AGCO: A history in farm toys

DYERSVILLE – The story of how AGCO came into being is displayed across one entire wall. Like a mural, the pedigree of AGCO, the company that markets Challenger and Massey-Ferguson farm machines, is documented as the company went through many names and changes in a history that predates the 1840s.

And at the National Farm Toy Museum in Dyersville, manager Amanda Schwartz, tells the entire story in toys of the various makes and models of farm equipment – the sojourn of a company that assimilated upward of 80 companies to become AGCO in 2010.

Most of the companies had parts, implements and engines the parent company needed to improve its line of farm machines. Others had their own brand of now-famous tractor names including Allis-Chalmers, Massey Harris, Cockshutt, Case, Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline, White Farm and Hart-Parr.

In essence, the corporation now known as AGCO, is best told through five companies that were busy throughout the 20th century assimilating companies and competing for market share with each other – Allis-Chalmers, Cockshutt, Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline and Massey-Ferguson.


What eventually became Allis-Chalmers started in the mid-1830s with Gaar Scott & Co., based in Richmond, Ind. The company manufactured steam traction engines and threshing machines. A series of 15 acquisitions and mergers required reorganizing in 1911 as Advance-Rumely Co., based in LaPorte, Ind. The company still manufactured threshing machines and large tractors.

The museum has a few models of these kerosene-burning tractors. The engine burned all kerosene grades at any load.

A popular model, the Type F, had a single cylinder of 10-inch bore and a 12-inch stroke. It was started by the operator stepping out of the cab via the large iron rear wheel, climbing onto the flywheel and using his body weight to get it turning, then quickly rushing back into the cab to adjust the choke and try to keep the engine running.

The Great Depression forced the owners to eventually look for a buyer and found one in Allis-Chalmers in 1931, purchasing the entire Advance-Rumely empire and retaining the Indiana plant. In the mid-1950s, A-C would acquire Gleanor, as well.

Cockshutt and Oliver

Started in 1877 in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, by James Cockshutt, Brantford Plow Works manufactured farm implements. It became Cockshutt Plow Co., in 1882, when it incorporated. By the 1920s, it was a leader in tillage tools.

The company had no tractors, but had an arrangement in the late-1920s to distribute Allis-Chalmers tractors.

Meanwhile, six companies with their start in the 19th century, including American Seeding Machinery Co., Oliver Chilled Plow Co., and Hart-Parr, based in Charles City were merged into Oliver Farm Equipment in 1929. They produced what the museum refers to as “the Sturdy 70,” a tractor released in 1935. The Oliver Hart-Parr Row Crop 70 was the most successful of Oliver’s tractors because designs were based for primary use – row crop, high clearance, industrial, orchards or standard. By 1937, the Hart-Parr name was dropped.


Although the actual history begins in the mid-1830s with a pair of Swedish companies Munktell and J&C G Bolinder, which manufactured engines, the museum’s toy history starts in 1902 with a steam traction engine called the Red River Thresher, manufactured by Minneapolis Steel & Machining Co. It carries a TC trademark, similar to the logo on a Minnesota Twins baseball cap.

In 1929, MS&MC merged with Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co., and the Moline Plow Co., and a few others to become the Minneapolis-Moline Plow Implement Co., and in 1960, that acquisition was completed and the name shortened to Minneapolis-Moline.


More than a dozen companies, dating back to the 1840s, including familiar names like Case-Whiting Co., Wallis Tractor Co., Massey Manufacturing Co., Toronto Reaper and Harris, made up the future Massey-Harris Co., Ltd.

In 1847 Daniel Massey formed Newcastle Foundry and Machine Manufactory, based in Ontario, one of the first to manufacture mechanical threshing machines. In 1879 become Massey Manufacturing Co. and in 1891, it merged with Harris, Son & Co. Ltd to become Massey-Harris Co., Ltd., the largest agricultural equipment maker in the British Empire.

In 1953, the company merged with the Ferguson Co., to become Massey-Harris-Ferguson and stortened the name five years later to Massey-Ferguson.

Becoming AGCO

In 1960, the White Motor Co. purchase Oliver, then acquired Cockshutt in 1962 and Minneapolis-Moline in 1963. In 1969, all three were merged into White Farm Equipment and based in Illinois.

In 1985, the ag assets of Allis Chalmers sold to a German firm and known as Deutz Allis, eventually sold to the Allis-Gleaner Corporation, or AGCO, in 1990. In the same year, AGCO acquired White Farm Equipment and in 1995, Massey-Ferguson

The parent company became AGCO officially in 2000. The company continues to keep the Massey-Ferguson brand separate, along with Challenger, Fendt and Valtra.