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Cockshutt Tractor Rebuilt
A Cockshutt 30 tractor at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon.
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Cockshutt 30 Full Pull
Cockshutt 30 Tractor Pull at The Northville Heritage Centre In Nova Scotia Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 3rd Annual Apple Blossom Antique Tractor Pull & Show
WATCH the video demonstration (link above) of a Cockshutt 30 Tractor Pull at The Northville Heritage Centre In Nova Scotia Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 3rd Annual Apple Blossom Antique Tractor Pull & Show
The name Cockshutt is a familiar one on the prairies. In the late 1800s, this company brand could be found on horse-drawn carts, plows, and discers. By the mid 1900s, the Cockshutt name was on combines, war planes, truck bodies, and the ground-breaking Cockshutt 30 tractor.
William H. Cockshutt (Bill) witnessed much of it.
As a boy living in Smiths Falls, Ontario, in the late 1930s, Bill watched as the Cockshutt company evolved from a small foundry that made plows to a multi-million-dollar entity that made bomber fuselages during WWII. In 1947, Cockshutt introduced the first tractor designed and made in Canada, which also incorporated the world’s first Live Power Take Off (LPTO) system—a great help to farmers across North America.
“When I was 11 or 12, the factory was in our backyard,” says Bill, who is now retired to Wolseley, SK, with his wife Helen. “I would throw my books in the door and I would wander through the factory to watch the manufacturing process.”
The Cockshutt implement story starts in 1877. That’s when James Cockshutt, Bill’s great uncle, founded a small manufacturing company in Brantford, Ontario, called the Brantford Plow Works.
James, a young mechanic, backed by his merchant father, Ignatius Cockshutt, made inroads in western Canada by creating the first plows designed specifically for breaking prairie sod. The J.G.C. Riding Plow was the first plow designed and built in Canada where the plowman could ride instead of walking behind. It had three key features: 1. The weight of the plowman was directly over the mouldboard to help the plow dig into the tough prairie sod. 2. The mouldboard had totally new curvatures to cut and turn the sod. 3. The main frame, mouldboard, and seat were hung on the axle in such a way that the plow would cut wider in loose soil and narrower in tough soil, making it easier on the horses. The J.G.C. Riding Plow was such a hit with western farmers that thousands were sold, and it deserved the nickname of “the Plow that Broke the West.”
The successors to the Brantford Plow Works were the Cockshutt Plow Company (1882) and the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Co. Ltd (1951). The business philosophy, developed by James and carried throughout the 85 subsequent years of company history, hinged on two concepts: “a satisfied customer is your best advertising” and “keep some money in reserve for a rainy day, so you won’t have to borrow money” (About Cockshutt, page 9.)
By the 1930s and 40s, the Cockshutt Plow Company was making everything from disc plows, seeders, and swathers to automobile bodies and aircraft parts. Bill, who is now 85 years old, remembers to this day the sensation of walking into the foundry.
“The iron would be bright red, hot, and steaming. It was almost fierce or frightening when they poured the hot metal into molds of sand, but when it cooled they took the sand off and you ended up with a part of some kind like a transmission case.”
In 1947, Cockshutt became the first company in Canada to design and build a tractor that achieved marketing success. The Cockshutt 30 was the envy of North American tractor builders who rushed to copy the revolutionary industry-changing LPTO feature. The tractor, priced around $1,500 US at the time, was marketed aggressively under the Co-op name in the northeastern United States.
Bill Cockshutt writes in his book: “By the close of 1948 this full-fledged farm equipment company and fast-growing truck manufacturer had far more to offer than plows and tillage tools. They had excellent combines and tractors, and a revitalized marketing team.”
Employment at the company was at 4,200 (down from a wartime high of 5,000), with the Brantford factory covering 50 acres, which featured a million square feet of manufacturing floor space. The net operating profit for the year was $1,890,619 with the total assets of the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Co. Ltd. being $20,013,408.
At this time, Bill Cockshutt was a 20-year-old engineering student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. His family’s company was being operated by his uncle, C. Gordon Cockshutt.
“My uncle said, ‘You’re not doing very well at university, so why don’t you get out of there and go to work. In fact, you can start now,” recalls Bill. That’s when Bill Cockshutt’s marketing career began.
“It was a magical time because our products were so good that they did a superior job. It was nice to work with a farmer on a combine in the field and show him how to get a cleaner sample in the tank.”
Bill rose in the ranks of the Cockshutt sales team, eventually becoming a branch manager based in Kansas City. In 1958, he married the love of his life, a Saskatchewan girl from Wolseley.
In 1962, the company was flourishing with Bill’s uncle Gordon as president and Bill’s dad, William Ashton Cockshutt, as president of a subsidiary company called the Brantford Coach and Body Company.
And then disaster struck, swiftly and unexpectedly.
For the full story find Christalee Froese's article "Bill and the Brand that Broke the West", page 19, in the Winter 2013 issue of Prairies North Magazine.
WATCH the video demonstration (link at top of this article) of a Cockshutt 30 Tractor Pull at The Northville Heritage Centre In Nova Scotia Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 3rd Annual Apple Blossom Antique Tractor Pull & Show
About the Author: Christalee Froese has degrees in Journalism and Political Studies and has been the editor of weekly & daily newspapers. She operates West Words Communications from her home office in Montmartre, Saskatchewan, Canada.
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