Earlier tractors (1920s and somewhat later) were probably designed with two things in mind: belt work and tillage. Three speeds were normal. Second was "plowing gear," at around 3 mph (I have actually seen that expression in old sales literature). Low was probably intended for emergency use in case of serious overload, or maybe for some machines that needed to go slow (but not as slow as some of the modern machines, like tillers). High, usually in the 4 mph range, was almost useless on a steel-wheeled tractor. The engines didn't put out enough power to make up for the loss to the ground through the lugs when pulling the rated load(I estimate about 35% loss on average, by looking at old Nebraska tests). For transport, you could barely stay on a steel-wheeled tractor at 4 mph on a gravel road. Been there many times on my father's 10-20. You ended up throttling way back in second, or running in low full throttle at around 2 mph. All of this is just my view on how tractors were conceived way back then. Ain't got no proof. Road gears did start to appear after rubber tires became common (roughly the mid-thirties), and as one commentator says here, IHC did offer 7-mph high gears for F-20 and F-12 and probably some of the other tractors of that era. Would have been welcome. I spent many an hour roaring along the road at 4 mph on our rubber-tired F-12, hauling loads of grain or hay. That's a mile in 15 minutes!
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