Other Tractors from the Quad Cities

Although not clones or affiliates, I am including some of the more obscure tractors built in and around what is now the Quad Cities area in the teens and twenties. Unlike the major companies of John Deere, Farmall, Rock Island Plow Company and the Moline Plow Company; these tractors never were major players and disappeared almost as fast as they appeared.

Below: The Velie

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J.G. Bolte 20-40

Golden West Tractor

Velie 12-24

Although a popular carriage and car company, the Velie’s are best known in the tractor community for their part in John Deere. When John Deere’s daughter Emma married Stephan Velie in 1860, it brought a very gifted young man into the Deere family. Stephan had joined the John Deere plow works in 1856 and would eventually serve as secretary and chief financial officer for the growing Deere empire. Considered a cautious and numbers oriented person, he would serve for 32 years. In 1868, when the company officially incorporated as Deere & Co, Velie was one of only four people to be issued capitol stock.

 After Johns death, Velie became the second largest stock holder with a 20% share. Middle son Stephan Velie Jr became the branch manager of Deere’s Kansas city branch, and founded the Velie Saddlery Co of Kansas City.  Together with youngest  brother Willard Velie, they would also found the Velie Carriage Co of Moline IL, which eventually became Velie Motor Vehicles. Willard also became Vice President of John Deere in 1908 when Butterworth became president of the company.

Willard also formed the Velie Engineering Company which merged with Velie Motor Company in 1916 (besides tractors, carriages, trucks an automobiles, the company would also produce airplanes). A staunch supporter of the idea of a small tractor since 1912, Willard had clashed often with the John Deere board in insisting that John Deere needed a tractor line. With his own company, he was free to pursue this. One of the first things the enlarged company began producing in 1916 was a 12-24 tractor. Sharing the same name as their car line, the Velie Biltwel debuted to a lot of fanfare, but poor sales.

At an eye popping $1,750, the 4 cylinder, 4500 lbs tractor was at the top end of the price range, far more then most comparable tractors. Using a Velie motor and two speed transmission, the tractor was completely separate from the Deere line, and even as the Biltwel was in production and on the market, the Velie’s were relentlessly pushing Deere towards its own tractor. The only cross was that the Velie’s often demonstrated the Biltwel with John Deere implements.

With its pricetag and the Velie’s divided interest, the 12-24 Biltwel didn’t last long, only being produced from 1916 to 1920 in very limited numbers (though the price appears to have dropped significantly); and the company was eventually absorbed by Deere in 1937. I know of no surviving Velie Biltwel 12-24’s. 

The Bolte Tractor is one few people will have probably ever heard of and was built in Davenport IA sometime around 1919. After a few ads in 1919, the Bolte disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Besides tractors, Joseph G. Bolte was a car dealer in Davenport, beyond that little is known. One detail that is known is that in 1920 Bolte was sued for failing to pay a loan, in addition to not making the payments, he had apparently sold the two cars that were his collateral. A cosigner had been required to secure the loan as by that time, Bolte had a poor reputation for credit.

Despite its 20-40 rating, the Bolte only weighed  about 5,000 pounds. Its most unique feature was its steering mechanism the company called “the Square Turn Design”. A photo in Wendel’s “Standard Catalog of Farm Tractors” shows the Bolte indeed having a very sharp turn.   

I stumbled across these photo’s in an online archive, but have so far found virtually nothing about this tractor. The Golden West was built by E.B. Parkhurst and the Muscatine Motor Company of Muscatine IA. According to A photo in Wendel’s “Standard Catalog of Farm Tractors”,  only a brief mention is made in advertising in1910. The photo’s are apparently from the Muscatine Library and the originals can be found HERE.

 

“Creeping Grip” Crawler 60-45 and 40-30

Another virtual unknown of the area was the circa 1913 Western Implement and Motor “Creeping Grip” crawler of Davenport Ia, an early halftrack design. Originally called the “Creeping Tiger”, it came in two sizes, a 60-45 and a 40-30 (the Creeping Grip was one of the rare companies to list belt power before drawbar power in its ratings). Although never a major name, the Creeping Grip would play an interesting role in the development of modern warfare. When Western Implement and Motor Company was bought out by Chicago’s Bullock Tractor Co in 1914, the Creeping Grip name remained and the smaller Baby Creeper was added. During the development of the tank, a Bullock Creeping Grip chassis was used on the  British 1915 No. 1 Lincoln Machine, one of the first forerunners of the modern tank. The results were unsatisfactory and numerous changes were required for the second prototype.