purchased the J.I.Case Plow Co. of Racine, Wisconsin, USA that had developed the highly successful line of Wallis ‘u’ frame tractors. The purchase was made in 1928 but M-H had in fact sold the Wallis] 5-27 tractor in Canada in 1927. Successor models of this style of tractor namely the M-H ]2-20,20-30,25-40, Pacemakers and Challengers were sold in significant numbers almost up to World War II. Perhaps the red ‘styled’ Pacemaker of 1937-1939 was the most iconic of this mode] range and is now highly sought after. Also in the period 1930-1936 M – H produced its first own in house design of tractor in the shape of what has come to be another iconic M-H tractor – the General Purpose four wheel drive of which some 3000 were made.

The classic 1938 Massey-Harris Pacemaker tractor.

With the advent of war M-H tractor design changed. The proven Wallis ‘u’ frame was dropped and replaced with a more conventional chassis arrangement which was to persist until the end of M-H tractor production. War time and post war M-H tractor models were somewhat similar in appearance and perhaps typified by the UK built M-H 744 D which was based on the USA built top selling M-H 44.

Typical of the post ‘U’ frame style tractors is the UK built Massey-Harris 744D.

A range of smaller tractors were also built including the French ‘Pony’ based on the Canadian built Pony. This was very successful with small French farmers of the era.

The smallest Massey-Harris tractor – a French built Pony vineyard.

In the meantime Harry Ferguson had made massive inroads into the tractor market world wide and M-H tractors had become something of dinosaurs. The purchase of Ferguson came with the famous Ferguson System of tractor design which was immediately adopted by the new Massey-Harris-Ferguson company. By then the Ferguson 35 had been released in America and UK. North American M-H dealers (a two line product policy prevailed for a while) were quick to demand a Ferguson style tractor so an M-H tractor was rushed into production being essentially an American Ferguson 35 but available in several chassis forms. This was the M-H 50 soon to be followed by the Ferguson 40 of essentially the same design with similarly available variants. The M-H 50 was the last M-H design of tractor to be superseded by the Massy Ferguson 35’s and 65’s. The M-H 50 was essentially the predecessor of the MF65.

A Massey-Harris 50 was totally based on the American built Ferguson T035 but available with different chassis configurations. This is a high clearance model and evolved to become the MF65.

So, in this 175th anniversary year of Massey Ferguson can I ask that we do a bit more reminiscing of Massey-Harris – the firm that started this long and illustrious heritage. There is much to read about it!

A very rare industrial version of a Massey-Harris General Purpose four wheel drive tractor. It spent its life at the Toronto Maple Leaf lce hockey club.

John Farnworth, published in Journal 101 Summer 2022