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 3,000-image exhibition on the International Harvester C… [read review or visit site]

Antiquefarming.com

Antiquefarming.com

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

AntiqueTractors.com

AntiqueTractors.com

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    

John Deere Unstyled G Sn 3301John Deere 1937 Low Radiator G Sn 1119John Deere 1934 Open Fan Shaft A Sn 4116631940 John Deere L Antique Tractor No Reserve Cultivators Runs Great1964 John Deere 3020 Gas Tractor Power Shift No Reserve Dual Remote AntiqueJohn Deere Gp Older Restoration, Great Shape, No Reserve!1944 John Deere Bo Crawler Antique Tractor No ReserveJohn Deere 435 Diesel TractorJohn Deere Gw Antique TractorJohn Deere 755 Compact 4x4 Tractor W/ 60" Mower Deck Stock# 81680 No Reserve1950 John Deere R Antique Tractor No Reserve Original Solid SheetmetalJohn Deere 720 Lp Gas Tractor 1967 John Deere 5020Early Open Fan Shaft John Deere A, Restored With A Rebuilt Motor!John Deere 4430 Wheel Tractor [great Mechanical Condition]John Deere 420 T Lp Tractor John Deere General Purpose A Sn 410827Vintage 1957 John Deere 420c Crawler Dozer Tractor No ReserveJohn Deere 4020 Hi Crop1956 John Deere 70 Lp3020 Lp John Deere1939 John Deere B Tractor1969 John Deere Patio 112 Custom Color Tractor 112 Rare!!!John Deere 5220 4x4 Tractor05 John Deere 8520 Wheeled Tractor 275hp Diesel Engine 16 Speed Power Shift Antique John Deere A-196a Wrench - TractorJohn Deere 620 TractorJohn Deere 320 S Very Nice John Deere 5220 4 Wheel Drive Cab TractorJohn Deere 4300 TractorJohn Deere 5300 4wd With LoaderVintage Antique John Deere Tractor Seat Dated 1847 Cast Iron Steel Deer Very Nice 2013 John Deere 5065e 4 X 4 Loader Tractor Only101 HoursJohn Deere 320 Original TractorVintage 1940's John Deere Syracuse Plows Farm Tractor 27" Embossed Metal SignJohn Deere 5210 Tractor 4 Wheel Drive 1700 Hours CrashedJohn Deere 720 Gas Tractor Carburetor Core No Id Tag Dltx 95 ???John Deere 3720 Tractor With 375 Backhoe John Deere Tractor - Model 43201948 Deere Born Loader For A 9n Or 8n Ford TractorJohn Deere Model 4630 With Only 4770 Hrs 1973 YrOld Antique John Deere Tractor Tire Air Pump Tool Cast Iron08 John Deere 4730 Self Propelled Sprayer 90' Boom With Auto Leveling Texas15.5x38 John Deere Antique Tractor Tires And Pressed Steel 14" RimsVintage Zippo Advertising Lighter John Deere Calumet South Holland Ill TractorJohn Deere No.4 Big Sickle Mower Hub Axle Cover Cast Iron Tractor VtgVintage 1970's John Deere Diecast TractorTrio Of Vintage John Deere Riding Mower/tractor Hub Caps.09 John Deere 7630 Tractor 175hp Powerquad Plus Mfwd Comfortcommand Seat 1947 John Deere Model A Tractor 1952 John Deere Mt Tractor Engine (ran Good At Removal)1952 John Deere Mt Tractor Rear Bullet Light 2-john Deere M 40 420 430 Tractor Original Used Cultivator Stands 438 No Reserve1999 John Deere 9200 Tractor 310hp Power Shift Michigan John Deere TractorJohn Deere 420 W Tractor1952 John Deere Mt Tractor L Step1952 John Deere Mt Tractor Carburetor Vtg John Deere Farm Tractor Starter Repair Wrench Old Tool Open End Box Usa Sae1952 John Deere Mt Tractor Starter

Recent News: John Deere Tractors

Source: Google News

Dubuque festival features film about small farm town
Radio Iowa, April 18th

Josh has a vintage John Deere combine named “Jaws” which he's painted blue and affixed a dorsal fin to the roof. He and his friends compete in the annual combine demolition derby which draws 5,000 visitors to the community of 500, helping to support a ...Read more

Farmers market festival hits Hinckley today
Hinckley Times, April 17th

There will also be demonstrations from the spinning ladies and Woodhouse Farm and a vintage tractor and a top-of-the-range new tractor will be on view, courtesy of Farols John Deere of Coventry Road. An Easter bunny hunt competition will take place and ...Read more

Fort Langley's farm museum has busy season
Langley AdvanceNews, April 14th

Monday, May 19, is the annual May Day Parade and will feature 10 entries of antique tractors and wagons from the museum. The parade starts at 11 a.m. in Fort Langley. Sunday, June 1, is Model A Sunday ... A John Deere tractor from the museum will be...Read more

Convoy Against Cancer is May 3
bcrnews.com, April 14th

“Last year one of our farmers brought a collection of antique Farrmall International tractors, and the people really enjoyed them. We'll be looking for some John Deere and Massey Ferguson's to round out the display. There will be all makes and models...Read more

Powerful past preserved at Antique Tractors and Trains Show
Salisbury Post, April 13th

This vintage Oliver tractor and a Farmall tractor with planting attachments were on display through the Piedmont Antique Power Association, based in Mocksville — one of several groups with equipment on display. “We like to get together, have these...Read more

Numbers Stack Up Quickly at Auction of American Brilliant Cut Glass
Maine Antique Digest, April 13th

In the summer of 1962, at age 20, he was hired to help auction everything “to the walls” in Case tractor dealerships, which were going bankrupt in the face of newer, more improved John Deere tractor models. That same summer, he also worked for an...Read more

Tulip Festival historian collects items from celebrations past
Sioux City Journal, April 11th

Nelva enjoys hunting for dolls and McDonald's toys, while Don has an impressive assortment of John Deere Implements stored in a glass case in the garage. The couple jointly collects Dutch keepsakes -- egg ... Others were purchased at antique sales in...Read more

Does Trademark Cover Stuff in Photos?
Courthouse News Service, April 9th

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (CN) - A calendar maker sued John Deere Co., seeking declaratory judgment that privately owned photos of vintage tractors do not fall within John Deere's trademark rights. 3 Point Ink dba Heritage Iron sued Deere & Co. in Federal...Read more