Tractor History: Dent Parrett
Dent Parrett, born in 1886, hailed from the town of Wenona, Illinois. It was there that he entered the farm implement field of work under the wing of Harry Von Horn, the owner of a store that sold such implements. During this time, Parrett worked on steam threshing machines owned by Van Horn as well as the steam plowing engines of customers. After a year at the University of Illinois, Parrett took this invaluable experience and set out on his own, opening a machine shop in 1908.
In the mind of Parrett, a fascination with tractors had been born, specifically a light, easy to maneuver variety. His experience with steam engines led him to seek a better, less cumbersome machine, and so he began work on his own designs, soon inviting an engineer from his alma matter to join him in his efforts. After a summer spent working on a tractor design, the engineering student departed but the tractor on which they worked had come to fruition. This tractor began work in the fall of 1912 and it was interest in this tractor that inspired the birth of the Parrett Tractor Company in 1913.
Initially located in Ottawa, Illinois, the Parrett Tractor Company built 30 tractors between its conception and the year 1915. At that time, it relocated to Chicago Heights, Illinois where that number increased substantially from 30 to 300 within a year, topping out at 600 the following year. In 1917, the Parrett Tractor Company joined forced with Massey-Harris Limited of Toronto, agreeing that they would build a machine based on Parrett's plans. They were not the only company interested in Parrett's work, however, and many manufacturer's copied his efforts, to a point where their own parts worked interchangeably with Parrett's parts. Also amongst Parrett's accomplishments was solving the dust problems generated by gasoline operated farm equipment by developing a cleaner for water filters.
As interest in the manufacturing of tractors grew and competition became intense, Parrett moved on from his own ventures, selling them in 1919. After this, he began work as a consultant for manufacturers such as Massey-Harris, where he found work from 1920-1923. Beyond that he created a design for Continental Cultor in Springfield, Ohio, in the process becoming friendly with Henry Ford. Eventually he went on to tinker with rubber tires around 1932. Parrett tractors with rubber tires were seen around 1932 but were not officially released until 1935. These machines had a four cylinder Hercules 1XB four-cylinder motor engine.
Other work opportunities included Ross Carrier from 1927-19328, Duplex Machinery Co. in 1934, and Auto Specialties Manufacturing Co. in 1938. During these years he designed a double disc brake and a high capacity clutch that generated continuous PTO, both of which are still in use today. Throughout his life, he held many patents and was responsible for many designs that are still with us now.
Dent Parrett's love of machinery and engineering was passed on to his son, John, who became a consulting engineer. Together the two went on to design and build a golf cart before Dent, an avid golfer, died in 1962 with the following tractor models to his name: the 6, the E 10-20, the H 12-25, and the K 15-30.