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The ups and downs of the Rumley Tractor

By richard - Posted on 15 March 2013

     The machinery manufacturing company that bore the Rumely name for nearly 77 years had its beginning in 1853 when Meinrad Rumely, a mechanic by trade, settled in LaPorte, Indiana, after immigrating to the United States at age 25, and persuaded his brother John to join him in partnership to start a repair shop. This small venture flourished and soon it took up the manufacture of horsepowers and sugar cane crushers, operating under the name of M. & J.  Rumely Co.


     In 1857 the making of threshing machines was started to satisfy the ever increasing need for grain harvesting equipment. Steam engines were also being built about this time to power the threshing machines and later on to do heavy traction work such as plowing prairie sod. As the demand for more machinery of this type grew, so did the company facilities to produce them.


     Meinrad Rumely purchased the interest of his brother John in 1892 and the company was reincorporated under the name of M. Rumely Company with himself as president and general manager. High standards of quality for both material and workmanship were maintained and Rumely machinery was widely accepted throughout the grain growing areas.


     On March 31, 1904, Meinrad Rumely passed away and shortly afterward a grandson, Edward Rumely, gained control of the company. Under his management - or lack of it - a large expansion program was undertaken to fill the demand for a new product, the Oil Pull tractor, which made its appearance in 1909 and was destined to replace steam as a sorce of power. It was decided the quickest way to expand was to buy existing factories rather than build new, so an acquisition was enacted. Late in 1911 M. Rumely Co. purchased the Advance Thresher Co. of Battle Creek, Mich., and the Gaar Scott Co. of Richmond, Ind. Early in 1912 the acquisition of Northwest Thresher Co. of Stillwater, Minn., took place and these huge expenditures, along with other setbacks, led to the downfall of the company. On January 19, 1915, the M. Rumely Co. was thrown into bankruptcy and a liquidation took place. A new organization was incorporated December 14, 1915, under the name of Advance-Rumely Thresher Co. which purcased the assets of the former M. Rumely Co. and business continued in the same facilities.


     A full line of steam engines and threshing machines were made along with other items, but emphasis was centered on the refinement and development of the Oil Pull tractor which was gaining steadily in popularity. By 1920 there were four sizes of Oil Pulls and sales were good.


     The year 1924 saw further expansion when Advance-Rumely Thresher Co. bought the Aultman-Taylor Machinery Co. of Mansfield, Ohio, thus ending the Aultman-Taylor line. Late that same year the first of four sizes of the all new lightweight Oil Pull was introduced.


     During this peroid of tiime a big change was taking place on the farming scene with small row crop type tractor replacing the large threshing engines. To remain competitive, the manufacturing rights to a small tractor being built by Toro Co. of Minneapolis were bought by Advance-Rumely in 1927. The tractor was renamed the Rumely Do-All and was adaptable to row crop as well as other light work.


     By now the popularity of the Oil Pull was declining in favor of more modern tractors produced by other makers and sales were lagging. So in 1929 an all new six cylinder gasoline powered tractor made its appearance, the model 6A. But the company ship was already sinking and these last efforts to save it proved too little, too late. During April of 1930 the sun set forever on Advance-Rumely Thresher Co., when Allis Chalmers of Milwaukee took it over lock, stock and barrel.


     Today the remaining evidence of a once great manufacturing plant lies mostly in the hands of collectors who have restored and preserved the Rumely tractors which escaped the fate of the junkyard.