Q: What is this “WD45” I see you going on about?

A: My grandfather owned Allis Chalmers farm tractors and equipment. So does my father. Growing up on the farm, I learned to drive a tractor [an Allis-Chalmers WD-45 model, among others] long before I learned how to drive a car.

I started using “WD45” online in the late 90s, on bulletin boards as a short username with some personal history behind it. At that point, it became relatively clear that I would not be driving tractors for a living. This moniker serves as a persistent reminder of my family’s rural and agrarian legacy and the hard work that built it.

As a kid [and as an adult] I have been an enthusiast of this tractor company and its history of innovation. I actually have a collection of Allis-Chalmers marketing and promotional films from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. They have taught me a lot:

  • The odd diction of mid-20th century industrial film voice-overs
  • Clear messaging that keeps in mind the audience’s station
  • Industrial design and innovation shines in the service of real needs

If you see someone online with the username WD45, it’s probably me. [TwitterInstagram, etc.] I’ll even sign up for a new service just to claim that username.

Four characters, easy to remember. It just stuck. To this day, it still sounds funny when people say it out loud. Especially when they are referring to me, and not a tractor…

An example of an Allis-Chalmers promotional film: