Wallis Tractor Co., Racine, Wisconsin and Cleveland, Ohio, USA
J.I. Case Plow Works Co., Racine, Wisconsin, USA
Massey-Harris Co., Racine, Wisconsin, USA
Wallis Certified 20-30 tractor from a Massey-Harris brochure
The J.I. Case Plow Works of Racine, Wisconsin was formed in 1884 and grew out of a joint venture between Jerome I. Case of threshing machine fame and Ebenezer G. Whiting, inventor of a new type of plough. After Case's death in 1891, his son-in-law Henry M. Wallis, Sr. took over the presidency of the Plow Works the following year. As well as continuing to oversee the successful plough business, Wallis soon began to explore the possibility of producing a gasoline tractor as an alternative to steam traction engines. Experiments led to the adoption of two different designs of three-wheeled tractor and the formation of the Wallis Tractor Co. in 1912. However, until a purpose-built factory could be built at Racine, Wallis tractors would be produced at a large rented factory in Cleveland, Ohio (formerly occupied by the Royal Auto Co.), with production and sales overseen by Henry M. Wallis, Jr.
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The first Wallis models were advertised as the "Fuel-Save Tractors", and known individually as the "Bear" and "Cub". While the Wallis "Bear" was a heavyweight giant very much of its age, the smaller "Cub" was a different machine altogether: it incorporated a novel unit-frame design in which the crankcase and transmission were housed in a single U-shaped plate steel frame rather than mounted separately on a channel steel chassis. The unit-frame concept, developed and patented by Clarence M. Eason and Robert O. Hendrickson, would come to revolutionize tractor design and formed the basis of Wallis (and later, Massey-Harris) tractors for the next three decades. The effectiveness of the design was proved in 1915, when a Wallis Cub was driven 1000 miles in thirty days from Cleveland, Ohio to the National Power Farming Demonstration at Fremont, Nebraska, where it was subsequently used to plough three acres in 77 minutes with a four-furrow plough.
The "Cub" was followed by the three-wheeled "Cub Junior" (or Model J) with enclosed drive gears in 1917. Two years later the Wallis Tractor Co. merged with the J.I. Case Plow Works to form the J.I. Case Plow Works Co. The move towards more lightweight machines continued with the introduction of the four-wheeled Model K, which evolved into the OK and Certified during the 1920s. The Model K was also built under license (with several modifications) by Ruston & Hornsby of Lincoln in England, where it was known as the British Wallis. In 1927 an agreement was reached with the Massey-Harris company for it to sell Wallis tractors in Canada, and the following year Massey-Harris bought the J.I. Case Plow Works outright. M-H continued to build tractors under the "Wallis" name, redesigning the 20-30 and introducing a smaller model, the 12-20 in 1929. The 20-30 subsequently formed the basis for the Massey-Harris 25, while the 12-20 led to the highly successful M-H Pacemaker and Challenger tractors.
Wallis Bear at the Texas Cotton Palace, Waco in 1915
The "Bear" evolved from a design of heavy tractor that was first developed by Wallis in 1902, which had a four-cylinder engine and was capable of pulling a ten-furrow 14-inch plough. However, the first production tractors did not appear until 1912 - initially known as just the "Wallis Tractor", they carried a rating of 30-50 hp and weighed 16,000 pounds. The engine design, with four 6.5 x 8 in cylinders cast in pairs, had been patented by Henry L.F. Trebert in 1911. The rear wheels were 7 feet in diameter and the front wheels 42 inches, and the three-wheeled design allowed it to turn within its own wheelbase of 12 feet. Three forward speeds and one reverse were provided, and the transmission was enclosed in dust-proof casings. The fuel tank held 60 gallons and the large tubular radiator at the front of the radiator contained 460 feet of tubing! The tractor was provided with power steering via a pair of friction cones, and was also sprung front and rear. Advertising literature of the time mentioned that it could also be adapted for use as a road-roller.
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The Wallis "Cub", introduced in early 1914, was the first tractor built by the company to use the patented U-shaped steel frame. When first advertised the Cub carried a 15-25 hp rating and weighed 7,500 pounds, but by 1916 it was listed as a 26-44 hp tractor with a weight of 8,365 pounds. As on the "Bear", the engine was a four-cylinder T-head design with the cylinders cast in pairs. The bore and stroke were 6 x 7 in, the normal operating speed was 650 rpm and the crankshaft was supported by five bearings. The tractor could be run on kerosene or gasoline, and was fitted with a Bennett Model XX carburettor and K-W magneto with impulse starter. A centrifugal water pump and cellular radiator with belt-drive fan took care of cooling, while lubrication was via a gear-type pump located near the bottom of the crankcase at the rear of the engine. Two forward speeds and one reverse were provided, and power was transmitted to the 60 inch rear wheels via internal bull gears. Early illustrations of the Cub show round-spoke wheels, but it seems these were soon replaced with a flat-spoke design.
Cub Junior (Model J)
Advertisement for the 1926 Wallis OK 15-27 tractor
The 13-25 hp "Cub Junior" that appeared in 1917 used the same basic layout as its big brother, but incorporated many refinements. Its four-cylinder 4.25 x 5.75 in engine had the cylinders cast in a single block with removable sleeves and overhead valves, and was designed to operate at 900 rpm. The drive to the rear wheels was now completely enclosed and Hyatt roller bearings were used throughout the transmission, which gave two speeds forward of 2.5 and 3.5 mph and one reverse. It was also a much lighter machine than the Cub, weighing in at just 3,000 pounds, and was classed as a 2-3 plow tractor. Standard equipment was a Bennett carburettor and K-W high-tension magneto, and cooling was via a Modine cellular radiator. Fenders (mudguards) and a self-steering device for ploughing were optional, and the Cub Jr could also be equipped to run on kerosene. Tractors exported to the UK (and possibly elsewhere in Europe) seem to have been adapted on arrival to run on kerosene, by fitting a Halliday manifold/carburettor and auxiliary tanks for kerosene and water. It appears that a wide-front (four-wheeled) version of the Cub Junior was also produced in limited numbers before the introduction of the Model K.
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The four-wheeled Model K, advertised from 1919, used an almost identical 4.25 x 5.75 in engine to that fitted in the Cub Junior. The tractor was designed to run on gasoline with a Bennett carburettor and Berling EQ41 magneto (later replaced by a Bosch), although a kerosene version was also available. As with most tractors, the Model K underwent a number of changes during its production: on later tractors, the "Wallis" name was cast into the side of the engine and the timing cover was separated from the block itself; the rear wheels were strengthened by adding an extra rivet where the spoke were fitted to the rim; and on the very last tractors, the elegant cast front hubcaps were replaced with dome-shaped pressed steel ones, reflecting the change from Hyatt flat roller to Timken tapered roller bearings. As mentioned above, the Wallis K was built under license in England for almost a decade by Ruston & Hornsby of Lincoln, with most of the tractors being sent to Australia and New Zealand. A three-wheeled version of the Model K, known as the "K-3", was also built in limited numbers (380 tractors) as a replacement for the Cub Junior after it was phased out.
The Model OK 15-27 hp was introduced in 1923 and was tested at Nebraska in April-May of the same year - the report lists the engine bore and stroke as identical to that of the Model K, and the tractor was fitted with a Bennett Model WS carburettor and Bosch DU4 magneto. The OK incorporated a number of improvements over the K, including the introduction of a conventional starting handle at the front of the tractor, fenders as standard equipment and a larger radiator. By 1926 the list of features being advertised included a John Rodgers "fuel saving" kerosene vaporiser, Pickering governor, power take-off and oil-bath air-cleaner. The same year saw the introduction of an orchard version of the OK, known as the "OKO 15", with an overall lower profile, full orchard fenders and disc-type front wheels.
Industrial version of Wallis Certified tractor
By 1927 the OK had evolved further into the Wallis Certified 15-27 hp model, where "Certified" reflected the fact that each tractor sold was accompanied by a certificate stating that it had been thoroughly tested and was of the highest quality. Modifications including increasing the bore to 4.375 in, moving the steering box further back, and changing the carburettor and magneto for a Kingston Model L and American Bosch ZU4, respectively. By the time the Certified was tested at Nebraska in April-May 1927, it had already been uprated to a 20-30 hp. During its lifetime it underwent numerous changes, including the introduction of 16-spoke rear and (narrower) 12-spoke front wheels, a Kingston governor and internal oil pump. After the J.I. Case Plow Works was purchased by Massey-Harris in 1928, the "Wallis" name was still used on the radiator header tank, engine block and decals for several more years. The Wallis Certified tractor was also available in an orchard/vineyard version just 49 in high and 52 in wide, as well as an industrial version with solid rubber tyres front and rear.
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Wallis Cub (serial no. 1487) at the Little Casterton Working Weekend, Lincolnshire, England in 2006.
Wallis Cub Junior (serial no. 10340) at the Musee Maurice Dufresne, Azay-le-Rideau, France in 2007. This tractor is now in a private collection in England.
Wallis Cub Junior (serial no. 10645) at the California Antique Farm Equipment Show, Tulare, California, USA in 2005 and Best Show on Tracks, Woodland, California, USA in 2008.
Wallis Cub Junior (serial no. 12162) at the Little Casterton Working Weekend, Lincolnshire, England in 2006.
Wallis Cub Junior (serial no. 13159) at Carrington Rally, Lincolnshire, England in 2009.
Wallis Cub Junior (serial no. 13652) at the Dome Valley Museum, Yuma, Arizona, USA in 2005.
Wallis K (serial no. 14821) at Pioneer Village, Minden, Nebraska, USA in 2011.
Wallis K (serial no. 15537) at Bonanzaville, Fargo, North Dakota, USA in 2011.
Wallis K (serial no. 16104) at Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Rollag, Minnesota, USA in 2011.
Wallis K (serial no. 18405) at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, Mt Pleasant, Iowa, USA in 2011.
Wallis K (serial no. 20213) at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, Mt Pleasant, Iowa, USA in 2011.
Wallis OK (serial no. 23984) at the Little Casterton Working Weekend, Lincolnshire, England in 2010.
Wallis OK (serial no. 24780) at Brayshaw Park, Blenheim, New Zealand in 2006.
Wallis OK (serial no. 25156) at the Williams sale, Herefordshire, England in 2007.
Wallis Certified Orchard/Vineyard model (serial no. 40296) at the Dome Valley Museum, Yuma, Arizona, USA in 2005.
Wallis Certified Orchard/Vineyard model (serial no. 40368) at the Heidrick Ag History Center, Woodland, California, USA in 2005 and 2008.
Wallis 15-27 (serial no. 51165) at the Newark Vintage Tractor & Heritage Show, Nottinghamshire, England in 2009.
Wallis 20-30 (serial no. 52262) at Onslow Park Rally, Shropshire, England in 2005.
Wallis 20-30 (serial no. 53429) at the Dome Valley Museum, Yuma, Arizona, USA in 2005.
Wallis 20-30 (serial no. 54238) at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, Nebraska, USA in 2011.
Wallis 20-30 at the Little Casterton Working Weekend, Lincolnshire, England in 2006.
Wallis 20-30 at the Pioneer Settlement Museum, Swan Hill, Victoria, Australia in 2007.
Wallis 20-30 at the Newark Vintage Tractor & Heritage Show, Nottinghamshire, England in 2009.
I would like to thank Tom Seaberg and Malcolm Robinson for their help with compiling the information on this page. Photo of Wallis Bear at Texas Cotton Palace courtesy the Texas Collection, Baylor University.
Copyright © 2006-2017 David Parfitt. All rights reserved.