John Lauson Manufacturing Co., New Holstein, Wisconsin, USA
Lauson 20-40 Special for Threshermen and Road Builders
John Lauson was born into a family of German immigrants who had settled near New Holstein, Wisconsin. After John's father passed away in 1882, it was not long before he became a full partner in the company, and a new workshop was subsequently opened to repair and build steam traction engines and related equipment. In 1895, John's brother Henry joined the firm - he had previously worked for a gas engine company in Chicago, and within a few years the brothers had produced their own design of engine. By 1904 this had evolved into the Lauson "Frost King" engine, which went on to establish an enviable reputation both at home and overseas.
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By 1916 the company had introduced its first tractor, a modern design with enclosed engine compartment and a canopy that gave the driver some protection from the elements. By the 1920s a range of models was being offered, with the largest of these also available with various enhancements for threshing and road-building applications. Lauson bought in engines for their tractors from outside suppliers rather than build their own, and these included Erd, Beaver, LeRoi and Wisconsin power units. Tractors were exported as far afield as Russia and Australia, and soon developed the same reputation for high quality as the company's gas engines. By the late 1920s, however, the depression was beginning to take its toll and an agreement was reached with Nichols & Shepard to market Lauson tractors in an effort to boost sales. Sadly this was not enough, and the Lauson company was eventually wound up in the 1935.
Note: As well as a horsepower rating, most Lauson tractors were also given a model designation, although it is unclear exactly what this signifies. Serial plates on the 12-25 and 16-32/20-35 carry the letter "S" followed by a number, which seems to have increased with successive batches of tractors that perhaps incorporated various improvements? The 20-40 carries the letters "TB", although the numbering system was not used in this case.
15-25 / 20-35
Advertisement for Lauson 15-25 from 1919 (click on image to enlarge)
The Lauson 15-25 and 20-35 were introduced together around 1916 and were externally very similar, with a fully-enclosed engine compartment and hard wooden cab. The 15-25 was initially equipped with an Erd 4 x 6 in engine, but was later replaced with a Beaver Model JA - this was a four-cylinder, overhead-valve design with the cylinders cast in a single block, a bore and stroke of 4.5 x 6 in and an operating speed of 950 rpm. The engine in the 20-35 was a Model JB of 4.75 x 6 in. Both tractors used a Kingston carburettor and a Dixie high-tension magneto and had two forward speeds and one reverse. The 15-25 weighed in at 5000 lbs, while the 20-35 was quite a bit heavier at 7300 lbs. Another noticeable difference was the size of the drive wheels: 54 in diameter and 12 in wide on the 15-25 compared with 66 in diameter and 16 in wide on the 20-35. Later versions of these tractors featured a folding canvas canopy in place of the hard cab. By 1920 the 15-25 was being advertised as the "Full Jewelled" tractor, carrying over the terminology used for high-quality watches; in this case, it referred to the 24 Hyatt and Timken heavy duty roller and ball bearings used in its construction.
The 15-25 and 20-35 were replaced by the 15-30, which was fitted with a Beaver JB 4.75 x 6 in engine running at 950 rpm, and was tested at Nebraska in 1920; the 15-30 was also available in a "road tractor" version with 16 in wide solid cast rear wheels and special road lugs.
The Lauson 12-25 was advertised as a "three-plow" tractor. It used a fully-enclosed Midwest overhead-valve engine with 4.125" bore and 5.25" stroke that ran at 1100 rpm (later 1200 rpm), and featured a Kingston Model L carburettor and Dixie magneto. It was marginally lighter than the 15-25, at 4900 lbs, and retailed for $1595 in the USA and £475 in the UK. When tested at Nebraska, it developed a maximum of 20.91 hp at the drawbar and 37.38 hp on the belt. Tractors in preservation recorded so far carry the S3 and S4 model designation.
The Lauson S6 does not seem to appear in any of the company's advertising, but a handful of survivors are known to exist. Externally it resembles the 12-25 model, but it uses a Wisconsin Model W 4.125 x 5 in engine rather than a Midwest power unit. No horsepower rating is given for this tractor.
The 20-40 was introduced in the mid 1920s and was a heavier-duty tractor than its predecessors. As well as the standard farm tractor version, it was also offered as a "Special" for use by threshermen and road builders. Among the features listed for these were dual foot brakes as standard, front and rear drawbar for a thresher, special road or heavy angle iron lugs, canopy, whistle, radiator guard and special brake for thresher work. Both the Threshermen's Special and Road Builders' Special also featured round-spoke rather than flat-spoke rear wheels, which were 20 in wide compared to on 16 in on the standard version (12 in rear wheels were also available). The 20-40 used a Beaver Model JM engine with 4.75 in bore and 6 in stroke running at 1040 rpm; this was coupled with a Kingston L3 carburettor, American Bosch ZR4 magneto and Taco air-washer and governor. The very first 20-40s had a flat bonnet, while on later ones the edges of the bonnet sides sloped downwards giving it a tapered appearance. It is thought that the standard Farm Tractor version was given the model designation TBF, while the road tractor was known as the TBR model.
16-32 / 20-35
Advertisement for Lauson 22-35 6S from 1930 (click on image to enlarge)
The second half of the 1920s saw the introduction of the new 16-32 model - initially it seems this used a Beaver engine with the cylinders in a single block, but this was soon replaced by a LeRoi JA 4.5 x 6 in unit with cylinders cast in pairs and an operating speed of 1100 rpm. A Lauson 16-32 with Kingston L3 carburettor and American Bosch ZR4 magneto was tested at Nebraska in the spring of 1927 and it produced almost 29 hp on the drawbar and nearly 37 hp on the belt. Following this test, the 16-32 seems to have been re-rated as a 20-35 - the following spring a 20-35 S12 with exactly the same engine as the 16-32 (but Tillotson R2 carburettor) was submitted for testing. Tractors recorded in preservation so far show the 16-32 with model designation S9, and the 20-35 with model designations S11 up to S17.
The Lauson 25-45, which emerged around 1928, was Lauson's first tractor to use a six-cylinder engine - in this case a LeRoi Model JAS 4.5 x 6 in unit, which was basically a 6cyl version of the engine in the 16-32/20-35, and used a Tillotson carburettor and American Bosch magneto. The tractor was aimed mainly at threshing contractors, and 20-inch wide rear wheels were optional in place of the standard 16-inch ones.
The 22-35 was Lauson's last model, introduced in 1930 and listed until 1937. Like the 25-45, it used a six-cylinder power unit, but this time it was a Wisconsin Model L2 with an unusual 3.875 in bore and 5.1 in stroke. As well as carrying the model name 6S, the 22-35 was also described in advertising as the "Light Six", and it was mentioned that it was being produced alongside the 6cyl 25-45 and 4cyl models.
N.B. It has been reported that after the end of Lauson tractor production in the 1930s, a batch of a dozen or so tractors were assembled from parts - these used a four-cylinder Wisconsin engine of unknown model and were given a 12-24 hp rating (see Gas Engine Magazine, Dec/Jan 1996).
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Lauson S6 (serial no. 2920) at the Booleroo Steam & Traction Preservation Society Museum, Booleroo Centre, South Australia in 2007.
Lauson (Nichols & Shepard) 16-32 S9 (serial no. 3439) at Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Rollag, Minnesota, USA in 2011.
Lauson (Nichols & Shepard) 16-32 S9 (serial no. 3495) at Pioneer Village, Minden, Nebraska, USA in 2011.
Lauson 20-35 S15 (serial no. 4056) at the Vooroorlogse Tractorshow Bergeijk (Netherlands) in 2008.
Lauson 20-35 at the Great Dorset Steam Fair (UK) in 2003.
Lauson 16-32 or 20-35 with replacement six-cylinder engine at the Pioneer Power Show, Le Sueur, Minnesota, USA in 2011.
Lauson 25-45 6T1 (serial no. 4034) at the Dome Valley Museum, Arizona (USA) in 2005. The museum's collection was dispersed at auction in 2007 and the tractor now resides in a private collection in North Carolina.
Lauson 25-45 6T1 (serial no. 4125) at the Vooroorlogse Tractorshow Bergeijk (Netherlands) in 2011.
Lauson 22-35 6S (serial no. 4583) at the Vooroorlogse Tractorshow Bergeijk (Netherlands) in 2011.
Lauson 22-35 6S (serial no. 4657) at Pioneer Village, Minden, Nebraska, USA in 2011.
I would like to thank Kent McMakin and Bud Tierney for their help with compiling the information on this page.
Copyright © 2006-2014 David Parfitt. All rights reserved.