I have to admit I’m partial to this little tractor. Don’t know why but I was drawn to it the first time I saw it. It seemed to have some special something that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe it’s the aluminum hood made from war surplus drop tanks used by long range fighter escorts in WW 2. Anyway; as promised in the Jaques Mighty Mite post we return to the 2017 Foothills Antique Power Association of NC Show for another look at the collection owned by Bradley and Candy Richey. This time a Model 16 Ottawa Mule Team tractor.
Ottawa Manufacturing Company’s roots go back to the 1880’s when it was known as Warner Fence Company that manufactured woven wire fence used to contain livestock. They also marketed products under the names of Union Foundries and Warner Manufacturing. The firm was courted by the City of Ottawa, Kansas and production was relocated there in 1904 and the name changed to Ottawa Manufacturing Co. The product line diversified at this time to include post hole diggers, hit and miss engines, windmills and power saws. Gas and kerosene engines became a major part of their business and by 1917 they offered 15 different horsepower engines ranging from 1 ½ to 22 horsepower models.
Over the years the company expanded production into diverse areas that included gas station equipment like gasoline pumps and car lifts. They became a major supplier of brakes for railroad cars. During World War 2 they filled a number of military contracts. In 1949 they decided to get into the lawn and garden tractor business and purchased the rights to the Mighty Mite tractor, along with the parts inventory and tooling from the Jaques Power Saw Co. of Denison, Texas. The Ottawa Mule Team Tractor is therefore a direct descendant of the Mighty Mite.
Ottawa manufactured at least four versions of this tractor.
The Model 15 powered by a 8 hp Briggs model 23 engine.
The Model 15 A with a Wisconsin AEN 8 ½ hp engine.
The Model 16 equipped with a 2 cylinder Wisconsin TE engine rated at 11 hp.
And the Model 17 with a 2 cylinder 13 hp Wisconsin TF power plant.
The total number of these tractors that were made between 1949 and 1951 remains unknown. A common estimate among online sources is about 250 copies but a classified ad published in Popular Science Magazine from August 1949 that I found on books.google.com claimed that over 4,000 were already in use. The website www.raregardentractors.com has published a registry of known surviving examples that list about 75 Mule Team tractors. That seems to me like a high survival rate out of a total of only 250.
1951 proved to be a very bad year for Ottawa Manufacturing Co. The owner, E.L. Warner died from a heart attack early in the year and the river that runs through Ottawa, Kansas flooded in July, completely destroying the factory. The company never recovered from these two disasters. The flood is probably also responsible for destroying any company records that might have otherwise survived.
An ad from the period listed the following specifications for the Mule Team tractors.
Frame: Channel iron with reinforcements.
Clutch: Rockford single dry plate. Spring loaded.
Transmission: Warner, three forward speeds plus reverse.
Differential: Spicer ring gear and pinion.
Final drive: Steel bull gear and pinion sealed in cast iron housing.
Individual rear wheel brakes.
Rear wheels adjustable from 40 ½” to 50 ½”
Ground clearance 17”
Road speed: 9 to 10 mph.
Electric starter, lights, pto, and kerosene carburetor available as options.
www.wellssouth.com Ottawa Manufacturing Company of Ottawa, Kansas by Brian Wayne Wells