Sunday, April 21, 2013

Willys-Overland Industrial Equipment Book, Part One- Farm Implements

This is finally one of my projects that I’ve had in mind that I’ve wanted to include here on the site for a long time now. I’ve seen a few of these Industrial Equipment Books for sale in the recent past, but they don’t come down the pike very often and when they do they go for big bucks. I was lucky enough to win this three ring binder filled with Willys-Overland dealer information. It was a sales item that allowed the dealer to easily show off the plethora of equipment that was available for purchase straight from the dealership at the time of purchase. It also convincingly showed off the multiple uses that the jeep could be put through. 
This binder dates from roughly May 1952 (to judge by the enclosed letter of introduction from the head of Farm Sales for Willys...), less than one year from the demise of W-O and the buyout by Kaiser. It was of course, an interesting time for the world at large and America in particular. Farming was one of those many occupations that was being changed dramatically in part by advances in science as well the overall increase in the American economy. Prior to the 1940’s, “only one-third of farms had electricity to run refrigerators or washing machines in the house or lights and milking machines in the barn. Only 25 percent of farms had telephones.” (
But even before the war farming was undergoing remarkable changes. Farmers had to become more and more productive while becoming fewer in numbers. They were able to produce more in less time due to changes in crop varieties, irrigation techniques and pesticides, but one of the biggest of all was the increasingly different and increased uses of machinery. Tractors were getting more powerful and had more horsepower. And they had to as the workforce was rapidly changing. Less kids stayed down on the farm. Cities and factories were where people gravitated towards especially later on driven by the huge post-war boom. Tractors became a necessity and horses as a source of ‘horsepower’ were out. Check out this link for an interesting comparative series of videos between a horse drawn plow and tractors from 1929 to 1997. From a study on American agriculture comes this interesting figure, "Productivity growth was slow before the 1930s... The estimated rate of productivity growth is 0.4 percent in [the period] 1910-1939 per year and 2.0 percent in 1940-1996." (Bruce L. Gardner, “American Agriculture in the Twentieth Century,” (Harvard University Press, 2002) In the short period of a decade productivity had risen five times!
The jeep was naturally a part of this revolution as it had been in the war and so too did Willys-Overland foresee it within the peacetime economy. Its potential, unfortunately was not realized on the farm, though the jeep did see it’s uses blossom elsewhere.
You can read the rest of the article here.

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