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Olivers are the focus of this year’s Rock River Thresheree

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Catherine W. Idzerda
September 2, 2010
— It’s the essence of art deco elegance.

It’s the soul of American ingenuity.


And—this is the best part—it’s an Oliver.


From Friday to Monday, the Oliver will be the featured tractor at the Rock River Thresheree.


Oliver will join Hart-Parr, a tractor company that came under the Oliver banner in 1929, and Maytag engines as this year’s highlights.


For Bob Adamson, 74, Johnston Township, the event will be his moment in the sun—although he’d never put it that way.


He owns nine Olivers and will be bringing the prettiest of the bunch to the show including his restored Olivers 99, 990, 66, and 1950 to the show.


Adamson’s affection for the tractors is part sentimental and part pragmatic.


“My Dad had a 99,” said Adamson, a retired dairy farmer. “They ran real good; they were easy to handle; easy to shift. And Oliver did a lot of innovative things.”


Oliver was one of the first tractors with an independent power take-off (PTO). Equipment attached to the PTO shaft can be run using the power of the tractor’s engine.


James Oliver got his start in 1857 with an innovative change to the ordinary field plow. By changing the way iron was cast, he created a plow that could better handle the soils of the American west.


Early Oliver tractors are green with red and yellow trim and were created at a time when industrial designers thought that even the ordinary should be beautiful.


Famed industrial designer Brooke Stevens, Milwaukee, was asked to redesign the Allis-Chalmers, and the result was a “tractor pretty enough to drive to church.”


In 1937, Oliver redesigned the look of its tractors, drawing on the trends in reduced art deco styling and streamlined trends that were popular at the time.


Adamson isn’t much interested in streamlining and art deco trends. He’s too busy defending his beloved Olivers from his friends who prefer John Deere or Farmall tractors.


“They call me the oddball,” Adamson said with a grin.


Larry Lund, of L&M Truck & Trailer, acknowledged that he and his friends occasionally harass Adamson about his tractor choices.


“All he can see is green and white,” said Lund, referring to modern coloring of the Olivers.


Lund, you see, is primarily a John Deere guy—a tractor that Adamson probably considers pedestrian.


Still, Lund said he plans to support Adamson’s moment of glory.


“I’m really super happy for him,” Lund said. “It’s been a long dry spell for him—those Olivers, well, they don’t get a lot of recognition.”


For more information about this weekend’s Thresheree, see Thursday’s kicks section in the Janesville Gazette.

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