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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Young Hands and Big ProjectsKWQC-TV6, July 30th
The two are restoring a 1941 John Deere Model A tractor. Nick is involved with this project through the Deere Valley Collectors. Antique tractor restoration is the backbone of the local club. Father and son have worked on the brakes, put new electrical...Read more
Ogle County Fair starts pulling its weightSaukValley.com, July 29th
Kassie Kingery of Shannon pulls with a 1953 Farmall Super H tractor during the antique tractor pulls Wednesday evening at the Ogle County Fair near Oregon. The annual gala will fire back up at 7 this morning at the fairgrounds on Limekiln Road just...Read more
Cedar Valley Memories 20th annual Steam Power Show next weekendMason City Globe Gazette, July 29th
OSAGE | The Cedar Valley Memories Smolik Exhibit, displaying rare antique steam tractors and farm implements, will come alive during the 20th annual Cedar Valley Memories Power Show next weekend, Aug. 8-9. The show takes place on the Cedar Valley...Read more
Antique tractors on parade at fairTowanda Daily Review, July 29th
He said "companionship" is why he takes part in the event, noting that it's also fun. Gerald Pratt of Windfall drove his 1945 John Deere H in the parade. "I like the chance to show the tractor, what have you," he said. Eric Hrin can be reached at (570...Read more
John Deere to be featured tractor at Antique Machinery showWilliamsport Sun-Gazette, July 28th
John Deere to be featured tractor at Antique Machinery show. July 29, 2015. From Staff Reports , Williamsport Sun-Gazette. Save | Post a comment |. LOYALSOCKVILLE - It's an all-John Deere theme for the 28th annual Loyalsock Valley Antique Machinery ...Read more
Final vintage John Deere showcase held in WaterlooThe Daily Nonpareil, July 20th
WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — A convention that brought together John Deere fans from around the country and showcased vintage equipment was held for the final time this weekend. Organizer Jack Cherry told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier ...Read more
Oh, Deere! Eighth annual antique ride set for July 9-11La Crosse Tribune, July 2nd
On the northern route, riders will visit Bill Yahnke's place in Holmen, formally called Yahnke's Antique Green, which features a notable collection of 80 John Deere tractors and has drawn a fair share of attention. Food there will be provided by...Read more
Two-Cylinder Club Gears up for Final Vintage John Deere ExpoMachineFinder, July 1st
An exhibit of John Deere vintage machinery will highlight the event, along with an auction of the famous collection of Dean Stump, a privately assembled John Deere memorabilia collection. The 25th Two-Cylinder Club event will also include an ...Read more