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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Tractors — and a whole lot more — at Ionia Fall FestivalBrighton-Pittsford Post, September 17th
He remembers getting off the school bus as a child, waiting under a tree and listening for the “put-put” of his grandfather's 2-cylinder John Deere. Later on, Jim ... The public can peruse the tractors and displays of antique farm equipment there...Read more
Chautauqua will educate and entertain on Sept. 21Ogle County News, September 17th
Hosted by the Mt. Morris Tourism Committee and will feature historic displays and information, educational opportunities, and music. The theme of the event is “Small Town Living: Yesterday and Today.” Visit blacksmithing, antique farm machinery, and...Read more
Letter: Grand parade highlights Field Days againAuburn Citizen, September 17th
second place: Gregory's Army; Best Float: Tigris Shrine; Youth Award: Skaneateles Girl Scouts; Community Spirit Award: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge; Best Antique Vehicle: Josh Lubner's 1937 John Deere; Best Classic Vehicle: Joe Spaulding's 1931 Model A ...Read more
Broomfield families celebrate town's, their farming rootsBroomfield Enterprise, September 15th
The tractors arrive at the old Nordstrom farm land. Dozens of Broomfield residents gathered, many bringing their tractors, to talk about the history of farming days in the area. For more photos and a video, go to www.broomfieldenterprise.com. Cliff...Read more
Beyond casserole: Mapping out the country's funeral food traditionsThe Patriot-News - PennLive.com, September 15th
Dressed in his favorite pair of overalls, the farmer was laid out in his casket and pulled down Main Street by an antique John Deere tractor on his way to the cemetery--one last ride through the community he loved. While the majority of us probably...Read more
Antique engine, tractor show this weekend in OttawaTopeka Capital Journal, September 9th
The 20th annual Power of the Past Antique Engine and Tractor Show, which runs Friday through Sunday in Ottawa, will feature John Deere tractors and engines. The event features a drawing for this restored John Deere tractor...Read more
Antique John Deere Tractors To Be Revealed at QCA Heritage Tractor EventMachineFinder, September 3rd
When describing the event in prior years, Kristen Veto, assistant manager of the John Deere Pavilion said, “East West Riverfest is a 10-day celebration of the arts, culture and heritage of the Quad Cities and we want to celebrate our heritage by...Read more
Expo in New Boston features antique tractors, family funcabinet.com/cp/merrimackjournal, August 21st
Antique John Deere farm tractors will be showcased to herald the machinery whose earliest ancestor was a polished-steel plow designed in 1837 by John Deere, an inventor and blacksmith from Illinois. Food, vendors, games for kids, exhibits, a scavenger...Read more