Gibson was around before they got into the garden tractor business. Harry Gibson opened a shop in Seattle, Washington that built railroad cars. Early in 1946 the decision was made to jump on the tractor bandwagon by opening a plant in Longmont, Colorado under the direction of Wilbur Gibson that was dedicated to the production of small tractors. According to a local newspaper article that was dated March 2, 1946, the 70 newly hired employees at the Gibson plant had just completed the first 52 Gibson tractors ever produced. Serial numbered tractors 1 to 16 had already been shipped to dealers in Denver.
Gibson designated their first design the model A which was rapidly followed by the D, SD and Super D versions. All were powered by a six hp Wisconsin AEH engine, although some early D’s reportedly were equipped with a 9 hp AHH mill. Three forward speeds plus reverse were provided. Gibson ads claimed it could pull a trailer at 12 mph and plow with 10 or 12 inch bottoms.
An astute observer has probably already been wondering, “what happened to the steering wheel? “ Short answer, there isn’t one. The tall lever on the right side was used to guide the tractor. Push forward to turn left, pull back to turn right. The reason Gibson chose this method is one of those mysteries lost to time. More than one potential customer found the method too awkward to buy the tractor. The A, D and SD models were fitted with the lever. By the time the Super D rolled off the assembly line it had been replaced by a conventional steering wheel.
With the introduction of the Super D, Gibson attempted to address their customers complaints about other shortcomings. A hood and grill were added to protect the engine plus fenders to protect the operator. An electrical system and hydraulics were offered as optional equipment.
A pricelist from 1949 had the Model D selling for $545 and the Model SD at $580. Gibson also offered a line of implements made especially for their tractors. One source that I found placed the total production run for Gibson’s small engine tractors, the models A, D, SD and Super D, at 60,000 units sold in the United States and globally. Gibson also built a Model EF tractor that had a 2 cylinder Wisconsin TF motor. In the early Fifties Gibson made a brief foray into production of full sized farm tractors with the Models H and I, but very few of these were sold.
In the early 50’s Gibson tried it’s hand in other markets beside the tractors. At one point they had a contract to build forklifts for the Navy. They also made a golf cart that they named the Country Clubber. It was also during this period that financial problems began to develop. For a three week period in 1952, workers were laid off and the factory shut down. In August 1954 a company called Western American Industries assumed control of Gibson’s operations. Accounts vary according to the source, but as many as 1000 more model D’s SD’s and Super D’s may have been produced by Western before operations were shut down permanently in 1958 but Gibson Manufacturing ceased to be in 1954.
The Gibson shown in these photos was offered for sale at the Western North Carolina Fall Harvest Days show in 2018. No information about it was displayed. Gibson serial numbers are supposed to be stamped into the frame rail on the right side. I looked this one over carefully but could not find any markings that would help to identify it. My best guess is that it is a model D but as for the year of production, I don’t have a clue.
www.oldirongardentractors.com offers a collection of original source material consisting of Gibson advertising, letters from the manufacturers agent to retailers, and newspaper clippings from the period.
www.gasenginemagazine.com A History of the Gibson Manufacturing Company by Dave Baas published July / August 1985
www.hemmings.com 1947 - ‘52 Gibson Model D by Mike McNessor , published July, 2007