The Gravely Tractor Club of America Celebrates Over a Century of American Manufacturing
Last week, the Gravely Tractor Club of America (GTCOA) celebrated its 23rd year of friendship, camaraderie and all things Gravely Tractors at their annual Mow-In at the Jay County Fairgrounds in Portland, Indiana. The club, which has membership representation in 43 states, as well as in Canada, France, Sweden and Australia, is a group of Gravely diehards who collect, restore and continue to operate their vintage Gravely Tractors.
Though the Gravely brand is best known for its commercial landscaping equipment, few know how Gravely built its name. Leading up to the roaring twenties, a growing America didn’t have the convenience of grocery stores. Families in rural areas relied on the success of the labor invested into their own livestock and gardens to feed themselves. Though foot plots could be tilled by hand, horse or oxen, it was laborious, and because of an animal’s wide turning radius, fields couldn’t be planted to their full capacity.
Benjamin Franklin Gravely understood America’s challenge and developed a solution. In 1916, he patented the Gravely Motor Plow, a single-wheel cultivator powered by a single-cylinder engine. A few years later, the Gravely Motor Plow and Cultivator Company of Dunbar, West Virginia was mass producing single-wheel and two-wheel tractors that would eventually earn a reputation as some of the strongest, most reliable products of American manufacturing.
Production of “The Gravely” has evolved throughout its existence, but that hasn’t deterred even the slightest bit of interest for its originality among club members. As Hank Dermer, president of the GTCOA put it, the Gravely has such a special place in the hearts of those who used them regularly years ago because the product’s reliable design, construction and versatility was a standout of American manufacturing at that time.
“It was the ideal solution to issues at that time because it identified a need and it met it. People back then were pretty frugal, they had to be,” said Dermer. “It was not inexpensive, but it was quality, and the people in rural America, they like quality.”
While the GTCOA holds regular, regional meetings in areas with high concentrations of club members, the Mow-In is like the family reunion. It’s an opportunity for the nearly 1,000 members, worldwide, to come together and socialize, share knowledge and show off their latest restoration projects. This year’s theme was misfits, which was a nod to rare pieces like some British-built models, as well as the custom oddballs like the purple painted 12-G tractor and the custom-built ice cream maker attachment.
Scroll down to see photos of the event, the passionate GTCOA members, and the proudly displayed vintage showpieces.