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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Richard NowakAustin Herald, January 26th
Richard had many hobbies including snowmobiling, motorcycling, woodworking, vintage John Deere tractors, operating a custom service company for lawn and garden services, playing cards, photography, road trips, raising rose gardens, rock collecting, and ...Read more
Old Timers Run set for Feb. 7Perham Focus, January 26th
“We get people converting any vehicle into a snowmobile — John Deere tractor… whatever,” said Holmes. Midnite Rider club members will be judging the sleds. When the ride begins at 10:30 a.m., the event swells from 300 to 500 vintage sleds to 800 to ...Read more
Tired Iron Club seeking info, photos on Prince County farm equipment dealersJournal Pioneer, January 25th
That first John Deere that Rennie owned, a 430, is now part of his antique tractor collection. Rennie admits it took a while and some convincing to get it back. Ironically, it was people like Wendell Barbour, Erskine Clarke and countless other farm...Read more
Master Gardener: Do you have the right tools for the trade?Huntsville Item, January 24th
The tools we used for clearing back then are the same tools we use to this day, large handled lopers,chainsaws, secateurs and our oversized wheelbarrow has been replaced with a John Deere Gator. ... Several of my gardening tools are antique. I have a ...Read more
Beat the winter blues by visiting Morocco's Antique Snowmobile MuseumNewsbug.info, January 21st
What started out as a hobby for Dan Blaney turned into Indiana's only antique snowmobile museum located behind his law office in Morocco. “I bought my first John Deere snowmobile in 1981 and I enjoyed messing around with it with my three daughters,” ...Read more
Small tractors are a big passion for collectorsGreat Falls Tribune, January 19th
Decades have past, and tractors can still shut Larsen up, according to his friend and fellow antique toy collector Bruce Nelson. Together, Larsen and Nelson ... Careful detail work is the norm for replica Farmall and John Deere toys. The toy tractors...Read more
Antique collection stolen from Sandusky storage unitSandusky Register, January 11th
Police are asking the public for help in tracking down dozens of antique collectibles swiped from a Sandusky storage unit. In mid-November, a Sandusky man learned his entire collection of antique John Deere tractor toys had been stolen from his storage...Read more
Antique tractor show evokes nostalgiaBowling Green Daily News, January 10th
He owns a 1950 A John Deere, a 1936 A John Deere and a 1937 D John Deere. He grew up on a dairy farm and now works as a welder and farms on the side as a hobby. The favorite among his tractors is his 1937 model. "It's an unrestored tractor," he said...Read more