Movie Monday: Vintage Tractors

Image: A film still from a vintage tractor demonstration (Fonds 605, Paul Pivert fonds)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.

Agriculture is synonymous with the Peace Country. The bountiful farmland is what drew settlers to the area in the early 1900s, and for more than a century farming has played an essential part in shaping the culture and economy of the region. In 2006, the Peace Country boasted a total of 13.5% of Alberta’s cropland – the second largest cropland area in the province.

Early settlers did much – if not all – of the labour on their homesteads by hand or with the help of livestock. It wasn’t until after the First World War that gas-powered tractors began to appear in the South Peace. These early gasoline models (having evolved from steam-powered models known as ‘ground locomotives’) had 20- to 30-horsepower engines. Steel wheels with cleats were the norm for the first few years until rubber wheels were introduced. Comfort was not a priority as early tractor models were being developed; as seen in the video below, even machines in the 1960s did not have cabs. It was in the 1970s that canopies and cabs became more popular.

Comparing these machines to what we see on farms today causes one to marvel at the seemingly primitive resources available to farmers in the first three quarters of the 20th century. Yet to those who had gotten their start with a two-horse team and a scythe, these early gasoline-powered tractors would have been revolutionary.