Aultman & Taylor 30-60


Pioneer Acres Aultman-Taylor 30-60The story of agriculture is the story of the birth and evolution of technology. The earliest human inventions were born of the necessity to provide food and shelter for growing populations. Things did not change much in the world of agricultural technology for the greater part of human history after the adoption of cultivated crops and domestication of animals, but in the mid-19th century, that was all to change! What follows is a study of the dramatic rise of agricultural technology in the 19th and 20th centuries that marked a sustained departure of human endeavour from anything achieved in all previous recorded history. The Aultman-Taylor collaboration will serve as a corporate example of the rise of agricultural commerce, and the 30-60 tractor built by them will serve as a specific example of the evolution of agricultural power machinery. The corporate focus for the purposes of this discourse will be the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company. While there were a number of companies formed by Cornelius Aultman with various partners from the end of the U.S. civil war onwards, this document will concentrate on the longest lived of these. The choice of this company is particularly appropriate based on the historical position its founders, particularly Cornelius Aultman, occupy in the entrepreneurial underpinnings of all technological advancement, but particularly as it relates to the entrenchment of agriculture in the economic structure of western nations. The fine example of their work in tractor design featured at Pioneer Acres serves to illuminate their approach to the application of technology to the furtherance of both crop cultivation and industrial development.

To try to clarify some issues about what company played which role in the historical track of Cornelius Aultman, the following timelines should help:The C Aultman & Company (1859 – 1893). This company failed in 1893 and was reorganized as The Aultman Company. This company manufactured various threshers and later steam tractors. Cornelius Aultman ceased to have any role in this company in 1875.The Aultman, Taylor and Company was founded in 1867. In 1891 it was reorganized as the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company. It primarily manufactured the vibrator threshing machine, and later, gas tractors.

Archaeology indicates that agriculture is around 10000 years old, starting in what is known as the Fertile Crescent area of northern Africa and Western Asia, supplanting almost entirely the pre-existing hunter/gatherer cultures. Agriculture is a fundamental application of technology to the problem of creating a reliable food supply, and the population explosion that has followed its invention and the rise of settlements that later would become cities could not have occurred without it. In particular, the application of technology to the food supply meant the productivity of individual farmers increased to the point where human population was free not only to grow, but to do other things as well, like invent new technology. This is a crucial development in the rise of a technological society. Front Left Quarter of Aultman-Taylor 30-60Recent estimates suggest that the world food supply will have to increase by something like 70% by the year 2050 to accommodate projected population growth. The real starting point for this explosion corresponds exactly to the adoption of mechanical technologies to the problem of cereal crop production that started in the mid 1700’s. Each jump in population is preceded by a leap in the technology of food production, so an understanding of the forces at work in the agricultural market place is crucial to comprehending how the world’s human population came to the state it is in at the time of this writing, and where it is going.

The Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company is important in the evolution of farm power technology because of its pioneering role in the development of harvesting machinery and the subsequent invention of both steam and gasoline/kerosene tractors. The tractor, as a technological innovation, marks a radical departure from previous horse and hand powered farming. It enabled an almost unbelievable expansion in the methods and territories available to farmers to produce food, and marks as well an unprecedented growth in the food (commodities) market. In addition, farm technology was adapted to the construction of crucial infrastructure including roads, which are critical to the efficient functioning of a modern technological society, but indispensible to the growth of global agricultural commodities markets. A particular emphasis will be focused on the role played by engineering, entrepreneurship, and invention in the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company. It is difficult for most people living today to even imagine how their food was produced as little as 100 years ago, and yet what separates us from the dominant technology of that day, the horse, plough, and the so-called ‘horse power’, is a few generations of applied human creativity driven by commerce. Rear Left Quarter of Aultman-Taylor 30-60The specific example used to illuminate this story, the Aultman & Taylor 30-60, resides in the collection exhibited at Pioneer Acres near the town of Irricana, Alberta, Canada. The 30-60 designation describes the horsepower developed at the drawbar and the main drive pulley respectively.

The Beginnings

The Aultman &Taylor Machinery Company had its roots in the post civil war economic boom accompanied by an unprecedented expansion into the western regions of the United States. Cornelius Aultman founded Aultman, Taylor & Company with Henry Taylor in 1867. They built the factory in Mansfield Ohio where it remained throughout the life of the enterprise, despite burning down once. Their primary early product, the vibrator thresher, was very popular and established the company as a producer of reliable, efficient equipment. It is a historical fact that technology begets technology, and so the stability and magnitude of power requirements for threshing equipment of increasing size and sophistication needed to work ever increasing farm acreage demanded the replacement of horse power with mechanical sources. The early solution to this problem was the adaptation of stationary steam engines mounted on wagon frames, which later became traction engines as self propulsion was added. The Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company was well known for its stream traction engines and built them well into the early 20th century. The 30-60 gas tractor was designed and built in 1910, long after the founders Aultman and Taylor were deceased. However, its introduction marked a turning point in the evolution of tractor design.

The Farmer

There was a time less than 100 years ago, when over one-third of the population of North America could be found on family farms. Farming was a much more labour intensive endeavour then and farmers, it can be fairly stated, were the inspiration behind, and in many cases, the originators of, new agriculturally related technology. Most engineering of the era up to around the turn of the century was based on what could be described as ‘seat of the pants’ design. The formal education of engineers existed, but in many cases, the most important technologies came from the creative minds of what we now call ‘entrepreneurs’. These are people who have a problem and in spite of the lack of a mechanical design educational background, the means to solve it. The result, in many cases, was often revolutionary, if not particularly beautiful. Most good mechanical designers entered into an apprenticeship of some type for the bulk of their training. The turn of the century was a time of frenetic growth in the early adoption of scientific methods to formulate mechanical solutions to a host of growing problems created by the growth of human population Technicians such as blacksmiths were continually being pressured to adopt new methods and ideas to keep up. Some gained prominence as technology creators. As the work became increasingly specialized, the farmer came to rely increasingly on the expertise embodied in the farm machinery manufacturer for solutions to their productivity issues, but this came with a built in caveat, in this case caveat emptor (buyer beware), as there were very few regulations and standards guaranteeing the quality of the products being sold to them. To see the Aultman-Taylor 30-60 at Pioneer Acres running each summer is to get a sense for how good things could be if the manufacturer got it right! It is instructive to note that Mr. Ephraim Ball, one of Cornelius Aultman’s early partners, stated that “All the capital I had was $400, which was given to me by my father, and all the family and friends opposed the enterprise. They had no confidence that machinery to reap, mow and thresh would ever come to anything”.

The Big Picture

Agricultural engineering not only created the tools to originate and sustain an unprecedented increase in agricultural productivity, but also underpins and was the inspiration for a host of other technological endeavours that we now take for granted. Pioneer Acres Horse PowerFor example, the granddaddy of all internal combustion engines that ultimately killed the age of steam was the stationary gas engine. This simple internal combustion engine has been used in various forms to provide power not only for blacksmith shops, water pumps, saws, grain handling in elevators and other processes connected directly to farming, but also to drive industrial mechanisms built on processes as diverse as textile manufacturing, housing and construction, and motor vehicle production. The stationary internal combustion engine, along with the development of stable supplies of petroleum products such as kerosene and gasoline, was the basis for the power source for all early internal combustion tractor designs. With the advent of mobility, they would mark a turning point in the evolution of agricultural power sources that continue to dominate in agricultural equipment design to this day. In addition, the military applications of agricultural technology are legion. The current standard of mechanized warfare, the tank, was based on an early design of what we now call the caterpillar tractor. Parallel developments in areas such as electronics brought about the invention of the magneto, without which the (non-diesel) internal combustion design could not have been implemented.

Why Build Tractors

The impetus to start building tractors resulted from advances in other farm technologies. Separators and threshing machines available in the later part of the 19th century required greater power with a degree of stability that could not be provided by the so-called horse-powers (horse driven mechanisms) that were the pre-existing standard of the day. This caused farm machinery companies to begin designing and building stationary and later mobile traction steam engines. The Aultman & Taylor company, though not the first into this market, realized that (steam) tractors were the future of agricultural technology and in 1876 the ‘Aultman & Taylor Farm Engine’ was born.To sell its first traction engine, a group of seven men considered experts in the field of steam power were invited to witness its operation and render a judgement. They proclaimed, in part, that “The points named by us, taken in connection with the general excellence of the Aultman-Taylor traction engine, are so important as to lead us to say that, unquestionably, in our opinion, this engine is worth to any purchaser more than any traction engine in the market; and as it meets and overcomes all the objections ever made to traction engines, it must find a very general and, we cannot help but feel, an enormous demand.”

It was not long before farmers realized that a mobile tractor could also pull a multi-gang plough and cultivate vastly more territory than a horse could hope to. With the development of mowers and binders, the mobility of the tractor served to amplify the impact of this new technology on farm practise and productivity.

The Aultman-Taylor Machinery Company

The company, Aultman, Taylor & Company, was created in 1867 by Cornelius Aultman and H.H. Taylor. Aultman & Taylor built a variety of machinery, including saw mills, steam engines, and threshing machines in their Ohio factory. In 1878 they were the largest manufacturer of threshing machinery in the United States. By the late 1880’s their factory occupied an area of over 35 acres. Their first gasoline tractor was created in 1910. The 30-60 was introduced between 1910 and 1911 and built to 1924. In 1924, Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company was purchased by Advance Rumely. A combination of the collapse of the commodities market and a diminished need to break new land signalled the end of the days of the very large tractors. Aultman & Taylor attempted to market a new smaller tractor, the 15-30, but they had hired an engineer from Advance Rumely to oversee the design, whose abilities were, without putting too fine a point on it, manifestly limited. This small tractor suffered reliability problems and was never produced in significant numbers. The last examples of the 30-60 model were assembled and sold by Advance Rumely with parts acquired in the purchase. These later units can be identified by the absence of a serial number on the rear axle.

Starving Rooster LogoThe Aultman-Taylor company logo depicted here says something about the character of the founders. One version of its origin explains that in their efforts to market threshing equipment, it was said that their machinery lost so little grain that it would not feed a rooster.

The Founders

The single most comprehensive and definitive account of the founders of this once great company is in the form a book written by one Dr. Lorin Bixler, Cornelius Aultman, C. Aultman & Co., and the Aultman Co.

It seems that the human spirit is at its peak of creativity after a great trial, and this may explain the incredible burst of industrial prowess and invention in the United States following the catastrophe that was the civil war. The story of the Aultman and Taylor collaboration is the story born of that creative explosion which, when coupled with the entrepreneurial spirit, and a lot of money, saw an eruption of science and engineering innovation that continues to this day. These were the days of individual achievement. There was no government funding of research and development, so whatever inventions that came about were required to pay for themselves in commerce. Even more importantly, the inventors and entrepreneurs of the period following the civil war up to the 1920’s had little in the way of prior art to draw from in forming their technology based business model. Steam power dominated for much of this time in both agricultural and industrial applications. So the question arises, how can a company introduce a brand new technological concept in the form of a farm tractor based on the internal combustion engine, to an extremely demanding market with an entrenched hostility to change?

The Aultman -Taylor 30-60 Farm Tractor

By the early 20th century the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company had already overcome much resistance to innovation in the agriculture industry through leadership, force of will, and building their business on solid and reliable equipment, primarily threshing machinery. It also did not hurt that at the time Henry Taylor became involved with the Aultman Company the west was in the process of being settled and cultivated. Mr. Taylor brought considerable business acumen to the operation of this new company that was critical to its stable financial foundation. The building of the western railroad and the passage of the Homestead Bill lay the groundwork for unprecedented growth in the agricultural sector in the U.S. As such, the need for ever more productive machinery drove the growth of those enterprises with enough foresight and intestinal fortitude to get into the act.

For the purposes of this document, we adjust the timeline to the latter part of the history of the company, bearing in mind that the reputation built over the years since the civil war would figure prominently in the acceptance the new fangled Gas Tractor that the company was about to introduce in the period between 1910 and 1911. This was the time of the birth of the Aultman & Taylor 30-60 self-propelled engine. Over time, the company built other versions such as the 22-45, but the 30-60 was the most successful.

The Birth of a Technology

The gas tractor came about largely as a result of the early success of gasoline powered automobiles, which led to calls for the adaptation of this technology to farm applications. The Inventors of the 30-60 tractor were faced with one fundamental conundrum. What should this new tractor look like, and how can it overcome market resistance and competition? Steam traction engines were in intense competition with gas tractors at this time and even the Aultman & Taylor Company had been producing a successful bevel gear steam powered model for 26 years. There were reports describing how a manufacturer of a steam tractor would not ship their equipment on a train if it was also carrying a gas tractor!

First mention of building gasoline powered tractors was recorded in a committee meeting held on July 1, 1906, where a Mr. Arnold Kalmerten expressed his interest in a certain gasoline engine patent available at the time. The committee, made up as well of James Reynolds and G.W. Gans, was tasked to investigate this engine. This committee was empowered to act independently and did not report to the board of directors. They decided to proceed with a tractor design and the first tractor was sold on July1, 1910. Ultimately the firm was to build some 4500 tractors, mostly of the 30-60 model. So it came to be that the first Aultman & Taylor gas tractor was literally built around a pre-existing engine. This was common practice at the time. In fact, the engine they adopted was sold separately by them as a power source for grain elevators, sawmills, and other enterprises in need of industrial power.

What they came up with was in form not unlike the steam traction engines that dominated the 19th and early 20th century market for mobile power on the farm. At over 24,000 pounds, it is truly a behemoth! It also has a vaguely unfinished look about it, due to the peculiar design of the radiator. This radiator design was touted in promotional literature as: “The most effective cooling system ever used“. Early Aultman-Taylor With Rectangular RadiatorTheir first tractor, named “Old Trusty” was built in 1910 and was still running in 1920!

At the risk of presuming to know the minds of the designers of a piece of equipment more than 100 years old, it is possible to make some educated guesses as to what drove them to build this tractor at the scale and with the materials ultimately used.

Market Acceptance: It is reasonable to speculate that to gain market acceptance it made sense to build this tractor in a form resembling the dominant mobile power unit, the steam traction engine or, as it was known at the time, the ‘ground locomotive’. These steam tractors were built on the scale of a small railway engine largely to provide enough water storage in the boiler to achieve adequate endurance. Consequently and somewhat ironically, the accepted standard of the day for tractors was huge! This size was needed in part to provide the mass required to haul a multi-gang plough through untilled earth, as much of the early farm land was as yet unbroken.


Strength and Reliability: Materials available for the construction of this type of machinery consisted largely of mild steel and cast iron. The principal way to achieve continued integrity in the face of repetitive strain and heavy loads encountered in normal farm use was to use design overkill. This was not a place for carefully crafted equations of ductile and tensile strengths and load harmonics to achieve the optimal endurance to weight ratios used commonly in today’s designs. Instead, massive castings and heavy metal stock were the norm. The exception was the engine cylinders.

The firm stated, "The cylinders are cast from a mixture of semi-steel of a special chemical analysis so that they will wear smooth and hard as glass. Contrast this with soft-coarse grained cast iron as used by many other tractor builders. The cylinder heads are cast in pairs, and secured to the cylinders by heavy stud bolts provided with copper asbestos gaskets. These heads can be readily and easily removed to clean out carbon deposits in combustion chambers. To secure best results from an internal combustion engine, carbon deposits must not be permitted."

Aultman-Taylor EnginePower to Weight Ratio: The power plant designs available were based on the then ubiquitous stationary engine. These were not particularly efficient engines so they tended to have a large bore and stroke (in this case 7 inch bore by 9 inch stroke times 4 cylinders) to achieve enough power to allow the machine to be self propelled with enough left over to do some useful work. That meant a robust frame to hold the rather large casting that formed the engine block needed to develop the 50 to 74 hp of this unit. Some effort was made to reduce overall weight, particularly by casting the cylinders in pairs, but it was still very heavy! The crankshaft was milled to 1/1000 inch.

Throttle Free Power: This tractor operated at a typical constant engine speed, with a maximum of 550 rpm, and was controlled by a governor mechanism similar to those used in other stationary engine designs of the day. The main difference was that the fly ball governor was located internal to the engine housing and could be set via an external lever to change the speed of the engine over a range of 125 to 550 rpm. Consequently power had to be delivered to the belt drive pulley and the main drive wheels in a fashion that called for large gear ratios in order to reduce rotation speeds to acceptable limits. Since most farm tractors operated in the range of 1.5 to 2.5 mph, the final drive (bull) gear on this model had to be huge!

Simple Operation: This tractor used a single lever control patented by Aultman & Taylor.

Carburation: The discovery that fuel could be mixed in controlled portions with air is a fundamental technological discovery that made internal combustion (gas) engines possible. The 30-60 had a so-called 2 ½ inch Kingston carburetor. The intake manifold was designed by Aultman-Taylor specifically to handle kerosene and lower grade fuels.

Ignition System: A battery was provided for starting and a magneto for normal operation. The battery had 15 cells in water-tight cases. The magneto is the so-called low tension type, with no brushes or commutators to wear out or adjust. The wires connecting the magneto to the spark plugs were sealed in metal conduit to prevent damage.

The Frame: One of the more outstanding features of the 30-60 tractor was the use of what is described as a ‘locomotive truss’ frame. Aultman-Taylor Locomotive Truss FrameThe triangular shapes in this frame assembled from stock flat bar meant that a high degree of rigidity could be achieved while leaving ample space for the attachment of non-frame components. One of the problems these early tractors had to overcome was vibration from the engine caused by a combination of low rpm and a non-counterbalanced crankshaft. Most of the stability came from a large flywheel but there were still significant harmonic stresses. Engines were mounted along the long axis of the tractor to counter this. Repetitive strain failures were common in tractors of this era, and most of the time the problem was handled with over-engineering. This resulted in some very heavy machines!


Selling in a Hostile Market: Building a new tractor design was no guarantee of market acceptance. Makers of tractors during the first years of the 20th century were notorious for exaggerating or falsifying the qualities of their equipment. It got so bad that some jurisdictions mandated that a tractor could not be sold in their region without passing a battery of tests administered by an independent body, often a university engineering department. It was also common practice to denigrate the competition. For example, steam engines were routinely described by gas tractor vendors as being an explosion and fire hazard. While there were some examples where this was the case, the problem was greatly exaggerated by competitors. The Aultman & Taylor 30-60 did well in independent tests, and achieved a reputation for reliability that greatly helped in market acceptance.

The Role of Sand Casting

Aultman-Taylor Steering AssemblyIn the early part of the 20th century welding was in its infancy, materials technology was rudimentary, and it was nearly impossible to create complex shapes needed by the new designs using available flat metal stock or beams connected by bolts or rivets. Fortunately, a method for moulding metal shapes from molten metal has existed for thousands of years prior to this, and these methods, using melted steel or iron in sand moulds, was adapted to shape the new tractor creations. Look closely at key components of the Altman-Taylor tractor to see surface pebbling indicating the presence of the sand mold.


The controlling mechanism of the 30-60 was touted in promotional literature as being unique to this tractor, and was about as simple as it could get. Movement of the tractor, and engagement of the main drive pulley, was achieved with two clutches operated by one lever. The owner’s manual states “The forward traction clutch is of the universal controlling type, and is provided with three leather-faced shoes which are interchangeable and may be replaced in a very few minutes.” The backing up gear and the belt-pulley are operated by the same clutch. It uses hardwood shoes reflecting the tendency of designers of this era to use materials that are both familiar to them and freely available. The design where both clutches were controlled by a single lever was patented by Aultman-Taylor Gas Engines.

Placing the lever in the center position put the machine in neutral. Throwing it forward engages the clutch for forward movement, pushing it back put the machine in reverse.


Most maintenance consisted of keeping gravity fed oil reservoirs topped up. The 30-60 at Pioneer Acres was refitted in the fairly recent part to replace these gravity oilers with grease nipples which are, for the most part, easier to get at.

Starting Procedure

The original stating procedure for the 30-60 involved the use of a large crank handle attached to the main flywheel and was dangerous to say the least! Currently power to crank the engine is supplied by another (newer) tractor via a belt to the main drive pulley.

The Pioneer Acres Aultman-Taylor 30-60

This tractor was donated to Pioneer Acres in May of 1970 by Louis, George and Simon Roppel. More about this in the section on Mike Page, a founding member.

The Aultman-Taylor 15-30

This was the smallest tractor built by the company, and featured a completely enclosed bonnet. This was the brainchild of E.I. Brunger, formerly of Advance Rumely, who was appointed as Works Manager, and who attempted this design in an unsuccessful attempt to emulate the form of the Rumely Oil-Pull. Note the abandonment of the truss frame in favour of the Rumely type twin I-beam. Reynolds Museum Aultman-Taylor 15-30It was rated to pull 4 – 14 inch ploughs and was one of the first with 6 speeds. Many of the tractors of this model sold from 1917 to 1919 were considered to be defective, and the model never sold in large numbers. During this time, the Fordson came on the market, and the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company lost its competitive advantage.

Another more subtle but equally important factor was playing out in the ultimate demise of the Aultman & Taylot Machinery Company. The company had outlived its founders, and was now being run by what may be charitably described as a less inspired management group. This happens all too often with successful technology companies. It has been proven repeatedly that standard management school techniques are no substitute for inspired leadership and entrepreneurial genius. Thus, in spite of bearing the name of two of the true giants of the 19th century agricultural technology revolution, the fate of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company was sealed.