Saturday, July 3, 1999
HARRY Ferguson, known for building one of the first successful tractors, was born on a Couty Down farm in Northern Ireland in 1884. He would have probably spent his life at the farm had it not been for his elder brother, Joe, who set up an engineers shop in Belfast, and asked Harry to join him in 1900. And thats where Harry got deeply involved in the servicing and sale of motor cars and motor cycles. There was no one to teach him. He learned the hard way by trial and error. Three years later, he built his first motor cycle, entered many races and won numerous trophies.
At 23 years, Harry entered motor-car races too. In 1909, he designed and built a small monoplane the first British-made machine and the first to fly in Ireland. The aircraft was flown over 130 yards only! Harry might have become an aircraft industrialist but he made a terrible pilot. With great difficulty he would take off and his landings were equally awful. Once, he landed upside down. Another time, he was carried to the hospital as the result of a bad crash. Harry married Maureen Watson, who made him promise that he would stop flying.
Meanwhile, the Irish Department of Agriculture had been on the lookout of an efficient man to supervise operation and maintenance of all tractors and implements throughout the country. The department wanted to ensure maximum efficiency as food situation was beginning to get grave in the country. Ferguson was offered this job and he accepted it. This opportunity to be in contact with the existing tractors made him bring out a better tractor that was more practical. Ferguson designed a plough that could be easily and firmly attached to the most popular tractor of the times Henry Fords Fordson. Ford liked the linkage system that Harry had invented and bought the ploughs from him. Six years later, Ford stopped manufacturing tractors and Harrys ploughs were no more required. Harry decided that since Ford had stopped making Fordson, he would make Ferguson tractors. It took him six years to reach the starting line. He brought out a light-weight tractor with a hydraulic lift system. The hydraulic lift could lift load up to a ton. Farmers could carry the load in a raised position and lower it where required. Thus in 1934, the Ferguson system was born. He started production in 1936 but the sales were small. Ferguson showed his product to Henry Ford, who commented: "With this machine here youve been put on a plane with the worlds greatest inventors with Edison, Bell and Marconi."
Ford offered to carry out mass-production of the tractor and Harry became his partner. From 1939 to 1947, more than 3,000 tractors and two million implements were produced by Ford. These implements integrated with the tractor to a degree that made the two parts a single unit which could carry out all types of works. The implements were of 160 types, including ploughs, tillers, disc and tooth harrows, corn planters, stalk cutters, weeders, scoops, mowers, loaders, cranes and even wood-saws. With the World War II over, the ravaged lands cried for quick help. Fergusons tractors made by Ford were used all over the world.
In April 1947, Henry Ford died leaving his empire to his grandson, Henry Ford II. The grandson decided to stop making Ferguson tractors and decide to make his own tractors. Harry Ferguson was shattered but, fortunately, he had a tie-up with Standard Motors. Ferguson then built a 72-acre factory right at Henry Fords IIs doorstep in Detroit. In 1948, he drove out the first tractor. Next he filed a law suit in New York against Henry Ford II. He sued Ford for £89,680,000 alleging that Ford had infringed upon his patent rights and attempted to push him out of the American market, thus trying to set up a monopoly (an offence under the US anti-trust laws). Eventually in 1952, £3,303,570 were granted to Ferguson. Ford was ordered to stop making the tractor he had been producing since the break-off with Ferguson in 1947. In 1953, Harry also brought out the Ferguson family car. In 1956, he retired from his company. He died in 1960.
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