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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Epic Willys Adventure: 2000 Miles To Moab, Utah.Four Wheeler Network, April 30th
He found it hiding out behind a John Deere dealership, but the owner had his own dream of restoring it and had no interest in selling it. Since it had been ... He added a wood bed, custom vintage stereo, center console, and door panels. Then to give...Read more
May Club CalendarQuad-Cities Online, April 30th
Quad Cities Antique Ford Club, 7 p.m. every second Tuesday, Deere-Wiman Carriage House, 817 11th Ave., Moline. Call Harold Mitchell, 563-323-0231. Rose Chapter 626 Order of Eastern Star, 7:30 p.m. every second Tuesday, 1304 5th Ave., Silvis...Read more
Farming bygones attract big bids at vintage auctionNorfolk Eastern Daily Press, April 29th
A restored 1940 John Deere model BO sold for a record price of £7,800 and a 1960 Roadless Ploughmaster 80 fetched £20,000. The sale also included the second part of the late Michael R Lane Collection, an archive of historically-important steam literature...Read more
Tractors gear up for nostalgic caravanSuperior Telegram, April 29th
The ride gives owners incentive to revitalize these vintage vehicles. “A lot of people will doll up their tractors, put ... During last year's event, Pichetti won another John Deere B, a newer model with an electric start. His wife plans to drive it in...Read more
Sheriff's briefsMount Airy News, April 28th
According to the April 22 report, a John Deere lawn tractor, valued at $2,500, and a John Deere push mower valued at $800, were stolen. Other missing items included an antique red wheel barrel, valued at $50, and $500 of miscellaneous tools. Damage to ...Read more
The Maritime Gig returns with some new twistsKitsap Sun, April 27th
The car show, a new hit in recent years features new and classic vehicles, and a cool 1959 vintage John Deere 530 tractor that you have to see to believe. And who can forget the amazing view of anchored boats in the harbor on Sunday? The Blessing of...Read more
John R. RamseyHarrison News Herald, April 27th
He loved to rebuild antique John Deere tractors. If an object wasn't John Deere green when he got it, it wasn't long until it was. He was a member of the Woodsfield Tractor Club, Harrison County Antique Tractor Club and loved to take his tractors to...Read more
Auction CalendarBureau County Republican, April 27th
lawn and garden and tools, collection of wood working planes, primitives and collectibles, 2007 Honda Odyssey, primitive, antique and modern furniture and appliances, Longaberger baskets, collectibles and household items, racing trike, motors and...Read more