Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Worthington Parkover

The best thing about going to shows is they’re always a learning experience. The Tri-State Antique Power Association Show was no exception. I always see some interesting oddity that I didn’t even know existed. Case in point, the Worthington Parkover.

Charles Campbell Worthington born in Brooklyn New York in 1854 was a second generation industrialist, his father founded the Worthington Pump and Machinery Company. After graduating from Columbia University he joined the family business, inheriting the company when his father died in 1880. The firm produced steam pumps that enjoyed worldwide success and later branched out to produce steam powered automobiles and later still gasoline powered models that did not. In 1899 he sold his holdings in Worthington pump Company and “retired” to pursue his real interest in life, Golf.

He purchased a 5 thousand acre estate that he named Buckwood Park that  included a summer resort complete with country club and golf course. Now that’s a lot of grass, no matter how you cut it. Maintaining the greens and fairways was a formidable and time consuming task and his game was not improving as a consequence. Something had to be done! Sir Charles, as he was now known ( a reward for his company’s pumps contribution to expanding the British Empire ) was familiar with the traditional method of dealing with the problem having played the links of Scotland. His first recourse was to import a herd of sheep complete with shepherd and border collies. The result was less than optimal and the guest complained about the effect the byproducts were having on their golf shoes. Back to the drawing board, literally. He designed a series of horse drawn mowers that resembled the reel type push mower you still occasionally see used  to mow very small yards and started the Shawnee Mower Company to produce them. If you look for Shawnee mower Co. at you can find illustrations of several of these mowers. The horses were a marginal improvement in the organic waste department but their hooves were dinging up the fairways so Sir Charles had leather booties made to cover their hooves. Honest! I’m not making this up. The booties wore out quickly and the horses complained. Clearly it was time to automate the process. Given his background, you have to wonder why it took so long.

By the early 1920’s the Worthington Mower Company in Stroudsburg Pa. was turning out light duty tractors to pull the various styles of mowers it produced. The Ford Motor Co. did the industrial heavy lifting, providing most of the drive train components. Certainly this was not the first attempt to turn a Model T into a tractor. Conversion kits abounded and almost all failed miserably because the T was never intended to pull heavy loads at low speed all day. It could however pull a mower with ease.The tractor and mowers were sold to .local governments for parks and road maintenance, golf courses, schools, hospitals, private estates, almost anyone with a lot of grass to mow.

Worthington produced the T based version until 1930 when it was replaced by an updated version using Model A components that offered electric starting among other improvements. The A version was offered at $650 while the T model sold for $495. The page from a 1933 issue of the Municipal Index that was clipped to the machine claimed that with a Worthington triple gang mower attached the rig could mow an acre every 10 minutes and move from one location to the next at at a road speed of 20 mph.

Meanwhile back at the country club, Worthington was making friends and influencing people. In 1912 he invited a group of golf professionals to play at Buckwood. This gathering reputedly lead to the creation of the P.G.A. which no doubt opened many doors over the years that followed. Politicians and ranking military brass were undoubtedly among those who found their way to the Shawnee Country Club. In 1938 Worthington was awarded a contract to provide mowers and tractors for maintenance of the growing number of Army Air Corps airfields amid howls of protest from his competition. Despite the ensuing litigation the military continued to purchase Worthington tractors throughout World War Two . In addition to their mowing duties the tractors were used to tow aircraft and trailers loaded with munitions. The number of tractors produced for the military must have been considerable because the company received several commendations for their war effort.

C.C.Worthington died in 1944 and the company he created was purchased by Jacobsen Manufacturing in 1945. Jacobsen produced products using the Worthington trade mark until 1959.

Sources: C.C. Worthington and the Worthington Mower Sept./Oct. 1999 The Shawnee Mower Article from Hemmings Motor News by Jim O’Clair Feb. 2012
Unfortunately, no information about who brought this tractor to the show was provided.

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