Huber Manufacturing Co., Marion, Ohio, USA
The Huber Manufacturing Co. was founded in 1865 in Marion, Ohio by Edward Huber, the son of German immigrants. The first product of the fledgling company was a new design of hay rake, but this was soon followed by a steam traction engine with a return-flue boiler and grain separators. Huber's first foray into building gas tractors resulted from the purchase in 1898 of the Vanduzen Gas & Gasoline Engine Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio. Benjamin C. Vanduzen had received a patent for a "gasoline traction engine" that he designed in 1894, which was powered by one of his own single-cylinder vertical engines. After purchasing the company, Huber subsequently built a batch of 30 such tractors, but these do not seem to have been very successful as Huber did not produce another tractor for more than a decade.
Huber returned to the gas tractor business in 1911 with the "Farmer's Tractor", powered by a two-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine and steered from the front. The following year, this was joined by a larger model, this time with the seating position at the rear. The same year also saw the introduction of a huge 30-60 hp prairie-style tractor, which resembled in many ways the highly successful Big Four 30 of the same era which was built by the Gas Traction Co. Several other prairie giants were offered by Huber over the next five years before the decision was made, in common with other tractor companies of that period, to move towards more lightweight tractor designs.
The first of these smaller, lighter Huber tractors was the Light Four 12-25, which was introduced in 1916 and featured a four-cylinder engine mounted crossways on the chassis and unusually large front wheels. It was very similar in appearance to the contemporary Parrett tractor, it is unclear whether there was any link between the two companies. The Light Four was soon followed by the more powerful Super Four 15-30 and Master Four 25-50, which retained the same basic layout. These tractors proved immensely popular, and Huber decided to keep the Light Four and Super Four names when they introduced their range of more conventional-looking tractors with in-line engines in the mid 1920s - these were the Super Four 18-36, 20-40 and 25-50, plus the Light Four 20-36. When the new tractors were tested at Nebraska the horsepower ratings were found to be far too conservative, and the tractors were subsequently re-rated towards the end of the decade.
By the 1930s Huber were beginning to offer rubber tyres as an option, and the model names were changed from a basic horsepower rating to letter designations such as HK and HS. Huber also entered the rowcrop market with the "Modern Farmer" series, but these could not compete with similar machines being built by larger manufacturers. Soon after the Second World War, Huber finally ceased tractor production altogether to focus on building construction equipment, something which the company still does to this day.
Huber/Vanduzen tractor operating a thresher
The Vanduzen design basically consisted of a single-cylinder gasoline engine mounted in the centre of the steam traction engine-type chassis, with two-speed transmission, bull gear and pinion drive to the rear wheels and chain steering. The gasoline tank was mounted high up at the front of the tractor on two supports, with a larger tank below it for cooling water, which was circulated through the engine by a centrifugal pump. The engine was started initially using a blank cartridge, then relied on the heat retained in a piece of platinum metal for subsequent ignition.
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"Farmer's Tractor" 17-19, 13-22 and 15-30 hp
The first Huber "Farmer's Tractor" emerged in 1911 and was powered by a mid-mounted two-cylinder opposed engine of 5.75 x 6 in bore and stroke manufactured by the Sintz-Wallin company. The tractor was described as a 17-19 hp machine and had two forward speeds with chain drive, but the layout was unusual for the time in that the screen-type radiator was at the rear while the driver's position with vertical steering column was right at the front of the tractor. An advertisement noted that this gave the operator "complete control of the machine" and "a clear view of the road ahead", but Huber evidently soon realised that a view of the trailed implement was also important, as it swapped the position of seat and radiator on its next version of the Farmer's Tractor, the 13-22 hp. This used a 7 x 7 in fully-enclosed Sintz-Wallin engine with a Pickering governor, while the radiator was now split into two separate screens in an "M" formation. By 1913 the tractor had received several modifications and was now rated as a 15-30 hp with the engine enlarged to 7 x 8 in and running at 600 rpm. Lubrication was via a Detroit force-feed oiler, ignition by battery and magneto and a Kingston carburettor was fitted. Fuel was listed as either gasoline or kerosene and the cooling system was driven by a centrifugal water pump. The total weight of the tractor was 3.5 tons and the first 15-30 produced carried serial no. 153.
30-60/35-70 and 20-40
The 30-60 model, introduced in 1912 (and re-rated in 1916 as the 35-70), was a different machine altogether from the Farmer's Tractor. It used a four-cylinder 7 x 8 in vertical engine located towards the rear of the tractor in common with several other makes of heavyweight tractor. At the front of the tractor was a large tubular radiator which held 95 gallons of water, and behind this was a 65-gallon gasoline tank. The most noticeable feature, however, was the huge rear drive wheels that were 8 feet in diameter and 2 feet wide and driven by bull gear and pinion, while the front wheels were 5 feet in diameter and 10 inches wide. The 30-60 was followed several years later by a slightly smaller 20-40 hp model, which retained the two-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine and chain drive of the Farmer's Tractor, but had the later tubular-style radiator.
Light Four 12-25
The Light Four 12-25 with its crossmount engine represented a complete departure from previous Huber models. It was powered by a four-cylinder L-head Waukesha engine with 4.5 in bore and 5.75 in stroke running at 1000rpm and cylinders cast in pairs. Two forward speeds of 2.43 and 3.74 mph and reverse of 1.88 mph were provided and final drive was via exposed bull gear and pinion. The tractor had a Perfex radiator mounted parallel to the chassis, used splash lubrication and was fitted with a Kingston magneto and carburettor and Bennett air-cleaner. The Light Four weighed around 5000 lbs, and when it was introduced in 1916 it was advertised for $985. It is interesting to note that around 1917 a batch of Light Fours was shipped to Europe via New York, several of which still survive in England, France and Sweden.
Super Four 15-30/18-36
Advertisement for Huber "Farmer's Tractor" 15-30
The Super Four 15-30, which appeared in 1921, was almost identical in appearance to its stable mate, the main difference being the use of a Midwest overhead-valve engine rather than the side-valve Waukesha. This engine was also slightly larger, at 4.5 x 6 in, and operated at 1100 rpm, but the cylinders were still cast in pairs; it boasted an enclosed Taco governor and high-pressure force-feed lubrication. An Eisemann magneto was used as well as a Kingston carburettor and R.W. water-bath air-cleaner. The drive gears were now fully enclosed and ran in an oil bath, and the weight of the tractor was around 6000 lbs. One other noticeable difference from the Light Four was that the (Perfex) radiator faced in the opposite direction; earlier tractors had a plain sheet-metal radiator header tank, while on later tractors this was cast iron with "The Huber Mfg. Co., Marion, Ohio, USA" in raised letters. Round-spoked rear wheels also gave way to flat-spoked ones. In 1925 the Super Four was re-rated as an 18-36 and some of the last tractors built were fitted with Hercules engines.
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Master Four 25-50
The Master Four 25-50 resembled its smaller counterparts, except for the fact that it had a forward-facing radiator and used a Hinckley engine with 5.5 in bore and 6 in stroke or LeRoi power unit at various times. The Master Four seems to have been produced in very limited numbers from 1922 and none are thought to have survived.
18-36 (21-39), 20-40 (32-45) and 25-50 (40-62)
The Huber 18-36, 20-40 and 25-50 that were introduced in the mid-1920s and were almost identical in appearance still carried the "Super Four" name, but couldn't have been more different from their earlier namesake. Their engines were mounted in-line with the chassis, their radiators faced forward, and a full-length bonnet (hood) covered both the engine and the fuel tank. The 18-36 used a Stearns Model AU 4.75 x 6.5 in engine, the 20-40 a 5.125 x 6.5 in Model DU and the 25-50 a 5.5 x 6.5 in Model EU, all of which were overhead-valve units with cylinders cast en bloc. A Kingston fly-ball governor was used, lubrication was via a gear-type oil pump and Eisemann magnetos and Zenith or Ensign carburettors were fitted. Final drive was via enclosed spur gears, but the tractors still only had two forward speeds. Around 1929 the tractors were re-rated as the 21-39, 32-45 and 40-62 models, respectively, and pneumatic rubber tyres were available as an option. By 1931 the 21-39 had been dropped from the range, and in 1935 the 32-45 evolved into the Model HK with a Waukesha engine.
The Huber 20-36, introduced in 1929, continued the "Light Four" name and was equipped with a Waukesha Model DK side-valve engine with the cylinders cast in pairs. This had a bore of 4.75 in and stroke of 6.25 in and was governed to 1150 rpm. An Eisemann GV4 magneto and Stromberg M3 carburettor were used initially, but these were later replaced with an American Bosch and Zenith; a Donaldson oil-bath air-cleaner was also fitted. In the early 1930s a change was made to a Waukesha Model CHS overhead-valve monobloc engine, and a handful of the earlier tractors were returned to the factory to be fitted with these too. In 1935 the 20-36 was replaced with the Model HS 27-42, which used the same Waukesha CHS engine. Huber 20-36 tractors were sold in Argentina by B.F. Avery & Sons as the "Centenario", with this name cast into the radiator header tank in place of "Huber".
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Huber 30-60 (serial no. 186, built 1912) at Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Rollag, Minnesota, USA in 2011.
Huber Light Four (serial no. 1371, built 1917) at the Musee Agrivap, Ambert, France in 2002.
Huber Light Four (serial no. 4648, built 1919) at the Best Show on Tracks, Woodland, California, USA in 2008.
Huber Light Four (serial no. 5175, built 1919) at the Vooroorlogse Tractorshow Bergeijk, Netherlands in 2011.
Huber Super Four (serial no. 6918, built 1921) at the Little Casterton Working Weekend, Lincolnshire, UK in 2009.
Huber Super Four (serial no. 6994, built 1921) photographed in a private collection in the UK in 2013.
Huber Super Four (serial no. 7555, built 1924) at Pioneer Village, Minden, Nebraska, USA in 2011.
Huber Super Four (serial no. 7615, built 1924) at the Heidrick Ag History Center, Woodland, California, USA in 2008.
Huber Super Four (serial no. 7773, built 1925) at the HMT Show, Panningen, Netherlands in 2005.
Huber Super Four (serial no. 7983, built 1925) photographed in a private collection in the UK in 2013.
Huber Super Four at WMSTR, Rollag, Minnesota, USA in 2004.
Huber 18-36 (serial no. 9288, built 1928) at the Wheatlands Musuem, Warracknabeal, Victoria, Australia in 2007.
Huber 20-40 (serial no. 8571, built 1927) at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, Nebraska, USA in 2011.
Huber 20-40 (serial no. 9150, built 1928) at the Dome Valley Museum, Arizona, USA in 2005.
Huber 25-50 (serial no. 8781, built 1927) at WMSTR, Rollag, Minnesota, USA in 2004.
Huber 32-45 at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, Mt Pleasant, Iowa, USA in 2011.
Huber 40-62 (serial no. 9923, built 1929) at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, Dorset, England in 2002.
Huber 40-62 (serial no. 9962, built 1929) at Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Rollag, Minnesota, USA in 2011.
Huber 20-36 (serial no. 9644, built 1929) at Carrington Rally, Lincolnshire, England in 2005.
Huber 20-36 (serial no. 9813, built 1929) at Pioneer Village, Minden, Nebraska, USA in 2011.
Huber 20-36 at WMSTR, Rollag, Minnesota, USA in 2004.
Huber 20-36 (serial no. 11024, built 1932) at Tractor World, Malvern, Worcestershire, England in 2007. This tractor has the later style of Waukesha engine.
I would like to thank the Huber Museum, Marion, Ohio for background information on the early Huber models and Mark Schleppi for his help with identifying the tractors in some of the photos.
Copyright © 2006-2017 David Parfitt. All rights reserved.