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    

1954 John Deere 70 Antique Tractor No Reserve 40 50 60 70 80 Two Cylinder1953 John Deere 50 Antique Tractor No Reserve 40 50 60 70 80 A B D G R1937 John Deere Unstyled D Antique Tractor No Reserve Front Round Spokes A B G RJohn Deere L Antique Tractor No Reserve Electric Start A B G D R Two Cylinder1967 John Deere 40202008 John Deere 2305 Compact Utility Tractor Diesel1937 John Deere A Unstyled Antiquetractor No Reserve Flat Spoke Steel Wheels1964 John Deere 40201957 John Deere 720 Gas Tractor Complete Running And Driving Tractor Inv # 1471Very Nice John Deere 4520 4 Wheel Drive Tractor With Power Reverser1949 John Deere Ar Unstyled Antique Tractor No Reserve Two Cylinder A B G R M L1952 John Deere Model 50 Tractor W/ Accessories Good Running CondJohn Deere B Unstyled Tractor Runs Good 2008 John Deere 3320, 4wd Tractor Hp 33 With Hydrostatic1957 John Deere 520 Tractor - Nice Original!!1969 John Deere 4000 ( Rare )1950 John Deere Model R Vintage Farm Tractor Diesel Pony Motor Pto Ag Drawbar John Deere 4300 Compact TractorJohn Deere TractorArmstrong 5.50-16 Front Tractor Tire Tires John Deere A B G 50 60 70 520 6201946 Model D John Deere Tractor / Older Restoration / Hood River Or2007 John Deere 3203 Utility Tractor!!!1936 John Deere Unstyled AMt John Deere TractorVintage John Deere Tractor W/ Light Back Of Seat, Diecast Wheels & Ribbed TiresAntique Marvel Schebler Dltx-46 Carburetor Carb For John Deere H Tractor A B D G John Deere 757 Zero Turn Mower1937 Centennial John Deere Tractor Oil Distillate Barrel Can Coin Bank1965 John Deere 4020 TractorJohn Deere A B G 50 60 70 520 530 620 630 720 730 Tractor Used Step With Pad Very Nice John Deere 4120 4 X 4 Tractor 43 Hp 2000 John Deere 5310 Very Nice John Deere 5020 TractorJohn Deere Tractor Model 40Antique Brass Kingston A2858a Carburetor Carb For John Deere? Tractor A B D G2008 John Deere 7830 Mfwd Tractor Ivt Transmission Nice1958 4020 John Deere Tractor2 1962 John Deere 1010 Row-crop Tractor BrochuresVintage 1967 John Deere 133 Hp 5020 Diesel Row Crop Tractor Brochure 24 PagesGood Antique Vintage John Deere L La Tractor Pan Seat Bracket AssemblyThe Long Green Line For 1967 John Deere Tractor Brochure1941 Mt John Deere Tractor And AttachmentsAntique John Deere Tractor Seeder Box Moline Illinois Ill Seed Planter Round The Long Green Line For 1968 John Deere Tractor BrochureVintage 1963 John Deere 3020 & 4020 Tractor Dealer Film Strip & 45 Record W/ BoxJohn Deere Styled A B D G Gm H Brass 3 Way Fuel Valve Off A 1941 A Tractor NiceRare Vintage 1962 John Deere 5010 Tractor Dealer Film Strip & 45 Record W/ BoxVtg John Deere Farm Tractor Starter Repair Wrench Old Tool Open End Box Usa SaeJohn Deere Christmas Tree Ornament Farm Tractor Set Model A Box Of 6 ExcellentJohn Deere AJohn Deere Tractor 1948 Vintage Calendar, St. Paul, Nebraska - Print AdvertisingJohn Deere Tractor 1947 Vintage Calendar, St. Paul, Nebraska - Print AdvertisingJohn Deere 420 Tractor Used Take Off Pto Shield NiceVintage Farming Tractor John Deere & Co. Cast Iron Dinner Bell Very Loud! Nice!John Deere 520 530 Tractor Dltx 99 Caburetor Core 879 2011 John Deere X300 Ridding Mower John Deere Tractor 40 420 430 435 320 330 Remote Valve Cover Guard M2636tVintage John Deere Mirror Picture Tractor Bierman Farm Implements Steeleville IlOld Vintage John Deere Tractor Tool Box ~ Rustic Prim Farm Barn Decor / PartJohn Deere, 720, Delco-remy Distributor, Tractor, Vintage, Ignition, Hot, (x)

Recent News: John Deere Tractors

Source: Google News

Right Choices Corn Maze
Four States Homepage, October 23rd

Visitors can toast marshmallows, take pony rides, view an antique tractor show, and listen to Christian music concerts. Kids can also get a free ... Therefore, this year's maze design is a John Deere tractor, a company which exemplifies hard working...Read more

Herndon Frying Pan Park Holds Farm Harvest Days
Virginia Connection Newspapers, October 23rd

Hundreds of families took the advantage of mild fall weekend weather to attend the Frying Pan Farm Park's Farm Harvest Days held Oct. 18 -19 in Herndon. Fall was historically a busy time on farms, and visitors had the opportunity to watch the cider...Read more

Brother Jimmy's BBQ, White Plains | Dining Scene
The Journal News |, October 22nd

vintage glass bottles, a 30-seat square bar smothered with North Carolina license plates, funky neon signs such as “Honey Badger” and “Put Some South in Yo' Mouth” and Southern antique advertisements for gasoline, John Deere tractors and tobacco...Read more

At the Sacramento Valley Museum: That's amazing!
Sacramento Bee, October 19th

Montage of E Street: Garrison's Vestiges antiques store, Granzella's restaurant, the vintage fire station and city hall, a mural of the town in more bustling times, the mid-century-modern sign outside of Louis Cairo's Steakhouse, a lone palm tree where...Read more

Antique tractors get their day in the sun
Anniston Star, October 18th

Smith was running his 1956 John Deere 820 up and down the field at Howle farm. He said he still “plays farm” with his tractor, but doesn't make his living from it. Smith was raised using the tractors, he said. When he went away to college, it was the...Read more

Tigges family cultivates fun on the farm
Greeley Tribune, October 18th

If you want to roast some chilies, pick some pumpkins or check out the antique tractors, visit the Tigges Farm. The Tigges Farm is open daily from 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. The farm is located at 12404 Weld County Road 64 1/2. For details go to, more

Dennis Perry Honored at 2014 Wyaconda Antique Tractor Pull
Memphis Democrat, October 16th

In 1991 Dennis Perry bought his first antique pulling tractor, a 1949 John Deere A. He and his friend, Tubby decided to test it out and started going to Bald Bluff Antique Tractor Association pulls based around Kirkwood, Illinois. Needless to say, they...Read more

Vintage John Deere Tractors Bring More than Money, 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