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Hart-Parr Oliver enthusiasts to gather

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago/Getty Images This historic photo shows an Oliver Row Crop Tractor equipped with a four-row front-mount cultivator, around 1930
EQUIPMENT LEGACY: This photo shows an Oliver Row Crop Tractor, equipped with a four-row front-mount cultivator, about 1930. Collectors of Hart-Parr Oliver farm equipment will meet March 11-12 in Norfolk, Neb.
Collectors from around the country will get together March 11-12 in Norfolk, Neb.

Hart-Parr and Oliver farm tractor and machinery collectors from around the country will converge on the Chuck M. Pohlman Ag Complex on the Northeast Community College campus in Norfolk for their first winter meeting in two years, and the first such event ever in Nebraska.

This year’s national Hart-Parr Oliver Collectors Association event is hosted by the Central States Hart-Parr Oliver Collectors Association (CSHPOCA) regional chapter, with the event running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 11-12. The event is open to the public.

With Oliver farm machinery dating back to 1857, and Hart-Parr back to 1901, these beloved farm equipment manufacturing names live on through the work of collectors within these organizations.

Winter gathering

This annual winter gathering will include a show and seminars both Friday and Saturday of the event, along with a tour of the Elkhorn Valley Museum, home of the Square Turn tractor exhibit, a board meeting, and HPOCA chapter and general membership meetings.

There will be a quilt trunk show and a toy and memorabilia auction Friday, and a banquet, Floyd County Museum presentation and fun auction Saturday, with the Pohlman complex serving as headquarters for many of the activities.

“The show will include lots of tractors and machinery, like plows, subsoilers, mowers, rakes, a one-row corn picker, along with all kinds of dealer memorabilia,” CSHPOCA president John Schoenauer says. “We hope to have representative machinery from each generation, beginning in the 1920s through some of the White tractor models.

“During our seminars, we have two folks who actually worked at the White Motor Co. factory in Charles City, Iowa, and a historian who will speak in detail about the history of Hart-Parr going back to the beginning.”

They will even display little trinkets made by foundry workers during their downtime using leftover steel. “There will also be lots of dealer signs and memorabilia,” Schoenauer says. “All of our vendors specialize in these brand names and will be coming from Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado and more.”

He notes that there are 25 regional chapters, such as CSHPOCA, mostly confined to east of the Rocky Mountains and California. This is the first time Hart-Parr Oliver collectors will have gathered for a winter meeting in Nebraska, so Schoenauer looks for a large gathering of collectors and farm machinery enthusiasts.

Because of COVID-19, it is also the first time in two years that such a gathering has been scheduled by HPOCA.

Deep heritage

These well-known farm machinery brands had humble beginnings. Charles Walter Hart and Charles H. Parr became friends during their college days at the University of Wisconsin. After graduating in 1897, the duo gathered $3,000 in capital and formed the Hart-Parr Gasoline Engine Co. in Madison, Wis.

Eventually, their engine business expanded, and they were able to garner attention from investors. The Hart-Parr Co. formed in 1901 and broke ground for a new factory in Hart’s hometown of Charles City, Iowa, that same summer.

The following winter, they built their first gasoline traction engine, named Hart-Parr No. 1, with a two-cylinder horizontal engine with a 9-by-13 bore and stroke, and rated drawbar and belt horsepower of 17-30.

The company was initially able to field one salesman who ran demonstrations of this equipment at county fairs and other farm events. W.H. Williams, the company sales manager in 1906, decided that the words “gasoline traction engine” didn’t work well in marketing publications, so he came up with the term “tractor” to describe the No. 1. The name obviously stuck.

In 1929, Hart-Parr merged with several other companies to form Oliver. The Oliver company began in 1857 when James Oliver of Mishiwaka, Ind,  bought interest in a foundry and received his first patent for a “chilled plow,” which had a hard outer skin and was able to cut through and hold up in sticky and heavy soils.

Known as a great plow-maker, Oliver worked on his own Oliver Chilled Plow Tractor during the 1920s. The Oliver Farm Equipment Co. was formed from Hart-Parr, Oliver, Nichols and Shepard, and the American Seeding Co. It established headquarters in Chicago. After the merger in 1929, the Oliver Chilled Plow Tractor became known as the Hart-Parr Oliver Row Crop, later renamed the 18-27.

White Motor Corp. acquired Oliver as a wholly owned subsidiary in 1960. The last green Oliver 2255 tractor rolled off the assembly line in 1976. But farm machinery enthusiasts and historians, such as those involved in HPOCA, continue to keep the legacy, equipment and history of these important brands alive.

Learn more about the HPOCA winter show at hartparroliver.org, or by contacting Schoenauer at johnschoenauer@q.com.

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