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Delivery of First Ford Ferguson Tractor to the Northwest in 1939 by airfreight
(Wade Newbegin seated on tractor, Ernie Crichton on right)

This was one of the most interesting and prosperous eras for the company beginning with the introduction of the famous Ford Ferguson tractor to the Northwest in 1939. The new hydraulic system of this tractor enabled the tractor and implement to act as a single machine and became the design standard for tractors for the future. During the World War II, the factory made equipment for use on army tugs and components for aircraft carriers which were made in the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver. It was awarded the prestigious “M” Maritime Award for outstanding contribution to the war effort. In 1949 the Ford Tractor line was replaced with New Holland balers and hay equipment. The sales of Goulds pumps increased for the industrial and water system markets. Wade Rain invented Poweroll, its first wheel line type product, and the distribution division introduced rotary tillage to the Northwest with the Howard Rotavator.

1950: 25 million farmers feeding 151 million people on 5.4 million farms (12.2% of labor force)


The Tractor That Revolutionized Farming


In 1939 Wade Newbegin was invited to a meeting in Dearborn Michigan for the introduction of the Ford-Ferguson tractor. Harry Ferguson an inventor from England had designed a new tractor and it was so innovative that Henry Ford made a handshake agreement with him to make the tractor in the United States. This tractor was so advanced that nobody believed it would perform as claimed. At meeting in Dearborn Henry Ford showed off the new tractor to prospective distributors as well as the press. The video below shows Harry Ferguson being interviewed next to the tractor and I think Edsel Ford is on the tractor. The ad for the Ferguson tractor explains its advantages. The selling price was $578 to the farmer and it was the first modern tractor which incorporated the features of all tractors made today.

The genius of the Ford Ferguson tractor was that it made the tractor and the implement one machine. It did this by incorporating a hydraulic system into the tractor. It was used to connect implements (plows, cultivators, balers etc) to the tractor and it could be raised and lowered by hydraulic power. In addition the tractor had a PTO shaft in the rear which was used to power the implement behind the tractor. See the tractor ad for a demonstration of these features. R.M Wade sold thousands of these tractors every year and it was the most popular tractor sold in the United States. For the full story of RM Wade and the Ford Tractor read the PDF of
chapter 5 of Wade Newbegin's book.

Ford Tractor at State Fair
Dealer Show Multnomah Hotel
Harry Ferguson standing, explaining the Ferguson system to Henry Ford Seated on tractor
Ferguson Tractor Brochure
Chapter 5: The Ford Ferguson Tractor, recollections of Wade Newbegin

Introduction of Ferguson Tractor. Wade Newbegin attended this meeting.

Old Commercial for the Ferguson Tractor


Pearl Harbor Attack United States Enters World War II

War Production Board and 24/7 Manufacturing

Although he as only 33 years old at the time Wade Newbegin was appointed to the National War Production Board serving on the food production committee which was responsible for allocating all farm machinery production during World War II. Feeding the population and our soldiers was a high priority for the country and farm equipment was necessary to accomplish this task. There was an allocation of farm equipment for each area of the country and every dealer had his own allocation to sell. However, the equipment demand was so high that it wasn't really sold but simply allocated to buyers.

Multnomah Iron Works (later Wade Mfg. Co) ran 24 hours a day seven days a week to make products for the war effort. We made an auxillary power unit that provided compressed air, electricity, and pumping for army tugs all in one machine. It was designed by Ray Letson service manager of RM Wade and was a big success. Another product he designed was a gasoline powered winch. Nothing like it had ever been made before and we made thousands of these units. Also we made degassing pumps for the BB-3 aircraft carriers. The giant Kaiser Shipyards were located close by in Vancouver Washington and the factory sub-contracted many parts of the liberty ships made there. During the war there was a 90% excess profits tax on all profits made by the company.

Winch used on tugboats
Auxiliary Unit - Electricity and Compressed Air
BB-3 Aircraft Carrier


R.M. Wade Awarded Prestigeous 'M' Award

In 1944 the company received a telegram that it had been chosen for the "M" Award by the United States Maritime Commission. This was one of the highest civilian awards for contribution to the war effort. Nationally, only 175 of these awards were given to manufacturers and 35 to shipyards.

Telegram Announcing "M" Award
Program for "M" Award Ceremoney
Actual Award
"M" Award Program


Return to A Peacetime Economy

Post War Period

R.M. Wade & Co. flourished during the era following World War II. The company had many product lines that it was distributing and manufacturing and each type of product was sold by a specialized sales division dedicated to that product. Following the war these divisions were Farm Equipment, Water Systems, Industrial Pumps, Wade’Rain Pacific Northwest, Wade Rain National and International, Home Appliances, and Poultry Sales. The Tractor Sales Division which sold Ford Tractors and Goulds Pumps Western were separate corporations and sales organizations. Tink Smith was General Sales Manager with a Division Sales Manager reporting to him; Ernest Crichton was the Ford-Ferguson tractor Sales Manager.



RM Wade Resigns as Ford Tractor Distributor

Dealers wanted to carry both the implements from R.M. Wade & Co. and the Ford tractor sold by the Tractor Sales Company. This created a lot of conflict between dealers and also within the company as everyone wanted to sell the popular Ford tractor. Furthermore Ford wanted RM Wade to carry Ford made implements rather than the products made by independent companies. Wade Newbegin decided that would give Ford too much control over R.M. Wade & Co and consequently in 1949 he advised Ford that the company was resigning as their tractor distributor and cooperated with Ford in the appointment of a new distributor. We were the only company ever to voluntarily resign as a Ford Tractor distributor. Immediately following the change RM Wade became the Northwest distributor for the New Holland Machine company the leading manufacturer of hay balers and other hay related machinery such as mowers and rakes.



Pumps West

Goulds Pump Western, Inc.(later called Pumps West) was established for the sales of Goulds Pumps in the Northwest. R.M. Wade & Co. was both a distributor and an agent for Goulds. Most of the sales were to the pulp and paper mills and water pumps to municipalities. Also the company assembled pumps at Wade Mfg Co to give faster delivery to the customers. Eventually Pumps West became a substantial company in its own right and was bought out by Goulds Pumps when they started selling direct into the territory.


Wade Rain Introduces Patented Self Draining Gasket

"The Gasket that Thinks"

Several innovations in 1950 established Wade Rain as the leader in handmove coupler design. First, we changed from steel to aluminum which meant the coupler would last virtually forever as compared to steel which would eventually rust out. Second, and more importantly Wade introduced the new single edge gasket which was the fastest draining and would drain the most sand and debris from a line. Previously sand would always accumulate around the gasket and prevent it from draining. It was invented by our engineer Gail Cornelius and called the "gasket that thinks" because it always did the right thing.

Wade Rain Tubing Yard
Aluminum System in the 50's
Ad Announcing the New Gasket
Portable Sprinkler Irrigation Brochure


New Holland Balers


The New Holland line of hay balers and equipment became the major agricultural implement line distributed by
RM Wade. Within a year of cancelling Ford the lost sales were replaced by the New Holland line. It was a time of rapid progress and mechanization of the hay handling process. The major product sold was balers as New Holland was by far the best baler on the market. See below the New Holland Model 280 baler which was a very popular model and typical of their balers. Also there is a video of the automatic hay wagon which was the first machine ever developed to automatically pick up hay bales and stack them. It was invented in California and named the Harobed the inventor's wife's name spelled backwards. For anyone who has ever "bucked hay" this invention brought a welcome change for them. New Holland took over direct sale to dealers in Northwest in 1963. At the time our New Holland sales were $3.5 million or $26.5 million in today's dollars.


New Holland Baler

New Holland Bale Wagon


The R.M. Wade Foundation was Created Honoring Robert M. Wade

The R.M. Wade Foundation gives scholarships to students at Oregon State University, Washington State University and the University of Idaho for studies in the agricultural sciences. The R.M. Wade Foundation also gives annual Excellence in Teaching Awards to professors in the same universities . Since its establishment in 1952 it has given over 400 scholarships and teaching awards honoring Robert M. Wade. See the following link for more information regarding the R.M. Wade Foundation. It qualifies as a 501c3 charitable organization with $100/year overhead costs – all other costs are paid for by the company.


If you are interested in making a donation please click the link below to contribute through PayPal.


R.M. Wade Move to NW Thurman St.

Wade Newbegin was looking for a new location for the company and he found a lot for sale in NW Portland on Thurman St. In 1952 a new warehouse was constructed and we occupied the building for many years until it was displaced by the construction of the new Fremont Bridge.


IDC Appointed as Exclusive Export Agent for Wade Rain

In 1952 Wade Rain appointed IDC as its exclusive distributor for international markets. They were very successful in selling Wade Rain around the world and established Wade Rain as an international brand in irrigation. Some of the largest sales were in Brazil for coffee production and Guatemala for sugar. The company was owned by Ronald Gilbert who later named it Irridelco. In 1979 the exclusive contract was cancelled and Wade Rain started selling directly in the international market after that time. Even today some of the distributors originally established by IDC still represent Wade Rain.



Howard Rotavator

A Major Innovation in Tillage Equipment

The traditional practice of farming prior to the Howard Rotavator was to first plow the field, then use a disc or harrow to break up the clods of dirt and use other equipment to smooth out the soil in preparation for planting.

The rotavator was the first machine to completely prepare the soil for planting with one pass of the tractor. This saved a lot of time and money for the farmer and actually made a better seed bed in most situations. It was invented in Australia by Arthur Clifford in 1912 and patented in 1922. The major improvement was a machine with a rotary shaft driven by the tractor through a gear box and "L" shaped blade welded to the shaft. When it rotated at a high speed it would completely break up the soil. Sales were so strong that they formed a company in England called the Rotary Hoe Company which was later called Howard Rotavator. This company became one of the most successful farm equipment companies in England and sold and manufactured product throughout the world. Howard was distributed by R.M. Wade from 1953 to 2008 and was one of the most successful products ever sold by the company.


Howard Rotavator


First Wade Rain Poweroll Sold

The use of aluminum pipe in irrigation allowed for many advances in irrigation. In the 50's there was more and more demand for automating the hand move irrigation systems. It was hard work to move pipe and labor was becoming short on the farm. Wade Rain started experimenting with sideroll type irrigation which is a long sprinkler line on wheels driven by a mover unit in the center of the line rotating the pipe as a single axle. Gail Cornelius shown in this picture was the person who designed our sideroll, which we call Poweroll,
and he made several patented improvements in the design. Although today it looks like a simple machine it took many years to perfect it and there were major problems to overcome, such as draining the line before it is moved. Many attempts were made to design a valve which would reliably and automatically drain the line. If it was not drained and weight of the water would break the pipe. Gail came up with an entirely new valve which was very successful in automatically draining the pipe. It was patented and made the Wade Rain Poweroll superior to competitors products.

Attaching A Poweroll Wheel
Early System at Wade Experimental Farm


Farm Show

RM Wade participated at many agricultural shows over the years. This picture was probably taken at the Oregon State Fair sometime in the 50's. Farm show displays have always been a good way to reach customers.


Multnomah Iron Works Flooded

Multnomah Iron Works (later called Wade MFG Co) was located in the Guilds Lake Area of Northwest Portland and it periodically became a lake from rainwater runoff from the West Hills. Several times over the years it flooded the worst of which was in 1969 when the flood water was so high it almost caused the Wade Foundry furnaces to explode. It rose within 2" of top of the furnaces holding molten metal and contact with the water would have caused an explosion. We were lucky that day.



David Brown Tractors

RM Wade needed a tractor line and in 1958 made an agreement to distribute David Brown tractors in the US. David Brown was an English company established in 1860. Originally it made gear drives and by 1920 it was the largest manufacturer of worm gears in the world in the 1920's. Many of the ships in the British navy were driven by David Brown gears. In 1936 the company entered into a joint venture with Harry Ferguson and made the Brown- Ferguson tractor, three years before Ford stated building this same tractor. We had great success with the David Brown tractor for over ten years. However, in 1972 the company had financial difficulties and was forced to sell the tractor line to J.I. Case who immediately cancelled all of the independent distributors. David Brown is best known as the manufacturer of the Aston Martin, the famous high performance car used in the James Bond movies.



Multnomah Iron Works name changed to Wade MFG Co

Picture Taken of Wade Mfg. Co Around 1960



Importing Started

Only 16 years after the end of World War II, RM Wade, through another subsidiary called U.S. Imports, started importing baling wire and roller chain from Japan. Most of the products were imported from Sumitomo Corporation one of the largest companies in Japan.



Foundry Operation Added to Wade MFG CO.

Alcoa stopped making the Wade Rain couplers in 1962 and Wade Mfg opened a foundry to make the couplers. Ed Mason came from Alcoa to be superintendent of the new foundry operation and he did a great job of leading the foundry until his retirement in the 80's. In the end the foundry was able to produce a very high quality product by using a high-strength special alloy designed for Wade by Alcoa. It proved to be a major improvement in the strength our couplers which always was banged around a lot when farmers moved and stacked pipe. One year we poured over a million pounds of aluminum in our foundry.



R.M. Wade - Seattle Branch

Even though RM Wade closed most of its branches it always had a branch in Seattle. It was very successful under the leadership of Fred Pringle and was a big profit contributor to the company. It sold pumps, water system components and plastic pipe and fittings.