Gravely Tractor

Last updated

Gravely, of Brillion, Wisconsin, is a manufacturer of powered lawn and garden implements which it describes as "walk-behind, zero turn and outfront mowers". [1] It started as a manufacturer of "walk-behind" or two-wheel tractors.




Benjamin Franklin Gravely (29 November 1876 – January 1953) of Dunbar, West Virginia, manufactured in 1916 a hand-pushed plow fitted with an auxiliary Indian motorcycle engine and driven by belts. [2] His goal was to build a tractor which would revolutionize gardening and lawn maintenance for the homeowner.

F. W. Wilcox, a friend of Gravely, owned a machine shop in Middleport, Ohio. He allowed Gravely to build more tractors at his shop. It was there that Gravely designed the engine and built six or seven of the first tractors, which weighed about 190 pounds each. He also developed several new tools for the engine and drive train. His third generation grandson, Shawn Ryder, has his grandfather's Gravely tractor collection in Warrington, Pennsylvania.


The Gravely company was incorporated in 1922. In the mid-1920s, Gravely decided to build and market the tractors commercially. He and several backers raised enough capital to purchase an old factory in the Dunbar, West Virginia, area that had previously been used for the manufacture of tires. [2] One of the stockholders, Eustace Rose, a close friend and a mechanic, inventor and engineer, collaborated closely in the development of the tractor. Rose is also reputed to have invented the first automatic transmission used by the Chrysler Corporation. [2]

Survival and growth

Strong sales assured the company's profitability through the Great Depression. Customer loyalty was an important element in this success. In the company's earliest years, Gravely would load several tractors into his Studebaker tourer car and sell them to farms as far away as Florida at $175 each. He would then drive back and pick up another load. [2]

Within a few years, sales outlets had been established from coast to coast, with international sales representatives in Germany, France and Switzerland.

Ben Gravely sold his stock in Gravely Tractor in 1940 and died thirteen years later. His company was gradually acquired by the Studebaker Corporation by 1960 and later sold off by Studebaker-Worthington.

Studebaker purchased Gravely to strengthen the Studebaker Corporation, but decisions that were causing Studebaker to decline also affected Gravely Tractor. With a strong work force at the Dunbar, WV, plant, wages had increased. Studebaker presumed moving the plant to North Carolina would allow them to hire farm workers at a lower wage. They asked the management team to move to the new factory. Building a large facility at Winston-Salem, they made the move. However, in the same area GE built a plant for motors and other units, and a large beer producer built a brewery for their products. They started employees at almost $3.45 per hour which was $1.45 more than Gravely paid at Dunbar and $2.00 per hour more than they had hoped to pay in the new plant. The management then tried to recruit former employees, but only a few went. Most of those returned home within a year. With a lack of workers and other problems, the tractor started to decline. To head off further problems and attempt to save money, they opted to purchase outsourced engines to retrofit on the Gravely tractor. This stopped the production of the Gravely built engine which was simple and efficient. Studebaker eventually got out of Gravely. Due to a large amount of loyal owners, Gravely survived, but did lose much of their large market share to competing companies.

Current products

Not much unlike Gravely's first power driven plow, Gravely today offers two kinds of all-gear "tractors" − walk-behind self-propelled units and zero-turn-radius riding mowers, which evolved out of the durable riding tractors that defined the company for much of its later years.

1959 Gravely LI walk behind tractor with Snow Dozer plow 10-OL 020606A.jpg
1959 Gravely LI walk behind tractor with Snow Dozer plow
1959 Gravely LI walk behind tractor with front mounted cultivator 10-OL 102302A.jpg
1959 Gravely LI walk behind tractor with front mounted cultivator
1959 Gravely LI walk behind tractor w/original 6 HP gravely engine 10-OL 102303A.jpg
1959 Gravely LI walk behind tractor w/original 6 HP gravely engine


The all-gear walk-behind units are powered by a single-cylinder four-stroke engine, available in a one-wheel model D (1916−195?) and the two wheel model L (1936−1966) and the two wheel model C (1967-1976). variations of both models vary extensively including bodywork changes, mechanical changes and color changes throughout the production. visit the gravely tractor club of America for any further information.

Earlier models had attachments such as rototillers and flail mowers. Later attachment options include snowblowers, snow blades, and a sprayer. Gravely in the 1970s had 38 attachments, but through innovations of various companies the list expanded to over 80. Sulkies and steering sulkies are available for walk-behind tractors, as well as an optional solid platform with space for carrying small amounts of cargo (trailers).

While it offers walk-behind mowers, brush-cutters and other equipment, Gravely no longer produces general-purpose walk-behind tractors. [3]

Riding tractors

The majority of Gravely riding tractors are, like the walk-behinds, characterized as "all-gear", that is, with a rear-mounted engine mated to a transaxle powering the tractor's rear wheels. This design thus eliminates the need for drive belts to power the tractor forward or backwards. The only belts required on Gravely equipment (with the exception of the 408) is the blade drive belt for its mower decks, which is powered by a gear box on the deck, which receives power from a PTO driveshaft connected to the tractor's drivetrain. The tractor's direction is controlled by a lever to the right of the operator for forward, neutral, or reverse operation. Because of this, this tractor is often mistaken for having a hydrostatic drive.

In 1965, Kelly G. Cunningham used the Gravely 7.6 tractor to create the Terramite Model 1 compact backhoe, now known as the T1. [4]

In 1967, Gravely introduced its 400 series riding tractors, with the all-gear drivetrain that would come to define the company in future years.

The tractor had four speeds, two in low range and two in high range, with power configurations of single-cylinder 10, 12, or 14 horsepower Kohler or Onan engines. In 1969 was the debut of the 16.5 HP Onan CCKA twin-cylinder powered Commercial 450, the most powerful tractor the company offered at the time. The commercial-grade units were painted a characteristic yellow and white, while the home-use units were painted red and white.

The 400 series was produced until 1971, when Gravely introduced its replacement: the 800 series tractors, which gained popularity in the consumer market. This tractor had eight speeds, with four speeds each in low and high range, with engine options ranging from a cast-iron 10 horsepower Kohler single-cylinder, to an 18-horsepower cast-aluminum twin-cylinder Onan. The 800 series was replaced with the 8000 series by 1978, which offered more powerful engine configurations and an improved hydraulic lift option, yet retained the eight-speed transaxle. Many of the parts for the 800 and 8000 series designs, excepting the engine, are the same or compatible, and are readily available as new and used parts online, in a rather impressive after-market.

The 8000 series remained in production until 1987, when it was replaced by the professional-grade "G" series. The G series ended production in 2004.

The eight-speed transaxle was standard on all 800 and 8000 series tractors, with the engine being the only major difference. The design of the drive clutches was visibly changed to a simpler arrangement around the early 1980s; the two designs are generally interchangeable. The rear-engine mounting and simple construction allowed Gravely owners to service and even upgrade their engines on their own.

Gravely also released an economy version of tractor in 1970, featuring a belt-driven 4-speed transmission and eight-horsepower (Kohler) engine, known as the 408. The engine was mounted at the front. This did not sell nearly as well as the popular all-gear units and was discontinued in 1977, when it was replaced with a heavy-duty professional grade of tractor known as the 900 series. Another tractor of this type, called the 9000 series was also released later that same year and replaced the 900 the following year until production ended in 1982. This tractor, much larger than the 8000 series and its predecessors, was equipped with a 27-horsepower I-4 water-cooled Continental engine.

Gravely today

In 2004 Gravely produced its last Gravely two-wheeled tractor. As of 2006, Gravely provided a full line of power lawn implements, including zero-turn mowers, reel mowers, and grass trimmers. In 2008, Gravely launched Gravely Turf Equipment, a division geared towards golf courses and turf management nationwide. Gravely was purchased by AriensCo located in Brillion, Wisconsin, in 1982. Today the Gravely brand operates as the commercial lawn division of AriensCo and its products continue to be sold exclusively through its dealer network. Gravely celebrated the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Gravely's plow patent in 2016. [5]

Related Research Articles

Tractor Engineering vehicle specifically designed to deliver a high tractive effort

A tractor is an engineering vehicle specifically designed to deliver a high tractive effort at slow speeds, for the purposes of hauling a trailer or machinery such as that used in agriculture, mining or construction. Most commonly, the term is used to describe a farm vehicle that provides the power and traction to mechanize agricultural tasks, especially tillage, but nowadays a great variety of tasks. Agricultural implements may be towed behind or mounted on the tractor, and the tractor may also provide a source of power if the implement is mechanised.

Field Marshall

Field-Marshall is a brand of farm tractor which was manufactured by Marshall, Sons & Co. of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire in the United Kingdom.

Lawn mower A grass cutting device. Machine that uses one or more rotating blades to cut a lawn to an even height

A lawn mower is a machine utilizing one or more revolving blades to cut a grass surface to an even height. The height of the cut grass may be fixed by the design of the mower, but generally is adjustable by the operator, typically by a single master lever, or by a lever or nut and bolt on each of the machine's wheels. The blades may be powered by manual force, with wheels mechanically connected to the cutting blades so that when the mower is pushed forward, the blades spin, or the machine may have a battery-powered or plug-in electric motor. The most common self-contained power source for lawn mowers is a small internal combustion engine. Smaller mowers often lack any form of propulsion, requiring human power to move over a surface; "walk-behind" mowers are self-propelled, requiring a human only to walk behind and guide them. Larger lawn mowers are usually either self-propelled "walk-behind" types, or more often, are "ride-on" mowers, equipped so the operator can ride on the mower and control it. A robotic lawn mower is designed to operate either entirely on its own, or less commonly by an operator by remote control.

John Deere American agricultural and industrial equipment manufacturing corporation

John Deere is the brand name of Deere & Company, an American corporation that manufactures agricultural, construction, and forestry machinery, diesel engines, drivetrains used in heavy equipment, and lawn care equipment. In 2019, it was listed as 87th in the Fortune 500 America's ranking and was ranked 329th in the global ranking. The company also provides financial services and other related activities.

Continuously variable transmission Automatic transmission that can change seamlessly through a continuous range of effective gear ratios

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is an automatic transmission that can change seamlessly through a continuous range of gear ratios. This contrasts with other transmissions that provide a limited number of gear ratios in fixed steps. The flexibility of a CVT with suitable control may allow the engine to operate at a constant RPM while the vehicle moves at varying speeds.

Drive shaft

A drive shaft, driveshaft, driving shaft, tailshaft, propeller shaft, or Cardan shaft is a vehicle component for transmitting mechanical power and torque and rotation, usually used to connect other components of a drivetrain that cannot be connected directly because of distance or the need to allow for relative movement between them.


Farmall was a model name and later a brand name for tractors manufactured by the American company International Harvester (IH). The Farmall name was usually presented as McCormick-Deering Farmall and later McCormick Farmall in the evolving brand architecture of IH.


Ariens Company, stylized as AriensCo, is a Wisconsin-based equipment company which has a long history manufacturing snow blowers, lawn tractors, and zero-turn lawn mowers for commercial and high-end consumer markets. Ariens touts itself as being the "mower of the White House lawn," "official snow blower of Lambeau Field," and the "King of Snow".

Eshelman was a marque of small American automobiles (1953–1961) and other vehicles and implements including motor scooters, garden tractors, pleasure boats, aircraft, golf carts, snowplows, trailers, mail-delivery vehicles and more. The Cheston L. Eshelman Company was incorporated on January 19, 1942, and was based on the sixth floor of an industrial building at 109 Light Street in Baltimore, Maryland, with aircraft production facilities located in Dundalk, Maryland. The company president was Cheston Lee Eshelman, the first vice-president was Sidney S. Zell, and the first treasurer was Frank K. Kris.

Stump grinder

Stump grinders can be the size of a lawn mower or as large as a truck. Most accomplish their task by means of a high-speed disk with teeth that grinds the stump and roots into small chips.

Two-wheel tractor

Two-wheel tractor or walking tractor are generic terms understood in the US and in parts of Europe to represent a single-axle tractor, which is a tractor with one axle, self-powered and self-propelled, which can pull and power various farm implements such as a trailer, cultivator or harrow, a plough, or various seeders and harvesters. The operator usually walks behind it or rides the implement being towed. Similar terms are mistakenly applied to the household rotary tiller or power tiller; although these may be wheeled and/or self-propelled, they are not tailored for towing implements. A two-wheeled tractor specializes in pulling any of numerous types of implements, whereas rotary tillers specialize in soil tillage with their dedicated digging tools. This article concerns two-wheeled tractors as distinguished from such tillers.

Wheel Horse

Wheel Horse was a manufacturer of outdoor and garden power equipment, including lawn and garden tractors. The company's headquarters were in South Bend, Indiana.

Twin City tractors

Twin City tractors were built by the Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Company until 1929 when it merged with the Moline Implement Company of Illinois and the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company of Hopkins, Minnesota.

Allwork tractors were manufactured by the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois. Electric Wheel Co. was acquired by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. The All Work II Model F was a lightweight tractor with a big surplus of power for general farming and orchard work. This tractor was fueled by kerosene.

Roths Industries, Inc. (1945–1960) was a manufacturer of small garden tractors and other agricultural equipment founded by Herbert C. Roths in Alma, Michigan. The company manufactured Garden King Walking Tractors, BesRo Riding Tractors, and Till Ro Stalk Cutters.

JCB Fastrac

The JCB Fastrac is a high-speed agricultural tractor series manufactured by JCB Landpower, part of the J. C. Bamford group of companies.

Atco (British mower company)

Atco Limited was a British mower company which traded as "Atco Ltd" from 1981 to 1990, making lawn mowers and garden tools. It sold a range of lawn mowers including lawn and garden tractors.

Ingersoll Power Equipment is a garden and compact tractor manufacturer located in Portland, Maine. As of 2005, it is under the ownership of Eastman Industries.

SAME (tractors)

S.A.M.E., an acronym for Società Accomandita Motori Endotermici, was founded in 1942 in Treviglio (Bergamo), Italy, by the brothers Francesco and Eugenio Cassani. It is now part of the multinational group SAME Deutz-Fahr (SDF), which also owns the brands Deutz-Fahr, Lamborghini, Hürlimann, Grégoire A/S and Lamborghini Green Pro .


  1. About Gravely Archived 2011-02-23 at the Wayback Machine on official website
  2. 1 2 3 4 The Gravely Story Official historical document, with illustrations (date unspecified)
  3. "company website". Gravely. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  4. T7 Operators Handbook, Maintenance, Service & Parts Manual, Terramite Construction Equipment, published 3/2007

Further reading