The Samson Tractor Works was founded in Stockton. California, in America in 1900, as the Samson Iron Works originally. The firm was bought by General Motors, in 1917/8 to get into the tractor business to compete with Henry Ford.
The Company was founded in 1900 as the Samson Iron Works, in Stockton, Callifornia. The firm changed its name in about 1916 having built tractors for a few years. The Company built the Sieve Grip tractor range. which a low slung tricycle design, with Straked rear wheels, offered in several engine sizes. The firm was bought out by General Motors, in 1917/8 to get into the tractor business to compete with Henry Fords move into the tractor market with his Fordson Model F.
General Motors in their quest to expand and compete with Ford and other growing vehicle manufactures had also purchased the Janesville Machine Company of Wisconsin (a agricultural implement manufacturer) for $1,000,000.00 in 1918. The Samson operation was transferred to the Janesville facility in Wisconsin in 1919, closing the Stockton, California operation. The new operation was renamed as the Samson Tractor Company Division of General Motors
They found competition with the Ford tractor tough and designed a new model, the Samson M of more conventional 4 wheeled design to compete with the Ford unit frame construction, and reducing prices. The Samson M was slightly more powerful, but could not compete on price. The Samson was initially sold for $650.00 but General Motors soon decided they could not make a profit at this price, and the price was then raised to $840.00 which was too high against Fords constantly reducing prices.
GM then developed some Motor cultivators (plows), called the Samson Model D "Iron Horse" but they were a failure. The Model D was powered by a Chevrolet Series 490 4-cylinder engine (gasoline ?). The Iron Horse was guided by reins tied to the controls, just as a horse would be. The idea that it was easier for farmers familiar with horse to operate, so there was no need to learn to drive a tractor. The operator either walked behind it or rode on the implement, as there was no seat on the unit. Also the old horse drawn implements could be used, eliminating the expense of purchasing new equipment, a major problem with the new tractors for small farmers. The Iron Horse idea was a dismal failure for General Motors and they then dropped out of the tractor market in 1923. The Samson operation also briefly built trucks and cars. In 1919 a multi purpose vehicle with removable seats to convert to a pickup was designed. The Samson Whole Family Car was a touring car for 9 passengers with easily removable rear seat and jump seats. (So the MPV is not a new Idea !) designed for the farmer, so one vehicle that could transport the whole family or produce and supplies, thus eliminating the need for both a car and a truck. ( or solve the problem of which to buy). Production was planed but never started, probably due to the deteriorating market conditions at the time, as the depression started. Only one protype was ever produced and was never marketed.
Samson trucks were produced from 1920-1923 with limited success. They built both a ¾ ton and a 1¼ ton model. The Samson car and truck both used a (GM) Chevrolet 4 cylinder (gasoline) engine. The car used the Chevrolet FB Series 37 hp engine and the trucks used the Chevrolet Series 490 26 hp engine.
Note: These cars and trucks should not be confused with the Sampson cars and trucks built by Alden Sampson Manufacturing Company from Pittsfield, Massachusetts between 1905-1910 and then in Detroit from 1910- 1913.
General motors reportedly lost (spent) $33 million on the Samson venture before it was shut down in 1923 and the Janesville assembly plant was turned over to the Chevrolet division for Car & truck building. The plant still builds Chevrolet and GMC SUV’s today.
- Samson Sieve Grip 6-12 - 1914 6-12 hp single-cylinder tractor
- Samson Sieve Grip 10-25 - 1915 10-25 hp model.
- Samson Sieve Grip 12-25 - ?
- Samson Sieve Grip 30X - ? (GM model)
- Samson model S-25 - ?
- Samson Model M - 1918 - A unit frame design (GM model)
- Samson Model D or Samson Motor Cultivator - A walk behind cultivator / motor plow (US spelling)
- Samson Model A - (prototype ?)
A few examples of the sieve grip exist in US collections and Museums.
- An example is in New Zealand.
- A Model M (see photo above) was at the Great Dorset Steam Fair in 2008 but are there any others the UK ?
References / sources
- Classic Tractors of the World. by N. Baldwin
- Steel wheels web site features photos of several models