Vintage Iron

The Interesting History of Leader Tractors

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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A 1949 Leader Tractor on display at the Auto and Farm Museum located in Branson, Missouri. The Leader Company only produced tractors for a few years in the mid- to late-1940s. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

It has been a busy summer at our house. Between working fulltime and farming, kids' baseball took up the first half of the summer "free time" while preparing 4-H animals for the county fair took up most of the second half.

We had one week between the fair and the beginning of school, so we went on vacation. Our initial plan was to go to the Black Hills of western South Dakota UNTIL we discovered this was the same week as the famous motorcycle rally at Sturgis.

Not wanting to pay considerably more for a basic hotel room, we decided to go another direction, so we went to Branson, Missouri. We didn't go to any shows, which Branson is famous for, but we did visit such places as Silver Dollar City, Table Rock Lake, Talking Rocks Cavern and even ventured down into northern Arkansas.

We also visited the Auto and Farm Museum there. If you are ever in Branson and are a fan of vintage iron or old cars, I highly recommend visiting the museum.

The 90,000 square foot facility is divided into two halves. On one side there were a couple hundred vintage tractors and on the other side were probably that many classic/antique cars.

They had some interesting items.

There was a fully restored 1950 Farmall M, probably very similar to the mid-1940s one my grandpa bought new right after World War II. This ended up being the only brand new tractor he ever bought.

On the car side there was a 1952 GMC 100 pickup, which had to be very similar to the '47 model my grandpa had and my dad learned to drive on. There was a 1951 F1 Ford pickup, again about the same thing a close family friend had when I was a kid.

But probably the most interesting thing we came across in the museum was a 1949 Leader Tractor.

According to the sign, the tractor was fabricated by father-and-son team Lewis and Walter Brockway in Auburn, Ohio. The early tractors were built and sold as American Garden Tractor Co., with about 20 built.

At some point they begin to build larger tractors. These tractors featured a heavier frame and a Chevrolet four-cylinder engine.

The sign said by 1945 the Chevy engine supply "had dried up" and the company switched to a Hercules flat-head engine. I'm guessing maybe the war effort and rationing may have played a role in the lack of available Chevy engines.

The company was then moved to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, not too far from Auburn. The reason for the move was Chagrin Falls had a post office, again according to the sign.

"The little Leader tractors were built very sturdy, specifically their hydraulic lift mechanism," the sign said. "This little tractor starts right up, and runs well. A collector's item for sure."

The Leader Company, like most small tractor manufacturers at the time, faced rising costs and decreased sales. The company went out of business in 1949, according Wikipedia.

Another source (http://tractordata.com/…) said the name "Leader" was used in the U.S. by several different companies from 1913 to 1949. The Leader Engine Company acquired Midland Tractor and produced tractors in Michigan in 1913.

Leader, along with other companies, merged with Dayton Foundry & Machine into Dayton-Dick in 1915. Dayton-Dick, later Dayton-Dowd, manufactured tractors in Illinois until 1924.

Then the name "Leader" appears in Ohio in the 1940s on small utility tractors built until 1949.

According to the website, the 1940s Leader Company produced a Model B tractor with 31 horsepower from 1945 to 1946. Then the company had a Model D, also producing 31 horsepower, and this was manufactured from 1947 to 1949.

I have heard of Leader tractors before, probably from reading about them in one of my many tractor books. But I don't believe I had ever seen one in person before.

They are a typical utility tractor from that time frame. I would guess they have to be similar to the other small tractor of the era, such as the Farmall C or John Deere MT.

Did you or anyone you know ever own a Leader tractor? I'm curious to know if any of our readers have any experience with this tractor.

I will post the response(s) in coming columns.

Russ Quinn