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The Ford-Ferguson handshake agreement.

In 1938, Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson made their famous "handshake agreement" at Ford's Fairlane family estate. Ferguson, a prolific inventor born in Growell, County Down, Ireland, had developed a multiple-point linkage that would force a tractor down as opposed to the pivoting and overturning action experienced in earlier pulled-plow arrangements. He further integrated automatic control of plow depth with the hydraulic system to raise and lower implements. His innovative hydraulic three-point hitch system was utilized in England on tractors produced by Brown-Ferguson in 1936.

Ford's mass production techniques of his Fordson tractor revolutionized the tractor market in the era from 1918 to 1928. However, Ford's interest had waned for the agricultural market as he concentrated on the automobile industry. This interest was reversed completely when he saw the advantages of the Ferguson system, and the "handshake agreement" took place in October 1938. Ferguson was to be in charge of design changes as well as sales and marketing. Ford would undertake the manufacturing. A prototype was developed and showcased for distributors on June 12, 1939, followed by a public exhibition on June 29. Ford had a small boy operate the tractor-plow combination to show the ease of operation. The Ford tractor was introduced in the United States as the Ford 9N at approximately 28 hp and a $600 price tag.

World War II curtailed further development in tractor design, but Ford produced approximately 200,000 model 2N tractors with steel wheels and a magneto during the war years. The Ford-Ferguson relationship came to an end with Henry Ford's death in 1947. His son, Henry Ford II, had assumed control of Ford Motor Company in 1945. Ford's unauthorized use of the Ferguson system on the 1947 Ford 8N led to a Ferguson lawsuit of $340 million for patent infringements.


In 1952 Henry Ferguson received a settlement amount of $9.25 million, but the court refused to renew his patent citing its major importance to agriculture and all tractor manufacturers. Both companies went their separate ways, with Ford continuing to manufacture their own tractors. Ferguson had the TE (tractor England) and TO (tractor overseas) series and later teamed with the Canadian firm Massey-Harris to form Massey-Harris-Ferguson, later Massey-Ferguson.

Ferguson continued inventing, later working on car safety via all-wheel drive and anti-lock braking. He died Oct. 25, 1960. His three-point hitch system has been an integral part of farm tractors manufactured since World War II.

ASABE member William M. Miller is professor emeritus at the University of Florida, 863-956-1151,


HARRY FERGUSON, a tractor manufacturer in England and Ireland, developed the Ferguson tractor--a scale model rests on the table. His system of tractor-implement integration utilized a hitch, whereby the linkages and controls made the tractor and implement work as a single unit operated almost entirely from the tractor seat. Ferguson, desiring an American market, entered into an agreement with Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Co. to manufacture the tractor in the United States. Ford began making the tractors in 1939, but the agreement was terminated after World War II, and Ferguson himself began manufacturing in Great Britain.

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Title Annotation:Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson, Ford Motor Co.
Author:Miller, William M.
Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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