Moline Plow Co

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. I hadn’t planned to talk about the Moline Plow Co, but it was a major company in the area with an interesting tractor not commonly seen.

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The Moline Plow Company was originally started by Henry Candee and R. K. Swan in 1865. Associated with them were Mr. L. E. Hemingway (a relation to Ernest Hemingway), J. B. Wyckoff and others. Initially, they produced fanning mills and hay-racks, and shortly after Andrew Friburg associated himself with the company the manufacture of Moline Plows was taken up.

In 1866 Mr. George Stephens added enough capital to the business to make him an equal partner with the others, and for a number of years the business was carried on under the firm name of Candee, Swan and Company, with George Stephens being in charge of the woodworking department; Mr. Friberg of the blacksmith shop and iron work; Mr. Swan did the business and attended to the sale of the product, and Mr.Candee kept the accounts. The business proved a profitable one, and in 1870 was incorporated under the name of "Moline Plow Company" with an authorized capital of $400,000, about $300,000 of which was paid up. Several other parties became interested as stockholders in the concern, prominent among them being Captain Good, A. L. Carson, S.W.Wheelock and A. R. Bryant. The “Moline Plow Company” name was brought about by a court victory over John Deere and the use of the Moline name, that although Deere could make claims for improvements on the plow, the form and function was not new exclusively to him, nor was the Moline name.
Deere’s former partner and close friend, Robert Tate of Buford & Tate, then retired, was a key witness against Deere.

In 1884 they brought out the Flying Dutch-man sulky plow, which claimed to revolutionize the sulky plow business the world over. Previous to that time sulky plows had been of the two wheels variety and so it was claimed, “all others of this design are followers of the world-famous Flying Dutch-man”. The sale of this plow did a great deal towards the building up of the business and making the line manufactured by the Moline Plow Company popular with the farming community.  In 1886 the Moline Champion corn planter was bought out to great success and soon followed on with a full line of plows, planters, disks, cultivators and all manner of other equipment as well as acting as jobbers for other manufacturers in their branch houses.   A number of buggies and wagons were sold under their name manufactured by the Mandt Wagon Company at Stoughton, Wisconsin, and the Henney Buggy Company, of Freeport, Illinois. The result was that the area now called the Quad Cities at the turn of the century had three of the largest implement manufacturers in the world calling the area home in John Deere, Rock Island Plow and Moline Plow.

By the mid teens, the Moline Plow Co was also looking to enter the powered equipment business and began selling Alamo gas engines under the Moline “Flying Dutchman” name.  In 1913, the Moline Plow Co. was also looking to get into the tractor business, and tested a design that had been built for them by IHC. This machine proved unsatisfactory, so in November of 1915, Moline Plow Co. bought the rights to Universal Tractor Company of Columbus's motor cultivator for $150,000. Moline had previously been providing a plow built specifically for the Universal since it was introduced in 1914, making this a tractor the Moline Plow Co was familiar with.

The initial 2 cylinder Universal model was quickly replaced by a larger model built solely by Moline, along with special implements for use with the tractor, such as a two-row cultivator, two-bottom plow, disc/harrows, grain drills, a corn planter and a 10-foot grain binder.

The Universal was redesigned for 1917 with a four-cylinder Root & Van Dervoort engine, while standard equipment included an electric governor, starter and lights, all firsts in the tractor industry. The 3 1/2"x5" engine developed 27.45 belt and 17.4 drawbar horsepower at Nebraska. The machine cost $1,325 in 1920, and weighed 3,380 pounds, including the concrete ballast inside the drive wheels. This ballast was added at the factory in order to lower the tractor's center of gravity, since the machine was notorious for upsets due to the placement off center of the engine and high center of gravity for its wheel width.   Another drawback was the difficulty in backing up: the hinge point between tractor and implement tended to buckle upward when the heavy front started pushing a lighter implement to the rear.

The universal design never fully caught on, with most types out of production by the mid-'20s including the Allis Chalmers 6-12. Although the 6-12 started AC in the tractor business, it was a short lived tractor that may have been hastened to its demise by a strongly worded letter sent from the Moline Plow Company accusing AC of infringing on the Moline Universals patents.  The idea  of the front engine/drive universal probably made a lot of sense at the time, since it put the pulling power up front, where the horse farmer was used to having it. Then, too, most any horse-drawn implement could be easily adapted to the tractor by shortening the tongue and drilling a couple of holes. The driver rode on the implement seat, where he could reach all the adjusting levers and controls, assuring good work without buying expensive new tractor implements.

Sometime around 1919, the Willys-Overland Company (eventual maker of the Jeep) acquired a majority interest in the company, but made no changes to its operations.

At the time, it was not uncommon for semi pro and pro teams to have the name of prominent local manufactures. On Oct 3 1920 The Decatur Staleys of the newly formed NFL played their first game at Staley Field in Decatur, Illinois on October 3, 1920 against the Moline Universal Tractors. The Staley’s won 20-0, starting off one of the oldest NFL franchises, now known as the Chicago Bears.

The Moline Plow Company struggled in the post-war depression of the early '20s, and stopped much of its production in 1923 including the Universal.  After dropping the Universal, the company changed its name to the Moline Implement Co.  After several years of struggle, a merger was worked out with Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Company of Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company of Hopkins, Minn. This merger, in March 1929, resulted in the Minneapolis-Moline Power Implement Company. Minneapolis-Moline went on to become one of the major farm equipment companies in the country, producing a full line of machinery, until being bought by the White Motor Company in 1963.

David has a number of Moline’s including two cylinder B’s and C’s on


Below: Moline Universal model D

Above: Model C 2 Cylinder from

Left: Universal Motor Cultivator built in Columbus OH

Below: Flying Dutchman Moline engines built by Alamo

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