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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Steel Wheels

Steel Wheels

David Parfitt's excellent and comprehensive tribute to pre-1930s tractors. The well-posed, high resolution photos i… [read review or visit site]

McCormick International Harvester Collection

McCormick International Harvester Collection

Farm and tractor collectors will appreciate this incredible trove of 30,000 images and documents on the Internation… [read review or visit site]

This antique tractor and farm machinery site is a great resource for researching brands like Deere, International H… [read review or visit site]

A great reference and community forum on antique tractors. Start with the 39-page master photo list, showing thousa… [read review or visit site]

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1960 John Deere 435 Tractor1948 John Deere A Antique Tractor No Reserve Vintage Farmall Allis Chalmers1956 John Deere 70 Diesel Antique Tractor No Reserve Pony Start Row CropJohn Deere 4620 Power Shift1970 John Deere 4020 Side Console TractorJohn Deere 350 DozerJohn Deere 4110 4wd Diesel Tractor Snow Blower, Mower & Power Pack Mcs, 55 HoursJohn Deere 6300 Diesel Tractor With RopsJohn Deere Compact TractorsJohn Deere Clam Shell Fenders Antique Tractor No Reserve A B G 50 60 70 520 720L@@k! 1937 Unstyled John Deere AVintage Eska John Deere Farm Tractor W/three Point Hitch1938 John Deere B Unstyled Antique Tractor No Reserve Farmall Nice Tractor1960 Model John Deere 630Other Makes John Deere Model B Farm Tractor Fully Restored Amazing Build 1941 Johh Deere Model B Tractor Runs Perfect Rare.John Deere 3010 TractorJohn Deere Tractor Very Nice John Deere 750 4 X 4 Tractor Only 1200 Hours Nice John Deere 5510 N 4 X 4 Cab Tractor John Deere 4300 Compact Tractor 2000 John Deere 6410 2wd Cab Tractor With Side Arm BushhogVintage John Deere 4020 (believed) Diecast Tractor With Two Row CornpickerMarvel Schebler Dltx 16 Carburator John Deere Antique Tractor D A G B M H L Nice John Deere 4200 4 X 4 Tractor With 72 Inch Belly MowerJohn Deere 1010 Antique TractorJohn Deere Tractor Nice John Deere 6200 4 X 4 Tractor John Deere 8560 4wd 240hp Tractor No ReserveJohn Deere TractorVintage 1930s John Deere Original Single Sided 27" Wide-tread Tractor Sign2012 John Deere 1026rVintage 1950,s John Deere 60 Tractor With Rear Seat LightOld Antique John Deere"a"ar Tractor Dltx41 Schebler Carburetor Vintage Good CondOld Antique John Deere "a"ar"ao Vintage Tractor Head Gasket Nos A2329r 1940-1953Antique Wico Series C Magneto John Deere Styled A B G & Others Tractor Short LugWico Model X Antique Tractor Magneto John DeereVintage 1930s John Deere Original Double Sided 27" General Purpose Tractor Sign Vintage Models A & B John Deere Tractor Brochure Booklet 1937??Vintage John Deere Tractor Carburetor Marvel Schebler H 3 15 BOriginal Embossed 2 Legged 1970's John Deere Sign Farm Tractor Seed A RAntique John Deere Tractor Magneto Fairbanks Morse Rv Early Engine Hit MissVintage John Deere Tractor Hood Emblem 1010 2010 3010Great Vintage 1957 John Deere Waterloo Tractor Works Advertising Book;let Vintage 1929 John Deere No.40.c Tractor Plow BrochureVintage 1930 John Deere No.45 Tractor Plow BrochureJohn Deere 720 Tractor Used Sealed Beam Lights 13631979 John Deere Place Mat 317 Garden TractorFranklin Mint Classic Tin Collectibles Rare John Deere Model B Tractor D1m2141 1930s Buddy L Large Custom John Deere Semi And TractorOld Vintage 1950's Jd John Deere Dealer Calling Card Door Knob Tractor Sign1937 John Deere A Antique Tractor No Reserve Unstyled Factory Fenders OliverOriginal 1962 John Deere 8020 Tractor 2 Sided Specification SheetVintage John Deere Model D Tractor Brochure Booklet 1937??Antique Vintage John Deere 420 Crawler Tractor Upper Track Idler SupportVintage 1931 John Deere No's. 5 And 6 Tractor Plows BrochureFranklin Mint 1:12 John Deere Model "b" TractorOld Antique John Deere "l"la"luc" Vintage Tractor Victor Head Gasket Nos Al2652tRound Hour Meter Gauge 420 170 12-24-48 Volt John Deere Tractor Gator Diesel Rv John Deere 310se BackhoeJohn Deere, 1973, Tractor Advertising Booklet

Recent News: John Deere Tractors

Source: Google News

Sisters team up to open a bridal and formal wear shop
Kearney Hub, December 20th

Their grandfather Victor Wegner, owned Wegner Van Slyke John Deere Implements in Scotia. Their late great-grandmother, Vera Anderson, owned Vera's Style Shoppe in North Loup for 50 years. In her memory, they have a few of her antique jewelry pieces ...Read more

Rockton man opens store rich with vintage treasures
Beloit Daily News, December 19th

He creates everything from custom headboards with shelves and hooks for trophies and ribbons to huge outdoor garden art like his “John Deere colored” lighthouse, Adirondack chairs, mailboxes and birdhouses. He said his customers usually get hooked as ...Read more

SPRINGFIELD: Firefighters battle blaze at Columbus Farmers Market
Packet Online, December 19th

the all-weather outdoor flea market pavilions, the Columbus self-storage facility and the four flex buildings were built, which today house Central Jersey Equipment (John Deere), J&L Furniture and Sheds and Columbus Antique Mall, according to its...Read more

Family Fun Calendar
HeraldNet, December 19th

Seed drills, drag saws, potato diggers, gas pumps, vintage John Deere tractors, and more showcase the history of Snohomish County. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday on the east side of the Evergreen State ...Read more

Philip L. Ober, farmer and cattleman
Baltimore Sun, December 17th

He enjoyed working on his John Deere tractors and mowing the surrounding fields. He also liked to restore antique tractors and trucks, especially his 1931 Ford Model A fire engine. Mr. Ober was 44 when he was diagnosed with the tumor that claimed his life...Read more

New museum shows how Deere put down roots in Waterloo
Quad City Times, December 6th

WATERLOO — Step inside the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum and look upon a simple wooden walking plow that built an empire. The plow is an exact replica of John Deere's 1837-vintage plow, which the company that bears his name commissioned ...Read more

Deere museum opens in Waterloo
Iowa Farmer Today, December 2nd

WATERLOO — Step inside the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum and look upon a simple wooden walking plow that built an empire. The plow is an exact replica of John Deere's own 1837-vintage plow, which his company commissioned to be built to ...Read more

John Deere museum opening in Waterloo
Washington Times, December 2nd

It features stories about key individuals who guided John Deere during its early years while also displaying company products and memorabilia, such as vintage tractors, blueprints of the complex and manuals. “It's fun to walk Waterloo folks through...Read more