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Nichols & Shepard

By richard - Posted on 12 December 2013

Nichols & Shepard began developing a gas tractor in 1911 and produced only a limited number in 1912. Two sizes were available; a 28-50 and a 35-70. The huge 35-70 was of two cylinder design. Its 10 1/2x14 inch bore and stroke developed well over 90 belt horsepower, yet its rated engine speed was only 375 RPMs. Weight of this trctor was 30,000 pounds. The mere size of this tractor soon made it obsolete and it gave way to the many smaller tractors coming onto the market. Even so, it was still offered as late as 1922. The 25-50 faired a little better and was offered yet in 1927 at a price tag of $2990. The 25-50 had less horsepower but was still by no means a small tractor. It featured a 9x12 inch bore and stroke running at 425 RPMs and it weighed in at a low 19,000 pounds. In 1921 or 1922, a smaller 20-42 model appeared featuring the same general design as the larger models. It carried a 8x10 inch bore and stroke and operated at 500 RPMs. Sometiime in the late 20's, Nichols & Shepard supplemented a line of tractors produced by the John Lauson Co. at New Holstein, Wisconsin. They were sold as the Nichols & Shepard "Lauson-Built" tractors. In the February, 1926 edition of the American Thresherman, Nichols & Shepard had a full page ad showing off thier 28x46 separator. On the side of the ad in a box is listed the different sizes of threshers they buiilt, their steam engines, and their tractors. Under the tractor list is the Nichols & Shepard 25-50 and then listed are the Allis Chalmers 15-25 and 20-35. So apparently Nichols & Shepard sold the Allis Chalmers tractors for a short period of time, possibly before they sold the Lauson line. I'm sure by taking on the Allis and Lauson lines, that it was a desperation move on the part of Nichols & Shepard to try and capture some of the small tractor market that had been developing for the past 15 years. Just for a point of interest, the 1928 Tractor Fieldbook does not even list Nichols & Shepard tractors.

The need for faster harvesting especially in the large wheat growing regions of central and western US gave birth to the combine. Nichols & Shepard saw this opportunity and by the late 1920's began marketing their own combine. They were offered in cuttiing widths of 10, 12, 15, 16 1/2 and 20 feet. The separating unit was basically the same as their Red River Special thresher line. These combines offered either a Waukesha engine for the small unit, or a Hercules engine on the larger combines. A 20 foot cut combine had a 1927 price tag of $2690. This included a Hercules 38 horsepower engine. The grain tank was optional and added another $200 to the price.

Nichols & Shepard began experimenting in the late 20's with a corn picker. It was a 1-row unit mounted on a Fordson tractor. Despite the great popularity of the Fordson, its production in the US ended about the same time that the picker made its first appearance. Yet the supply of Fordsons remained abundant for some years to come. After the Oliver merger in 1929, marketing of this picker was somewhat subdued, since Oliver had its own tractors to sell.

The Nichols & Shepard Co. advertised themselves exclusively as builders of "Threshing Machinery". Many other manufacturers of this period were building threshing machinery also, but they also diversified themselves by building sawmills, plows, field implements, wagons, etc. By adhering strictly to being builders of threshing machinery, Nichols & Shepard limited themselves, so by the time the late 1920's rolled around I'm sure they were reading the writing on the wall. The need for threshing machines was already dwindling, the large antiquated gas tractors and steam engines were not selling well at all. So, after nearly 81 years of continuous operation, the decision was made to merge into the newly formed Oliver Farm Equipment Company in 1929. The threshing machines, combines, and corn picker all went on to become part of the great Oliver line-up of machinery.

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