Advance-Rumely Thresher Co. History

Excerpt from Encyclopedia Of American Farm Tractors

By: C.H. Wendel

Meinrad Rumely was born in Germany in 1823, and came to the United States in 1848. Two brothers, Jacob and John, had emigrated earlier.

Rumely began tests on their new tractor on March 23, 1909. On October 7 of that year, the tests were concluded, and a couple of weeks later the company announced the site of a new OilPull factory. On February 21, 1910 the new factory commenced operations, with 100 OilPulls completed by the end of October. The Secor-Higgins carburetor, along with the oil-cooled engine provided the higher cylinder temperatures and the carburetion required for burning low grade fuels.

For a time he worked with Jacob at Canton, Ohio, making wooden pumps. The other brother, John Rumely, was a pattern maker for Russell & Company at Massillon, Ohio. In 1850, Meinrad Rumely went to work for the Russell people, staying only a short time. For several months, Rumely travelled about the Midwest, finally opening a blacksmith shop at La Porte, Indiana in 1852.

Rumely learned that a railroad shop was to be located at La Porte, and decided this would be a good place for a machine shop and foundry. Railway car wheels, locomotive cylinders, and cane mills were some of the early Rumely products.

His brother John became a partner, and in 1856 they began building threshers, forming the firm of M. & J. Rumely in 1857. At the United States Fair held in Chicago in 1859, the Rumely thresher took first prize over thirteen competitors.

In 1861, stationary steam engines were added to the line, followed by portables, and finally by traction engines. Meinrad bought out his brother’s interest in 1882 and established the firm of M. Rumely Company.

The new Rumely straw burning steam engine was announced on July 22, 1886, and the revolutionary self-feeder was announced for Rumely separators on December 18, 1891.

Meinrad Rumely died on March 31, 1904 at the age of 81 years.

Production increased and new plants were built, followed by even greater production — all built on phenomenal sales.

In the days of big tractors, competition leaned toward those who could build the biggest tractor or pull the biggest load. This particular scene shows three OilPulls towing fifty Oliver plows at a 1911 Field Demonstration at Purdue University. Turning over a strip of land some three rods wide was a remarkable feat that provided a lot of good advertising for the Rumely and Oliver people alike.


Dr. Edward A. Rumely, a grandson of the founder, received an M.D. degree in Germany. During these years he met such men as Rudolf Diesel. Edward Rumely was convinced that the Diesel engine provided the answer for a cheap power, but Rumely and Diesel were both ahead of their time.

On returning to the United States, Rumely took note of one John Secor who had been designing an engine to burn low-grade fuels. Secor’s experiments began in 1885, with successful engines coming out ten years later. Secor had never thought of applying his designs to farm engines, but when Dr. Rumely sought him out in 1908, they struck up a deal. Secor moved to La Porte and proceeded to design the first OilPull tractor, with the able assistance of Wm. H. Higgins, the Rumely factory superintendent.

The first OilPull was tested in 1909 with the first production model being built on February 21, 1910. The first OilPull to be shipped to South America left on September 21, and in October, eighteen OilPulls went to Canada. By October 31, 1910, the first one hundred OilPulls had been built.

Gaar, Scott & Company of Richmond, Indiana was purchased on October 24, 1911 for about $4 million dollars, followed by the purchase of the Advance Thresher Company of Battle Creek, Michigan for another $5 million. Advance owned the American-Abell firm up in Canada in a 50-50 partnership with the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company. Rumely had to buy out the MTM share in order to get full control of the Canadian operation. American-Abell hadn’t been making any money, so MTM was glad to get out from under American-Abell. The catch was that Rumely didn’t know that when they took over. The Northwest Thresher Company of Stillwater, Minnesota was purchased on October 12, 1912, and several smaller firms were also purchased during this period. Contrary to popular belief, Rumely did not build the Gaar-Scott TigerPull tractor in any quantity. It was an OilPull competitor, and was phased out as soon as the parts inventory was assembled and sold.

Rumely had sales of about $16 million dollars in 1912, and employment was about 2,000 men.

The Rumely Products Company was anounced on April 4, 1913. It was the sales arm of the organization, and capitalized at $50,000. This provided a big tax break, since some states had high corporate franchise taxes.

It cost far less to pay taxes on a $50,000 corporation than to pay on the manufacturing capitalization of $22 million. In Texas alone, it represented a net savings of $21,500 in taxes per year. Corporate franchise taxes were applicable in each state where a branch house was operated.

Rumely sold a great many OilPulls in Canada for the 1914 season. The crop failed, and Rumely was left holding the sack with a lot of bad paper. Despite Rumely’s pleas to extend the company’s notes, the bankers called in their chips and the Rumely empire went into receivership on January 21, 1915. By September, the new Advance-Rumely Thresher Company was formed. Within a short time, the house of Rumely was making money again — minus the Rumely family.

December 28, 1924 marked the acquisition of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company at Mansfield, Ohio. Rumely took over all patents, inventories, trademarks, and receivables. In one grand stroke, one of Rumely’s strongest competitors was eliminated.

The new lightweight OilPulls were unveiled on October 15, 1924, and Rumely combines followed in 1925. Do All tractors were announced on April 13, 1928, and the Rumely “ 6” , six-cylinder tractor appeared on December 14, 1930.

Foreign sales, particularly to Russia, led to the second downfall of Rumely. Heavy losses were incurred, and in June, 1931, Allis-Chalmers bought out Advance-Rumely.

A total of 56,647 OilPulls were built in fourteen different models. In addition, 3,192 DoAll tractors were made, along with 802 units of the Rumely “6A” . Between 1904 and 1931, Rumely also produced nearly 40,000 wood and steel separators, along with over 26,000 combines, and a host of other machines.