There are few things as American as a John Deere tractor. “Nothing runs like a Deere” is one of the most recognizable marketing slogans out there; Deere is the subject of country music songs (on a recent album, Jason Aldean sings "I’ll take you for a ride on my big green tractor…”); and Deere & Company stands alone as the last of the original U.S. tractor companies still in business.
The roots of the company date to 1837, when John Deere, a Vermont blacksmith, used a steel saw blade to make a plow that efficiently cut through tough soil. The invention was necessitated by Deere’s move that year to Rock River, Illinois, where the soil was stickier than back home in New England.
Deere soon began making steel plows for sale, hawking his creation to farmers along the Mississippi River. Deere acquired business partner after business partner, but each alliance ended in failure until he joined forces with his son Charles, a trained accountant. In 1857, Charles Deere, who would later be responsible for the rapid spread of the company’s popularity after his father’s death, was named vice president.
The Deere plows remained reliant on draft horses, but Charles Deere could see that new types of horse power would be Deere's future. Accordingly, he led the company's drive to appropriate technologies from other firms. By 1889, after the death of John Deere, the company was finally able to advertise its New Deal six-gang plow, which was powered by a steam engine. Advertisements claimed it could plow 20 acres a day at 50 cents an acre.
Steam would be an interim step for Deere, which was setting its sights on the possibilities of internal-combustion engines. What had caught Charles Deere's eye was an 1882 machine resembling a modern-day tractor. That machine was the brainchild of John Froelich, who had found a way to use a gasoline engine to pull a plow.
Froelich’s business, the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company, was not the only competitor Deere faced. In fact, the early parts of the 20th century saw many battles between Deere and its toughest competitor, International Harvester, which, like Deere, had been formed in part by acquiring other firms. It was a rivalry that would linger long after Charles Deere’s death in 1907.
In 1906, International Harvester had produced an actual tractor, which gave it a competitive edge over Deere. It took Deere until 1911 to advertise a tractor of its own, and even...
Finally, on March 14, 1918, Deere purchased Froelich’s Waterloo for $2,350,000 to get into the tractor business. Still, Deere struggled to design profitable tractors shortly after the acquisition—it wasn't until the early 1920s that Deere found success with the two-cylinder Waterloo Boys. However, because it was a one-model company, Deere was susceptible to market shifts. Rival Henry Ford was producing the Fordson tractor, which he was able to manufacture at a loss because he could offset losses with gains from his automobile line. Deere did not have that luxury.
By the middle of the decade, Deere unveiled the two-cylinder Model D Johnny Popper. Subsequent Deere models were also called Johnny Poppers or Poppin’ Johnnies, and even though Ford and International Harvester had gone to four cylinders, Deere stuck to two. The first Model Ds in 1923 and 1924 had a 26-inch spoked flywheel, which was subsequently changed to a thicker 24-inch wheel, and the steering wheel was moved to the left side of the tractor and connected to the front axle.
In 1926, Deere introduced the Model C. This unique three-row cultivator differentiated itself from rivals like International Harvester’s Farmall, which came in two- or four-row models. The tractor also used power from the engine to power the cultivator. The machine was a success and by 1927, Deere was exporting tractors around the world.
Next up for Deere was the General Purpose (GP) tractor and the GP Wide Tread tractor, released in 1928 and 1929 respectively. In 1934, the Model A was introduced—this two-plow tractor featured an adjustable tread width and burned almost any fuel. A year later, the single-plow Model B appeared—it was almost identical to the Model A, but smaller.
Deere continued to produce different tractor models to adjust to the changes in the market and technological advances. There was the Model G, a three-plow tractor released in 1938; the rare 1936 Model Y (also called the 62, only about 100 were produced), which was later converted to the three-speed Model L; and the 10-horsepower LA, introduced in 1941.
The L and LA models were made until 1946. In the decades that followed, Deere & Company moved into other areas of farm machinery, as well as the manufacture of lawn equipment. But one thing never changed—the company's signature green-and-yellow colors date to Deere's 1905 catalog.
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Fun on the FarmMillbury-Sutton Chronicle, October 8th
“Sausages & More” were served up by Victoria Eldridge; Brian Cardin stands next to his 1947 John Deere Model A. The machine was restored by Brain and his sons Andrew and Joseph over the course of 19 months, and is dedicated to Bud Gurney, one of...Read more
Touch a truck this Sunday at Fort GettyJamestown Press, October 7th
Mason Mello over the winter asked one of his dad's sergeants if he could play with some big trucks when the warmer weather arrived. Not wanting to disappoint the 4-year-old (or the boy's father), Mark Esposito began making inquiries. “He has an...Read more
Grammy winner to perform at community festivalLexington Dispatch, October 7th
There will be free hot dogs, chicken stew, homemade ice cream made with a John Deere hit-and-miss engine and kettle corn. In addition, there will be an antique tractor and car show. Fire trucks will be on display, too. Children will take a ride on a train...Read more
Antique tractor show brings old machinery back to lifeCharlotte Observer, October 7th
“They're different altogether,” said Ferguson. “I'm an old man. I grew up on what they call a putt-putt John Deere.” It's the pop and sputter of an antique tractor that little boys can still emulate all these generations later, almost instinctively, as...Read more
2015 Apple Festival Parade Winners announcedGreene County Daily World, October 6th
Judges Choice were Concord General Baptist Church and the VFW. Best Antique Auto/Classic Car was given to Gary Kirk, with Larry Kirk for second place. Jim Helms took home the first place title for the Best John Deere Tractor. Bob Whaley came in second...Read more
Adrenaline rush draws competitors to tractor pullCoshocton Tribune, October 6th
Although Doug Gehrig, of Woodsfield, took to the track in the Classic Super Stock class with a John Deere 4010, his brother Darin Gehrig helped modify it for pulling. “I just hope it stays together when it goes down the track,” said ... This is a good...Read more
Stolen Antique John Deere Wagon, Platte Co. MOGardnerEDGE, September 16th
The Platte County, Missouri Sheriff's Office (Platte City) is currently investigating the theft of a 1950's model dark green John Deere Triumph flair box wagon, stolen from the River Road/Stanton Road area near Rushville, Missouri. The theft occurred...Read more
Antique tractors gather for parade and showing at John Deere PavilionWQAD.com, September 11th
Antique tractors will parade through Moline, Illinois before assembling for a show at the John Deere Pavilion. The Fourth Annual Quad Cities Area Heritage Tractor Parade and Show was set for Saturday, September 12, 2015. The parade was set to start at...Read more