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    

1950 John Deere R Antique Tractor No Reserve Original Solid SheetmetalJohn Deere 4600 Tractor With Powrreverser And 7 Ft BackhoeJohn Deere 4300 Tractor1956 John Deere 70 LpJohn Deere 320 SJohn Deere 3720 Tractor With 375 Backhoe Vintage 1957 John Deere 420c Crawler Dozer Tractor No ReserveJohn Deere 5320 Tractor 1300 HrsJohn Deere 655 Compact Diesel Tractor Mower Low Hours Yanmar Diesel1958 John Deere 720 Diesel1946 John Deere "d" Tractor Very Nice Original Paint Complete Straight1944 John Deere Tractor - Model "b" - Electric StartOne Owner John Deere 2510 Diesel TractorVintage 1940's John Deere Syracuse Plows Farm Tractor 27" Embossed Metal SignJohn Deere 5220 4x4 TractorAntique John Deere Tractor - Model A2008 John Deere Trail Gator 850d 4x4 DieselJohn Deere 110 Round Fender Garden Tractor 1964 RareJohn Deere 2755 Tractor & Cab - Diesel1999 John Deere 9200 Tractor 310hp Power Shift Michigan John Deere TractorJohn Deere 420 Hydraulic Control Valve 3 Spool H-3 Hydraulics 318 400 Tractor Nice John Deere X500 Riding Mower Only 300 HoursJohn Deere A Tractor (converted To A Rumley Oil Pull Replica)John Deere 2305 Tractor With ImplementsJohn Deere 620 Gas Narrow Front Power Steering Tractor 1956 Ie A 60 630 Vintage 1960s John Deere Roll A Cone Combine Tractor Advertising ThermometerJohn Deere 20101981 John Deere 4640 Tractor1969 John Deere Patio 112 Custom Color Tractor 112 Rare!!!2006 John Deere 37201966 John Deere 112 Round Fender TractorUsed 1955 Model 60 John Deere Tractor With Used Tires Very Nice John Deere 5220 4 Wheel Drive Cab TractorJohn Deere 420 Hydraulic Control Levers H-3 Hydraulics 318 400 Tractor2005 John Deere 53251966 John Deere 110 Tractor John Deere 4430 4 Post TractorOriginal Rare 420-430 John Deere Tractor Engine Starter Jd 430-420John Deere Model A Tractor- Precision SeriesAntique Car Tractor Headlights John Deere Allis Oliver Case Ford Ihc Farmall2-john Deere A B G 50 60 70 520 620 720 Tractor Used Cultivator Brackets 481Vtg John Deere Farm Tractor Starter Repair Wrench Old Tool Open End Box Usa SaeLot Of 29 - Vintage John Deere Advertising Sales Booklets Brochures - Tractor John Deere 420 Tractor Am3492t 5 Speed Tachometer 453 No Reserve!John Deere 6140r John Deere Unstyled Model B Tractor Prodution Register2-john Deere M 40 420 Tractor Original M646t Head Light Brackets W/lights 511Vintage John Deere Tractor Tool Box2-john Deere 40 420 430 1010 Tractor Lower 3 Pt. Draft Arms 517 No Reserve!2009 John Deere 5083e 4x4 TractorVintage John Deere No. 202 Tractor Drawn Two Way Plow Brochure1950's John Deere 620 TractorJohn Deere Late A, & 60 Tractor .090 Oversize Cast Iron Pistons, Parts Antique Kawasaki Fc420v Mikuni Fuel Pump From John Deere Hydro 175 Tractor Engine John Deere 5403 4 X 4 TractorJohn Deere Bn B Bw 1944 With Mower Farm TractorJohn Deere 420 Tractor Front Pto Shaft Axle Pivot VgOld 1950 Tractor Field Book Ih Case Allis Oliver Ford John Deere Garden Wow! Gas Tank Mounted Sediment Bowl Fuel Filter John Deere Tractor Parts Oem Vintage

Recent News: John Deere Tractors

Source: Google News

It was a steam cleaning ... or a cleaning for steam?
Mason City Globe Gazette, April 23rd

Each year during the annual steam engine show, the Reeves – the largest of its kind ever built in the U.S. -- is powered up and usually seen pulling the antique John Deere 14-bottom lever-lift plow. This year's event is Aug. 8-10. The two-day operation...Read more

Homegrown Heroes - May 2014
Hot Rod Magazine, April 23rd

We lived in a small prairie town in rural Alberta, Canada, where my dad worked at a BA service station that sold John Deere tractors and GM autos. I remember seeing my first muscle car in a '68 Camaro ... It now has to share its garage with our other...Read more

Gas Line Struck Near Walmart In Moline
KWQC 6, April 22nd

Update: Police have closed 41st St. from John Deere Rd. to the rear entrance of Walmart. The gas line was struck just east of McLaughlin Motors. Original: Moline police confirm that a gas line has been struck at 41st St. and 38th Ave. near the Walmart...Read more

Toms fickle, but jake's in the bag
Omaha World-Herald, April 19th

Haverty was working on his prized antique John Deere in the drive. “Do you want to come in for a cup of coffee?” he asked. Taking a seat at the dining room table, Haverty presented strong cups of coffee. All eyes turned to the sliding glass window to...Read more

Charger roars to $29500
Farm Weekly, April 19th

Other items that sold well at the Dwelyerdine Road site were vintage dozers and tractors. A 1950's ... The same purchaser was very active throughout the sale picking up another David Brown for $500, a John Deere with duals for $1150 and a MF65 for $1200...Read more

Tractor show offers glimpse of farming's past
Longview News-Journal, April 19th

Dean Early of East Mountain wipes the dust from his custom 1951 John Deere BR on Friday at the Antique Tractor and Engine Show in Henderson. The show continues today. Buy this photo · Tractor show offers glimpse of farming's past. LES HASSELL ...Read more

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

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