We tend to think of the work of Willys-Overland during the war as the start of the Farm Jeep story. Eric Lawson sent us a link to a National Archives blog post that clearly shows the USDA was working on the idea in May, 1942.
While we might question the post’s conclusion, it still makes for interesting reading. Bob Westerman has shared a number of National Archive documents that he has found. They included more details on how the USDA came to conduct the test.
The Department, in collaboration with the “Country Gentleman,” obtained two jeeps from the War Department and conducted exploratory test at the BureauTillage Machinery Laboratory at Auburn, Alabama during the period April 10-18, 1942. An article describing these tests were prepared by and published in the “Country Gentleman” for June, 1942, under the title “Some Day There Will Be Harnesses on the Jeep.”
Thanks to eWillys.com and Todd Paisley, we can read the article.
Another eWillys.com entry shows the January 1943 Popular Mechanics article with many of the same pictures.
The first chapter of Fred Coldwell’s classic book Preproduction Civilian Jeeps is entitled “Visions and Dreams” tells us that even before the War began, many, including Willys-Overland, were envisioning a place for this new vehicle on the farm. We would recommend that you grab a copy of this book if you have an interest in this topic.