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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EvansQuad City Times, November 21st
They celebrated their 50th Anniversary over the 4th of July in Tower, MN with their entire family participating in 2 parades with Bill's antique John Deere Tractor and handing out 2nd Chance Crosses (Bill and Sherry's ministry). Bill and Sherry are the...Read more
Historic homes holiday tour set for Sunday, Dec. 6The Daily Nonpareil, November 21st
Also, visit the annual Holiday Boutique at 206 Park Ave., which features items by local artists. For antique lovers, some antiques will be on sale at the Bennett, Bregant and Shepard-Farnsworth houses, with a portion of the proceeds going to Preserve...Read more
Eats & drinks: Howard baker works on the farm, using local productsCentre Daily Times, November 21st
There's a large antique french fry cutter in the window, a John Deere clock on the wall, a rack of deer rifles and not many more accessories in this bachelor's kitchen. But that is going to change next month, when Doan and the farmer get married and...Read more
Restoring the past, one tractor at a timeJackson County Floridan, November 20th
In high school, he used to bale hay with them, but these days the Alford mayor and firefighter's tractor collection — the count stood at six, as of Friday morning — provides an enjoyable hobby, one that he and some of his fellow antique enthusiasts...Read more
Santa Paula exhibit highlights tractors' impactVentura County Star, November 19th
The exhibit includes an early John Deere tractor called a Model D that's owned by Jim Bushong, a longtime Ventura County farmer and a member of the Topa Topa Flywheelers Association, a Ventura County group that collects and displays vintage tractors...Read more
Antique tractors plow Mackinaw field for annual beePeoria Journal Star, November 8th
Mike Wurmnest of Deer Creek was at the bee with his 1953 Allis-Chalmers WD tractor. “My dad bought this tractor new,” he said. “Now it sits in a machine shed 363 days a year. I bring it out twice a year.” Those two times are an annual antique tractor...Read more
HomeNewsVintage Farm Equipment Harvest Corn, Memories in NebraskaAgWeb, November 8th
And then it roared to life, an old John Deere pulling an even older corn-picker, creeping toward the final eight rows of corn in a 120-acre field along Yankee Hill Road. It had an audience: a handful of other former farmers and members of the Hy-Vee...Read more
Auction Action . . . An Antique Tractor Auction You Don't Want to MissAgriculture.com, October 28th
One of the most complete John Deere antique tractor and implement collections in the country will be sold October 30 and 31 in Belleville, Illinois. This collection was accumulated by Verlan Heberer over a 60-year period and represents a world-renowned ...Read more