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Fashionable Farmall H still in mint condition

My Favorite Tractor: This Oconomowoc, Wis., farmer's dad bought the tractor new in 1939.

Harlen Persinger

March 18, 2020

2 Min Read
Lester Schuett stands next to a 1939 model Farmall H tractor
PURCHASED NEW: Lester “Shorty” Schuett’s favorite tractor is a 1939 Model Farmall H. This row crop tractor was manufactured with the Farmall brand from 1939 to 1954 in Rock Island, Ill.Harlen Persinger

Lester “Shorty” Schuett’s favorite tractor is a 1939 Model Farmall H. This machine tops his list because he remembers sitting on his dad’s lap when the tractor was purchased new off the showroom floor at Schlage Implement in Ashippun, Wis.

“The price was $900 and included a McCormick Deering red running gear chassis with a 14-foot box, which still handles various chores today,” says the Oconomowoc, Wis., farmer. “Equipped with more power, that machine soon took over for his Fordson and three horses. It was immediately hooked to the McCormick 2-foot, 14-inch trailer plow, and helped cut and rake hay, saw wood, and operate the silo filler and Bell City threshing machine.”

This row crop tractor was manufactured with the Farmall brand from 1939 to 1954 in Rock Island, Ill. It was the most widely produced International Harvester “letter series,” with 391,227 units produced over a span of 14 years. The demand from farmers for a higher-traveling-speed, pneumatic-tired tractor to save time on the road and going to the field was fulfilled with this machine.

Features on Schuett’s tractor included manual steering; mechanical contrasting band brakes; spring-loaded, single-plate dry disc clutch; 6-volt positive ground electrical system; belt pulley, oil pressure indicator; five forward gears and one reverse gear; rating of 24 hp on the drawbar; and 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, liquid-cooled gasoline engine.

Schuett recalls he “caught heck” from his dad when he hooked a post with a coulter on the rear part of the disk and it bent the middle shaft — which had to be replaced. Another time he was baling hay in late afternoon and a rain shower was nearby. When his wife, Carol, a beautician, got home from work, she immediately climbed on the H with her fancy pink dress and high heel shoes. Everyone driving by the field slowed down and honked their horns.

Schuett overhauled the engine 25 years ago, and has added several sets of tires and a new seat cushion. He also attached a radial grill insert to hook up the cultivator shift lever attachments and spent $2,500 to sandblast and repaint the tractor. Today, the H is used to saw wood, till fields with an 18-foot Lindsey drag, and pick up stones with a hay rack and original running gear.  

“This tractor was designed and built to provide top performance and efficient, maximum service. Quality materials and solid workmanship were employed throughout the entire unit,” he says. “I truly embrace the H. It has never been off the farm and hopefully will remain here when I’m gone.”

Persinger writes from Milwaukee, Wis. To have your favorite tractor featured, email or send in a photo of yourself with your tractor, along with a 300-word write-up about the tractor, to: [email protected] or Wisconsin Agriculturist, P.O. Box 236, Brandon, WI 53919.

About the Author(s)

Harlen Persinger

Harlen Persinger is a photojournalist who lives in Milwaukee. Since 2004, he has freelanced for regional and national farm publications such as Wisconsin Agriculturist and Farm Industry News, plus many others.

Persinger grew up on a farm in Grundy County, Iowa. He received a degree in ag journalism from Iowa State University in 1972. He has traveled to more than 40 countries and has been a member of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association (now Agricultural Communicators Network) since 1976. In 2016, he was the first photojournalist/freelancer to receive the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017, Persinger began providing college scholarships to 4-H’ers from his home county who have an interest in photography/journalism and agriculture. He was inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame in 2023.

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