Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,367 pages of information and 245,906 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Harry Ferguson

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Henry George (Harry) Ferguson (1884-1960) of Ferguson, Massey-Harris-Ferguson and Massey-Ferguson

See also Harry Ferguson: 1910 First Flight in Ireland

1884 November 4th. Born at Growell, near Dromore, County Down, Ireland, the son of James Fisher Ferguson, a farmer, and his wife Mary Bell. The family was three girls and eight boys and was the forth one born. James was a member of the Plymouth Brethren. Brother of Joseph Bell Ferguson

1900 At fourteen he left school to work on the family farm

1902 Ferguson went to work with his brother Joe, the oldest in the family, at J. B. Ferguson and Co, his bicycle and car repair business in Shankhill Road, Belfast.

Attended evening classes at the Belfast Technical College where he met John Lloyd Williams and made the acquaintance of the wealthy landowner and car enthusiast T. McGregor Greer

1904 Began to race motorcycles.

1908 He developed an interest in aviation and visited air-shows at Blackpool and Rheims

1909 December 31st. Ferguson became the first person to fly in Ireland, when he took off in a monoplane he had designed and built himself and fitted with an 8-cylinder JAP engine. He flew for 130 yards.

1910 August 8th. Flies 3 miles to win a challenge

1910 October. Crashes and wrecks the plane and is left unconscious for a time

c.1910 Started work on aeroplane engines with John Lloyd Williams as Harry Ferguson Ltd

1911 After falling out with his brother over the safety and future of aviation Ferguson decided to go it alone, and he founded May Street Motor Co selling Maxwell, Star, Darracq and Vauxhall cars and Overtime Tractors. William Sands commenced working for him here.

1912 He re-named the company to Harry Ferguson Limited.

1912 Takes up racing Vauxhall cars but not for very long. With A. J. Hancock and W. Watson drove for the Vauxhall team in the French Grand Prix.

1913 Married Maureen Watson the daughter of the owner of a Grocery store in Dromore. Both families boycotted the wedding. They were married for 47 years.

1913 Patented improvements to carburettors

1917 Toured Ireland promoting the use of tractors on behalf of the government in order to increase food production during the war

1916 Ferguson accepted an invitation from the Irish board of agriculture to oversee the use of tractors as part of the ‘Grow More Food’ campaign in Ireland. This and his own agricultural experiences suggested to him the need for a small tractor with interchangeable implements.

1917 December. Ferguson saw at first hand the weakness of having tractor and plough as separate articulated units - he devised a plough which could be rigidly attached to a Model T Ford car - the Ford Eros, which became a limited success, competing with the Model F Fordson which had started being imported and would soon be produced in Cork.

1920 Has first meeting with Henry Ford in Dearborn and demonstrates the new plough. Accompanies by Sands

1922 May Second visit to the US accompanied by John Williams where they sign a production agreement with John Shunk of Bucyrus, Ohio but despite a lot of publicity, the deal was never implemented

1922 Third visit to the US and makes an agreement with Roderick Lean of Mansfield, Ohio to produce the plough but he went bankrupt in 1924

1923 December. Patents a floating skid for ploughs to control the depth

1925 Visits US again with Williams and made contact with Eber and George Sherman. In December they set up Ferguson-Sherman Inc. Harry and his wife and Williams spend a year in Evansville getting the busness started. The new enterprise developed a ploughing system that incorporated a Duplex hitch system which fitted the Fordson line tractors. Ferguson's new hydraulic system was first seen on the Ferguson-Brown Model A tractors.

1928 The first Ulster T.T. run and Ferguson was the driving force in setting this up

1928 The Ferguson-Sherman business collapses when Ford cease production of their tractor

1931 Commenced planning to build the 'Black Tractor' of their own design that would handle the plough through the three-point linkage they were producing. It used an American 4-cylinder Hercules engine and the gears, transmission and steering by David Brown and Sons

1935 The Belfast company name changed to Harry Ferguson (Motors) Ltd and a new sales company formed in England to sell the tractor as Harry Ferguson Ltd. A manufacturing company was formed as David Brown Tractors

1935 The Ferguson family rent a house at Honley near Huddersfield for one year

1936 First tractor production with the engine changed to an 18-20hp Coventry Climax. These first tractors were branded as Brown-Ferguson

1936 May. First public demonstration held near Hereford

1937 June The sales and production companies were merged as Ferguson-Brown Tractors Ltd

1938 October. He visits the US and Henry Ford again and they agree to work together

1939 January. The Brown Ferguson collaboration ended with Brown launching their own higher powered tractor and Ferguson entering in to a deal with Henry Ford

1939 January. Ferguson with his family, William Sands, John Chambers and Harold Willey sail for the US on the Aquitania

1939 June 12th. The Ford/Ferguson tractor is launched in the US

1939 October 12th. Ferguson returns to Britain and demonstrates the new tractor at the Greenmount Agricultural College, Muckamore near Belfast

1940 May. Demonstrates the tractor to Ford in the UK but reluctant to replace their production of the Fordson

1946 December. First production in the UK using the Banner Lane Factory, Coventry under the Standard Motor Co

c1946 Bought Abbotswood estate in Stow-on-the-Wold

1947 Ford cease making the tractor in the US and a long legal case between Ferguson and Ford commenced and was only ended in April 1952

1948 October 11th. First tractor built by Ferguson in the US

1950 April. Formed Harry Ferguson Research with Freddy Dixon and Tony Rolt to work on the Crab vehicle

1953 Ferguson merged with Massey Harris to become Massey-Harris-Ferguson Co. This merger eventually turned into Massey Ferguson.

1960 October 25th. Died

1960 Obituary [1]

THE name of Mr. Harry Ferguson, whose death, we regret to record, took place on October 25, will always be associated with tractors and farm implements - the "Ferguson System," which he created. But in his early years he was concerned with motor cars and motor-cycles, and it was a request from a Government department which set him investigating the whole question of power farming, and proved the turning point in his life.

Harry Ferguson was born at Dromore, County Down, on November 4, 1884, and at the age of sixteen he set up a small business in Belfast for the sale and repair of motorcars and motor-cycles. He also began to enter vehicles in sporting events, and won several competitions. After a few years his interest extended to aircraft, and he designed and built a small monoplane. This machine flew on December 31, 1909, and Ferguson became the first man to fly a heavier-than-air machine in Ireland.

In 1911 he returned to the motor industry, and established a sales agency in Belfast. On the outbreak of war in 1914, Ferguson was asked by the Irish Department of Agriculture to take charge of the operation and maintenance of all the tractors and farm implements in Ireland, and this gave him the opportunity to study a range of equipment which, he soon realised, had many faults. His first conclusion was that a large acreage of land was needed to feed the animals used to draw the implements, and that if mechanical power were used, those large areas of land could be freed for crop production.

By 1920, Ferguson had evolved a new form of tractor-plough linkage, and two years later, the Ferguson-Sherman Corporation was formed at Evansvllle, Indiana, U.S.A., to make Ferguson ploughs with automatic depth control. These ploughs were mounted on the tractor, forming an integral power-ploughing machine, and thousands were sold. From this starting point Ferguson went on to evolve a complete implement system, hydrauhca11y controlled and applicable to a wide range of farming needs.

Thus, by 1935 the "Ferguson System" was in full production, and the next step was to design a light tractor, specially suited to the implements. By 1936 this tractor was in production at Huddersfield. After about 1000 tractors had been sold the outbreak of war in 1939 stopped production in England, and Ferguson turned to the United States, making an agreement with the Ford Motor Company for manufacture of the machines. Altogether 306,221 tractors were made by Ford.

In 1946 there came the well-known break with Ford, which led eventually to a celebrated lawsuit between Ferguson and a Ford subsidiary. For a time tractors continued to be made by Ford under an interim agreement, but at the end of June, 1947, manufacture ceased. In due course the legal action was settled by a payment of over £3,000,000 to Ferguson, but meanwhile he had to make arrangements for the production of his tractor. In America this was done by building a new factory in Detroit, and in England by an agreement with the Standard Motor Company to undertake manufacture of the tractor at Coventry.

When the new production arrangements were under way, Ferguson turned his attention to road vehicles again, and to give him freedom of action in this field, arranged with the Massey-Harris Company of Toronto for a merger of the two businesses. Ferguson became chairman of the new Massey-Harris-Ferguson Company, which was formed in 1953, but, a year later, decided to devote his whole time to his motor-car projects, resigned from the chairmanship, and sold out his interests in the tractor and implement business. To facilitate this new work a small company, Harry Ferguson Research, Ltd., was formed, and it is known that new designs were produced, but no official information about them had been released at the time of Harry Ferguson's death.

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