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Farm Tractor: The History of the Tractor    by Robert Pripps & Andrew Morland order for
Farm Tractor
by Robert Pripps
Order:  USA  Can
Voyageur Press, 2011 (2011)
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

The tractor has been a major piece of farm equipment for well over a century. With the evolution of steam power and the corresponding application of the technology to farm machinery, the tractor in its earliest form appeared in the late 1800s when firms like Daniel Best Agricultural Works of San Leandro, California, began selling steam tractors.

In Farm Tractors: The History of the Tractor, Robert Pripps charts the development of the tractor from the early days when steamers plowed the fields and pulled harvesting machines to today when extra large, turbo diesel-powered, rubber-tracked monsters are assigned the job.

The history of the tractor encompasses the stories of the engineers, inventors and the all but forgotten manufacturers who took the ideas and designs and turned them into viable machines that forever changed the very course of North American agriculture.

With the advent of bigger and better tractors, more land could be placed into production and the small acreage farm was replaced by larger and larger operations.

Divided into nine major sections, the story of the American tractor naturally begins with The Steam Era (1855-1920). The Genesis of the Gasoline Tractor (1889-1920) and The Debut of the Lightweight Tractor (1913-1935) follow.

Then in Farm Crawlers (1900-1960), the appearance of a new kind of tractor is discussed, followed by The Classic Years (1935-1960), which looks at some of the revolutionary developments that forever changed the iconic machine.

Finally, in The Modern Era (1960-present), the author asks the question Where Have All The Tractors Gone? as he addresses the appearance of articulated four-wheel-drive tractors and a rash of new technology that has changed the farm machinery industry.

Pripps explains in the book's introduction that there are 'peaks and valleys, ups and downs in the industry'. As the reader turns the pages, reads the text and gazes at the over 500 photos that fill the book, he'll soon realize that most of the big name tractor makers are gone and that only a handful of manufacturers now control the industry.

The author utilizes vignettes, quotes, timelines and sidebars to fill the reader in on what was going on in the country at the time that these tractors were being used by North American farmers. A bargain at twice the price, it is totally incomprehensible how a book like this can be sold for the price on the cover. This is a must read for anyone interested in farm equipment.

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