Wilmot F. Crozier and Tractor Testing in Nebraska

The Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory, established in 1920, is the officially designated tractor testing station for the United States. It all started with Wilmot F. Crozier being duped into buying a fake Ford tractor.

The Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory (NTTL) was established in 1920 in response to requirements of the Nebraska Tractor Test Act of 1919, which required all agricultural tractors sold and advertised in Nebraska to have manufacturers’ performance claims verified by the Tractor Test Laboratory. The act was vigorously promoted by Wilmot F. Crozier of Osceola, a state representative who purchased a tractor that did not perform as advertised. Crozier thought he had purchased a Ford, but afterward discovered that the manufacturer had hired a man with the surname of Ford and was using the man’s name to confuse consumers.

In an interview published in the Implement and Tractor Trade Journal, Crozier said: “I have watched the development of the tractor industry from its infancy, and have followed many a queer-looking contraption around the demonstration fields, that purported to be able to replace my long-eared mule in front of a gang plow. The successive years of development proved to me beyond a doubt that the tractor, in some form, was the agricultural implement the American farmer had been looking for, lo these many years. I began investing a little money in the things, that is, I invested in the cheapest one that had wheels. I soon found out that wheels and cast iron are of no value unless you have power to turn them when they are hitched to something. After operating, or attempting to operate, two excuses for tractors, I finally invested my money in a machine that would really do what the company said it would. Then I began wondering if there wasn’t some way to induce all tractor companies to tell the truth.”

Crozier then worked with State Senator Charles J. Warner of Waverly, and in 1919, the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill requiring that any agricultural tractor sold in the state must have its advertised performance claims verified by a board of three engineers. The Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory was established in 1920 in response to the Nebraska Tractor Test Act of 1919. The first tractor successfully tested in the lab in 1920 was a John Deere Waterloo Boy. Since 1919, the state has continued to test tractors to ensure reliability standards.

The Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum is housed in the original Nebraska Tractor Test facility on the East Campus of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The building was declared an historic landmark by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers and dedicated as a museum in 1980. On May 2, 1998, the museum was officially named to honor Lester F. Larsen (1908-2000), the chief engineer for the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory from 1946 to 1975. Larsen was instrumental in initiating the collection of historic tractor test equipment and in acquiring tractors that illustrate key developments in agricultural machinery.

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