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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Nov. 21-24, 2014 CalendarCenterville Daily Iowegian, November 21st
THE CITY OF MORAVIA, will be holding various events including Fiesta Bazaar from 8:30-11 a.m. at Grace United Methodist Church, Vintage Christmas Shoppe from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Community Building Holiday Marketplace and Cooke Extravaganza at...Read more
Antique equipment display pulls in crowdsCapital Press, November 7th
He said antique farm equipment collectors from around the Willamette Valley have joined the effort to expand the event each year, and McLaughlin has been a big part of that effort with his own collection of John Deere machinery. “We've had 80 to 90...Read more
Vintage John Deere Tractors Bring More than MoneyFarms.com, October 1st
There were few things that could hold back collectors from a John Deere auction held recently in Highgate, Ontario. Bidders came from all areas, including as far away as Texas to take part in the vintage tractor auction. Mike Shackelton, auctioneer for...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
New England John Deere Expo Featuring Antique TractorsMachineFinder, August 5th
The Northeast Two-Cylinder Club recently announced that they would be co-sponsoring the John Deere Expo, August 22-24, 2014 at the fairgrounds in New Boston, New Hampshire, with The Hillsborough Country Youth Center Foundation, giving tractor ...Read more
Christmas tree farm owner wills vintage John Deere to Durham FairMiddletown Press, July 31st
Sagan, according to family, often visited the farm museum at the fair and intended to donate his vintage 1930 John Deere GP, however never finalized his plans prior to his death. His daughter, Karen Young, and son, Allen Sagan, helped fulfill his wish...Read more
New England John Deere Tractor Expo features antique tractors, family fun, in ...Cabinet.com, July 31st
Northeast Two-Cylinder Tractor Club and the Hillsborough 4-H Club. Antique John Deere farm tractors are showcased to herald the machinery whose earliest ancestor was a polished-steel plow designed in 1837 by John Deere, an inventor and blacksmith...Read more
Antique John Deere tractors will be popping at Riverbend Tractor and Steam ...Mlive Kalamazoo, July 14th
One of antique tractor collector Irv Boersen's John Deere tractors at his home in West Olive, Mi., on Tuesday, July 8, 2014. Boersen's tractors will be featured at the 46th Annual Riverbend Steam and Gas Association's Antique Tractor and Steam Engine Show...Read more