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Farmer Has Fond Memories Of “Common Sense” Tractor
“I was born in 1930, a few years after my dad quit using his 10-year-old Common Sense brand tractor, which was the most unusual and innovative tractor of its time,” says Minnesota farmer Ray Sands. “The tractor had an 8-cyl. motor, a single 50-in. wide rear wheel, weighed about 6,000 lbs., and was way more efficient at powering a threshing machine than a steam engine,” Sands says. “The 8-cyl. motor produced about 70 hp. at the belt pulley and could pull a 4-14 plow in the field.”
Sands heard plenty of stories about the tractor growing up because his father, grandfather, and uncle were investors in the Common Sense Tractor Company, located in Minneapolis.
“There were about 200 companies building tractors back then,” Sands says. “Our family knew H.W. Adams, who had worked for competing tractor manufacturers before coming up with ideas for the Common Sense. His idea was to use cut steel gears, an enclosed transmission, and a single drive wheel away from the plow furrow to get solid footing and not slip. Adams was enamored with automobile design so he incorporated a sheet metal hood, sweeping metal fenders with running boards, and an operator platform comparable to a truck or car built in 1914, the year he started his company,” Sands says. “The company built 15 to 18 tractors a year, about 60 total, until it was acquired by another Minneapolis company in 1919.”
Sands says his family used its Common Sense tractor for plowing and spring tillage, but it would really purr on the threshing machine. “Most threshing was done with steam engines in those days,” Sands says, “and there was always the danger of fire. The Common Sense was gas-powered so there were no sparks to worry about.”
Asked why the Common Sense didn’t survive, Sands says a huge economic downturn in the farm economy in the early 1920’s caused many companies to go bankrupt. “Our families lost their investment in the company, but they didn’t lose their farms.”
Now entering his 9th decade on the land his grandfather settled in 1856, Sands still farms 40 acres while renting out the balance. He reminisces about a 1924 model D Deere that his dad bought new and used for threshing and fieldwork. It’s the tractor he learned to farm with. “My dad and grandpa re-routed the exhaust on that tractor, installing an elbow so the pipe went vertical up instead of horizontal to the side. They did that because the horizontal exhaust pipe scared the horses that pulled wagons of bundles up to the threshing machine,” Sands says. “The Deere dealer saw that idea, brought a couple people from the company out that year, and wouldn’t you know that new Deere tractors had upright exhaust pipes after that. Dad didn’t even get a cup of coffee for his idea.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ray Sands, Kenyon, Minn. 55946.

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2020 - Volume #44, Issue #1