Simplicity Walk-Behind 1 Simplicity Walk-Behind 2

Cliff Ingold acquired this garden tractor from a friend, who found it lying In a brush pile. Cliff paid his friend the princely sum requested--$15.00.--which was $5 more than the price the friend had paid for it. After restoring the tractor to running condition, Cliff exhibited it at several tractor shows. He also built a sulky for it and drove it in parades. The tractor was later sold to Glenn Thompson.

Cliff's walk-behind tractor is a Model D, built in Port Washington, Wisconsin.
It is Serial # 32353 and was probably built in 1948. The machine appears to have the original Briggs & Stratton 2 HP Model N engine.


Dating back to 1872, the Western Malleable & Gray Iron Manufacturing Company produced gray iron castings in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.. About 1900, the company began building gasoline engines for tractors under the name "Simplicity."  L.M. Turner purchased the Western Company in 1911, renamed it the Turner Manufacturing Company,  and moved the enterprise to Port Washington, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Michigan. The Turner Company produced gasoline engines and two models of farm tractors. The company prospered until the end  of World War I, when Henry Ford began producing Fordson tractors.  The Turner Company was unable to compete and it closed its doors in 1920. Turner's sales manager, William J. Niderkorn, acquired some of the Turner Company's assets, including the Simplicity name, and he founded the Simplicity Manufacturing Company in 1922.

The Simplicity Company's primary product was a portable cylinder-boring machine which was used to rebuild car and truck engines.  This was a popular item and sales continued for over a decade, even into the Great Depression. However, this period of prosperity ended in 1936, when Detroit automakers began to rebuild engines and sell them directly to car and truck owners.  The Simplicity Company was forced to produce a new product, and in 1937 it introduced a two-wheeled, walk-behind garden tractor which was marketed through Montgomery Ward and Company. The garden tractor sold well, in part due to the variety of implements which Simplicity produced for the tractor. These included a cultivator, a plow, a front blade and a sickle-bar mower. In 1939, Simplicity introduced a sulky which enabled the tractor to be used as a riding garden tractor.

Simplicity tractors used Briggs & Stratton engines almost exclusively. During the mid to late 1950's, the Model FC had a Kohler engine; however, by 1960 Simplicity tractors were outfitted with Briggs & Stratton engines again.

The production of garden tractors was limited by the government during World War II, causing the Simplicity Company to turn to other products such as an electric fence controller and an external surface grinder to satisfy the War Production Board. However, the Company continued its involvement with lawn and garden tractors and rapidly expanded its production of these after the war. Sales were excellent, much of this resulting from the large number of veterans who were returning home, establishing homes and families in suburbs across the country and needing lawn and garden equipment..

In 1955, the Simplicity Company introduced the Simplicity Roticul, a walk-behind rototiller. The company also recognized that there was a need for homeowner snow removal equipment, and in 1955 it introduced a snow-throwing attachment for its walk-behind garden tractor. This was followed by a single-purpose walk-behind rotary snowblower in 1961. 

In 1957, the Simplicity Company released the Simplicity Model 700 Wonder-Boy, the company's first riding lawn mower. This rear-engine machine remained in production until the 1970's. The first four-wheeled garden tractor with the engine in the front was the 7 HP WonderBoy 700, issued in 1959. To avoid confusion with rear-engine models, this tractor became simply the 700 in 1960. The company began marketing its first lawn tractor in 1963--the 6 HP Broadmoor. During this period the company offered a long line of light-duty lawn and garden implements for its tractors, including disc harrows, tillers, rotary and reel mowers, snow blowers and a buzz saw. The last true walk-behind tractor was the 8 HP Model W built until the 1970's. Some of the later walk-behind tractors had transmissions with multiple forward gears and a reverse gear.

During the early 1960's, the Allis-Chalmers Corporation attempted to purchase the Simplicity Company but was unable to do so because of restrictive fair-trade laws. Allis-Chalmers began manufacturing its own garden tractors in a plant in South Carolina; however, after the fair-trade laws were repealed, Allis-Chalmers acquired the Simplicity Company in 1965 and moved all of its garden tractor production to the Port Washington facility. At that time, the company began to explore foreign markets and established an international office in Brussels, Belgium.

Simplicity issued its first commercial industrial tractor, the PowrMax, in 1971. The PowrMax was larger than a traditional garden tractor but smaller than a farm tractor. It is recognized as the first true compact tractor. The PowrMax had three speeds and was powered by a twin-cylinder 16 HP Onan engine. A larger 19.5 engine was offered in 1973 and this tractor became very popular--so much so that the government purchased a number of them for use on military bases.  Tractors with diesel engines were introduced in 1978--the Simplicity 9523 and the 9528. Both tractors were built by the Japanese company Hinomoto, using Toyosha engines.

In 1983, three Simplicity Company executives--Warner C. Frazier, Nicholas P. Trunzo, and Carl Charles joined with the Wesray Corporation to purchase the Simplicity Company from Allis-Chalmers. A subsidiary, Wesray Equipment, was formed to serve as the parent company for Simplicity. In 1985, Wesray sold its interest in Simplicity to an Employee Stock Ownership Trust (ESOT). 

Sales suffered during the late 1980's due to a drought during the summer of 1988, a dry winter in 1988-1989, competition from many other companies, and the fact that Simplicity machines were so durable and reliable that there were relatively few repeat sales.

The Simplicity Company acquired Middlesworth Engineering & Manufacturing Company of Greentown, Indiana, in 1989. Middlesworth made industrial mowers which featiured innovating steering mechanisms. Middlesworth machines were enhanced to create a line of six professional lawn mowers. During this period Simplicity experimented with a snow-thrower on tracks, but the supplier of the tracks proved to be unreliable and the model was discontinued.

During the early 1990's, Simplicity began selling lawnmower attachments to mulch grass clippings and blades to shred fallen leaves. The company acquired the Tornado Products Company in 1992. This company produced a stand-alone chipper/shredder which featured unique triangular hammers to increase shredding power. Later models included machines powered by electric motors and large commercial versions. Walk-behind chipper vacuums were introduced in 1994.

The Simplicity Company invested large amounts of money during the 1990's to update its production equipment. These included a large laser-cutting machine, a huge hydraulic press, and welding robots.

Some 350 union workers went on strike in October, 1999; health care and a longer contract period were the primary issues The strike lasted for six weeks. 

In 2000, the Simplicity Company purchased Ferris Industries, located in Munnsville, New York.  This company manufactured professional turf-care machinery. Also, in 2000, Simplicity acquired Giant-Vac Manufacturing, a Connecticut company that made leaf blowers, and Snapper, Inc., a large company based in Georgia. With these acquisitions, Simplicity more than doubled in size, dramatically expanded its product line and extended its market across the country. The Simplicity and Snapper lines were merged in 2008 and the Port Washington, Wisconsin, plant was closed.

Briggs & Stratton purchased the Simplicity Company in 2004 and added it to Briggs & Stratton's Power Products Group..

Over the years, Simplicity built lawn & garden tractors for Allis-Chalmers, Deutz-Allis (Agco-Allis, AGCO), TECO (Canada), J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, Viking (Stihl), Homelite and Rapid.

The above information was taken from:
    Kreifels, Les. An Unofficial History of Simplicity Garden Tractors. www.simpletractors.com/Main/history.htm
    Simplicity Manufacturing Company. www.tractors.wikia.com/wiki/Simplicity_Manufacturing_Company
    Simplicity Manufacturing, Inc. History. www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/simplicity-manufacturing-inc-history/
    Simplicity Outdoor. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simplicity_Outdoor
    Will, Oscar H., III. Garden Tractors. Tractor. Legacy Series. Voyageur Press, 2009.