The first tractors in the United States were introduced in the middle of the 19th century and were powered by steam. Known as traction engines, the source of the word "tractor," these steam tractors were used for both plowing and threshing. Manufacturers of early steam tractors included Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co., J.I. Case, and Advance-Rumely.

In 1892, an Iowa inventor named John Froelich built the first gasoline-powered tractor, although acceptance of this new technology would not become widespread until the beginning of the 20th century. During that period, many of the most familiar names in the farm-equipment business got into the tractor trade, from International Harvester (1906) to J.I. Case (1912) to Allis-Chalmers (1914) to John Deere, which bought out Froelich in 1918. Even car-maker Henry Ford got into the act when, in 1918, the first Fordson tractors rolled off Ford’s Dearborn assembly line (Ford withdrew from the farm-equipment business in 1927).

Early International Harvester tractors included the Mogul, which ran on kerosene, gasoline, or naptha and had a single, easy-to-repair cylinder. In its first year of production, 1906, the tractor’s engine ranged from 10 to 20 horsepower, and friction drove its wheels. Within a year the friction drive was dumped for gears and the tractor’s power had been increased to 25hp.

In the mid-1910s, the 4-cyclinder Titan appeared, and by the end of the decade, International Harvester came out with the Junior, whose engine was enclosed under a bonnet in a style that defined tractor design for decades to come. Both competed with another International Harvester tractor, the blue-bodied, red-wheeled McCormick-Deering 15-30, which was used by wheat farmers throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s.

One of the most famous International Harvesters was the Farmall, introduced in 1920. This all-around tractor had a wide rear axle so that the wheels could ride between rows during cultivating. The first Farmall was called the Regular, followed by models F-20 and F-30, some of which were configured with a wide axle in the front and high clearances. Other pre-war Farmalls included the Model A Cultivision (designed to cultivate a single row), the 8hp Cub, and the Raymond Loewy-designed Farmall H, all of which were painted a deep, classic red.

The first Case tractors had enormous engines (30 to 60hp), although tractors with smaller engines quickly followed. These three-wheel, "cross-motor" tractors had 4-cylinder engines, but the breakthrough for the company came in 1929 with the release of the Case L and its smaller cousin, the C, whose in-line engine became an industry standard. In the 1930s, Case introduced the D series (painted in Flambeau red and black) and the R series, whose grilles had an Art Deco sunburst design. The unprofitable V made the 1940s a shaky decade for the company, but Case got back on track in the 1950s with the Case 300 and 400, which set a record in 1956 for fuel economy.

In contrast, the first Allis-Chalmers tractors started out small (6 to 12hp). Low, orchard versions of these tractors were produced, as was a model with spiked wheels. By 1922, i...

John Deere’s first years in the tractor business were spent manufacturing bright-green Waterloo Boy tractors, which was the name of the Froelich tractor company it had purchased in 1918. Deere’s first non-Froelich tractor was the model D, whose 2-cylinder horizontal engine remained in production for more than 30 years. The GP followed in 1929, although reviews were not good (it was underpowered, among other problems), the Henry Dreyfuss designed A appeared in 1934, and the first Deere diesel, the 2-cylinder model R, arrived in 1949. Among other landmarks, it was the first John Deere tractor to feature the company’s now famous "leaping deer" logo.

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    

Ford 8n 6 Cylinder Funk Conversion Antique Tractor No Reserve Farmall OliverInternational Farmall 1206 Diesel Tractor1960 John Deere 435 Tractor1975 David Brown 995 Antique Tractor No Reserve Hydrualic Loader Case Ih Farmall1952 Ford 8n Antique Tractor No Reserve Restored Massey Ferguson Oliver Case1948 John Deere A Antique Tractor No Reserve Vintage Farmall Allis Chalmers1956 John Deere 70 Diesel Antique Tractor No Reserve Pony Start Row CropAllis Chalmers Tractor1970 John Deere 4020 Side Console Tractor1955 Farmall 300 Antique Tractor No Reserve Fast Hitch Live Hydraulics FendersJohn Deere 4620 Power ShiftJohn Deere 4110 4wd Diesel Tractor Snow Blower, Mower & Power Pack Mcs, 55 HoursJohn Deere 350 Dozer1967 Ih Farmall 756 Diesel Tractor - Super Nice Original!!Ih Farmall 706 Diesel Tractor1979 Fw 30 Ford / Steiger 300 Hp 4wdVintage Britains Lead Fordson Major Tractor Boxed Uncommon Farm Model 1046Ford Golden Jubilee Tractor With Sherman Transmission OptionFarmall B -- Serial #3680International Farmall 140 Tractor W/cultivators And Sidedresser And FasthitchAllis Chalmers Wc Antique Tractor Rear Steel Wheels No Reserve Farmall OliverIh Farmall 806 Diesel Tractor - Ready For Work!John Deere 6300 Diesel Tractor With RopsVintage John Deere Eska 12-a Original Toy Tractor Combine John Deere Clam Shell Fenders Antique Tractor No Reserve A B G 50 60 70 520 720Vintage Eska John Deere Farm Tractor W/three Point HitchJohn Deere Compact Tractors1960 Model John Deere 630L@@k! 1937 Unstyled John Deere ARare Vintage John Deere Pto 540 Attachment For 110 112 Garden Tractor Lawn MowerVintage Britains Lead Fordson Major Tractor Spud Wheel 127f Box Base 1053Vintage Original Farmall 450 Tractor Fasthitch And Split Rims ; Sells No Reserve1949 Farmall MNice Ford 1220 4 X 4 Diesel Tractor One Owner 1100 HoursJohn Deere TractorJohn Deere 3010 Tractor1940 Ford 9n Tractor Very Nice John Deere 750 4 X 4 Tractor Only 1200 Hours Nice John Deere 5510 N 4 X 4 Cab Tractor Vintage John Deere Tractor Brochure Catalog 3020 4000 4020 4520 5020 * 64 Pg '70Vintage Eska Ertl John Deere Farm Toy Tractor Display Cardboard Sign Vintage John Deere Tractor Brochure Catalog 3020 4020 4320 4620 5020 * 48pg '71 2000 John Deere 6410 2wd Cab Tractor With Side Arm BushhogJohn Deere 4300 Compact TractorVintage 1/16 Ford 7600 Tractor / Custom Built Farm ToyVintage Danbury Mint 1952 Red & Beige Ford 8n Tractor Diecast W/ BoxFarmall A, Or Super A Tractor Vintage John Deere 4020 (believed) Diecast Tractor With Two Row CornpickerVintage Cragstan Ford Industrial 4040 Toy Tractor Backhoe B/otin Old Original Vintage Ertl 1/16 John Deere High Post "a" Toy Farm Tractor W/manVintage Ertl John Deere 8650 Diecast Toy Tractor 4x4 4wd Nice Nr! 1/16 ScaleVintage Farmall 806 Tractor Narrow Front 1/16th Ertl International Original Antique Vintage Farmall Ford Oliver John Deere Tractor Light Parts1974 Ford 2000 UsedVintage John Deere Tractor 1/16 Scale Steel Wheels1953 Ford Golden Jubilee Tractor (sherman Trans) With Loader & 6-way BladeFord 9000 TractorVintage Ih International Farmall H4 A,b,c,h,m&w Series Tractor Magneto Hot MagMarvel Schebler Dltx 16 Carburator John Deere Antique Tractor D A G B M H LJohn Deere Tractor

Recent News: Tractors

Source: Google News

Not a T-bird, but '47 Ford truck fills the bill, December 19th

It finally had to be pushed on with help from a tractor and unloaded with the assistance of a bunch of friendly, understanding neighbors. Part of Caywood's vision for the truck involved turning it into a flatbed with stake sides. “I wanted that bed...Read more

A perfect fit
Ohio's Country Journal and Ohio Ag Net, December 19th

Dylan was sitting in the tractor seat scrolling through photos of beautiful Courtney on his phone and reviewing her text messages. He had gotten this job at the Christmas tree .... The frail girl handed Dylan a beautiful antique ornament. He hung it on...Read more

North Dakota antique tractors find a new home - in Norway Press, December 19th

Haugen sold the tractors to a Norwegian buyer who had toured his farm a few times with Carrol Juven's Fargo-based Norwegian Cultural Tours, which brings people from Norway on tours to the Fargo area. They visit museums, tractor shows and festivals all ...Read more

In Medford, Santa trades sleigh for a tractor
Cherry Hill Courier Post, December 19th

That would be at Johnson's Corner Farm in Medford, where St. Nick for several years has swapped his sleigh for an antique tractor. I had not realized Santa was involved in agriculture, although his worldwide deliveries do make him the quintessential...Read more

In Purcellville, landmark Nichols Hardware reaches a hard-won milestone: 100 ...
Washington Post, December 18th

It opened here 100 Decembers ago under the name Nichols & Warner, on this same street in a different world. Two years after the Titanic sank, five months after the start of World War I, Edward E. Nichols Sr. stocked his hardware store in Purcellville...Read more

Local antique tractor club brings Christmas joy to children
Shelbynews, December 15th

Thanks to the efforts of the Blue River Antique Power Association, the holiday season got a little brighter for eight Shelby County families Sunday afternoon during a Christmas party. This year's celebration marked another year the tractor club has...Read more

Photo gallery: Santa arrives at North Walsham hospital on a vintage tractor
Norfolk Eastern Daily Press, December 15th

Photo gallery: Santa arrives at North Walsham hospital on a vintage tractor. The Norfolk Vintage and Classic Tractor Club arrive at North Walsham District War Memorial Hospital to deliver Christmas presents for the patients. Picture: KEITH WHITMORE...Read more

5th Annual Lighted Tractor Parade in Centralia
Longview Daily News, December 7th

The Centralia Downtown Association is organizing the widely popular event again this year. The Lighted Tractor Parade will fill the streets of downtown Centralia with vintage and modern tractors, antique trucks and construction equipment, all bedecked...Read more