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Enthusiasts gather to celebrate birthday of Moline tractors

JOSLIN, Ill. — On Sept. 13-15 collectors of the Moline Universal D tractors gathered to celebrate the 103rd birthday of their tractors. The Moline Plow Company itself hails all the way back to 1852. The Universal tractor came about in 1915 and this 2-cylinder horizontal tractor was adjusted for horses. In 1916, the company built a new factory in Rock Island to manufacture the brand new Moline Universal D.

Part of the fun at the show was that many of these 100-year old tractors took part in the parade and a few plowed in field after the corn was harvested. Visitors and collectors alike got a chance to see these old beauties in running condition!

During the show there was an Ice Cream Social where collectors gathered and shared stories. There were 27 tractors from 10 states that included: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, and Colorado.

Loren Book, the organizer of the event said he has been working with Paul Searle of the ATTA club for about two years to get the event together. Aumann Auctions and Theisen’s Farm & Home Store were honored as sponsors that assisted with the funding the event. Sales of promotional items also offset the cost as well.

Paul Searle who is a member of both the Moline group and the ATTA club owns a 1920 D Moline Universal. “It was at Bud Ellis’s Dealership in Atkinson, Ill., during the 1960s and 70s,” hesaid.

The Ellis Dealership had been a Moline dealership and Searle was able to purchase the tractor. “It had not been running when I bought it,” he added.

Searle and his father Rollo worked on the tractor and have enjoyed showing it at the ATTA.

“Two years ago, Loren approached me about this,” Paul said about the Moline Universal birthday celebration. “We put together a proposal then spread the word about having a gathering since the factory closed in 1923.”

The show was like a Moline Universal showroom where Paul said they had all the Universal Moline models including the forerunner, the Universal Motor Cultivator which was built around 1914! “Moline purchased the company, the Universal Tractor Company. They had been building the implements and the Universal tractor Co. of Columbus Ohio built the tractor. I have seen lots of models I never saw before, like the Road Tractor that was donated to the University of Purdue.”

Memorabilia was also part of the show. Mike Jahn, Dan Shima and Loren Book all brought literature and memorabilia to share. Mike Jahn set up at the Rock Island Historical Society in Rock Island where the company began. He encouraged collectors to come to the Historical Society to see some of his items. “My oldest item is an 1870 piece of literature. Moline was well known for their colorful advertising,” Mike shared.

Dan Shima and Loren Book were set up at the show with some amazing signs, literature and collectibles as well. Next to the display was a video sharing the history of the company as well.

The oldest operator at the show was Jim Hidy who was just shy of 90. Jim hails from Grover City, Ohio, which is near Columbus. His daughter Carol Hidy from Rochester, N.Y., and son also named Jim from Sebastopol, Calif., brought their dad to the show when they learned about the reunion. During the Ice Cream Social, Jim Hidy’s son said, “Dad would take me to shows. When I was 14, he found his Moline in a barn fire. He wanted one because his father farmed with one. I was there when he pulled it out of the ground. It was 30 years till it ran. When I heard about this show, I could hear his excitement. It meant a lot to be here with dad.”

The person who traveled the farthest was Melvin Huyard who came from Butler, Tenn., driving more than 800 miles. He brought his 1920 Moline Universal Model D.

Melvin wrote out the story of his tractor to share with others. “This tractor was purchased in 2015 from the original owner’s son. Until then it had spent its entire life in the Mississippi Delta. The tractor had been under water during the flood of 1927 and again in 1932 when a levee on the Mississippi River broke. In the early 1980s the tractor’s engine was taken apart. At some point the parts were placed in a barrel and left. Open to the elements, a lot of damage occurred. None of the gears in the transmission could be saved.”

He added that he had to make several of the parts, but he added, “The original float in the carburetor is made of wood. It was sanded, resealed and is still in use in the tractor today.”

Melvin also brought his 1/6 scale his Fairbanks & Morris tractor hooked up to a working mini hay press! Melvin said, “This is modeled after a 1910 Fairbanks & Morris tractor.”

One family had some special history with the company. “Grandpa was a dealer in Yuma, Colo. The dealership was called, Mitchell Implement,” granddaughter Gay shared. “He passed in 1958 and dad took over until 1995. When grandpa bought the Moline Universal, he set it up in front of the dealership. Dad got to drive it a couple times. Mom came with us too so she is enjoying this weekend.”

The entire Mitchell family took time at the Ice Cream Social to gather round the cardboard cut out of the Flying Dutchman which represented the company for several years. The family included Dorothy Mitchell (Mom) Gay, her husband Henry and their son Cliff.

Each day of the show, collectors had a chance to see celebrate the birthday of the Universal Moline! For questions, contact Loren Book at 515-231-6334 or



2614- These signs are some of the memorabilia that Dan Shima had at the Universal Moline D birthday celebration.

2485-Ruth and Loren Book on their 1920 Moline Plow Company Universal D orchard tractor.

2560-The Mitchell family had once had a dealership in Yuma, Colo.  They posed with the cardboard cutout of the Flying Dutchman.  The family included Dorothy Mitchell (Mom) Gay, her husband Henry and their son Cliff.



 2645- Paul Searle stands beside his Universal Moline tractor.

2562-Mike Jahn and Dan Shima share stories at the Ice Cream social

2539- Melvin and Ann Huyard with his miniature Fairbanks & Morris tractor