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.
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Unsafe tractors drive up death toll at family farmsMinneapolis Star Tribune, October 4th
The vintage tractor didn't go very fast, but Stellpflug liked to use it to putter around his hobby farm in Eyota, Minn. He grew up on a farm outside Rochester using the same type of machine. Built in the 1950s, the Farmall is known as a “tricycle...Read more
Antique tractor pull rescheduledClaiborne Progress, October 1st
The Claiborne High School SkillsUSA Club will host the annual East Tennessee Antique Tractor Association Pulling Series Antique Tractor Pull at CHS on Oct. 3, originally scheduled for Sept. 26 but postponed because of weather. The weigh-in starts at 1 ...Read more
Antique tractor show Saturday in WagonerMuskogee Daily Phoenix, October 1st
Wagoner could be the home base for the Oklahoma Antique Tractor Association if an upcoming event draws enough area interest. Dunbar Park will be the site featuring about 50 antique tractors, a modified lawnmower race, three live bands and children ...Read more
Waseca School District Hopes Vintage Tractor Display Translates Need For ...KEYC, September 30th
Two tractors, built in 1972, sit on the lawn at the Waseca Junior Senior High School, which was also built in 1972. With a bond referendum vote coming up, the district is hoping to give voters the perspective that while the tractors are still being...Read more
Elkhart woman returns vintage tractor to her yard, defying city's orderThe Elkhart Truth, September 23rd
Madison Blue stands next to her great-grandfather's 1961 Case 830 tractor Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, at her home in Elkhart. The city asked Blue last month to remove the tractor, saying it violated city zoning rules. (Sarah Welliver/Elkhart Truth) (Buy...Read more
Paul Rackham puts his collection of 230 vintage tractors up for auctionDaily Mail, September 14th
A vast collection of 230 vintage tractors, dating back almost 100 years, is expected to fetch £2million when it goes under the hammer. Paul Rackman has spent 25 years traveling the world to assemble the haul of rare agricultural machines. The...Read more
Antique tractors gather for parade and showing at John Deere PavilionWQAD.com, September 11th
Antique tractors will parade through Moline, Illinois before assembling for a show at the John Deere Pavilion. The Fourth Annual Quad Cities Area Heritage Tractor Parade and Show was set for Saturday, September 12, 2015. The parade was set to start at...Read more
Antique tractor pull has unique tractors this yearKMVT, September 5th
"We've got a two in Ford tractor that was built during WWII that on steel because there was a rubber shortage during WWII so there are not rubber tires on the tractor. It's an all steel wheel tractor. We've got a few other odd makes of tractors down here...Read more