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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Recent News: Tractors
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Father, son cultivate love of tractors, farm heritageIndiana Gazette, August 28th
Fairgoers this week have the opportunity to see a number of antique tractors that show a piece of American history. Jared Swanger, of Chambersville, and his father, Bill, of Indiana, are longtime staples at the Indiana County Fair and participate in...Read more
Bring your antique tractor to Wayne County Sept. 1The Southern, August 27th
WAYNE COUNTY -- The sixth annual Wayne County Antique Tractor Drive will take off at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 1, in Johnsonville. All tractors that are model year 1984 or earlier are welcome to participate. The planned route for the drive will begin and...Read more
An antique tractor show in NebraskaHutchinson News, August 27th
So a trip to an antique tractor show near Hastings, Nebraska, reconfirmed this event fits each of the above-mentioned categories and more. The 31st Annual Platte Valley Antique Tractor Show held at Crystal Lake 10 miles south of Hastings proved that...Read more
Fair wraps up with demolition derby, antique tractor pullFremont News Messenger, August 24th
The fair ended with a full schedule that included the S.C.R.A.P. antique tractor pull, mid-afternoon concerts with the Main Street Band and Leona Williams and an evening demolition derby at the grandstand. Justin Burel served food at Big Burel's BarBq...Read more
6th Annual Wayne County Antique Tractor Drive is set for Sept. 1The Southern, August 22nd
The planned route for the drive will begin and end at the Crop Production Services plant in Johnsonville, with tractors returning around 3 p.m. Check-in will begin at 9 a.m. The complete route is around 35 miles in length. Recognition will be given for...Read more
Old equipment highlights antique tractor showLancaster Eagle Gazette, August 15th
Kevin Horn parks his tractor Friday afternoon, Aug. 15, 2014, at the Alley Park Tractor-Construction Equipment-Truck Show at Alley Park. The event features demonstrations, vendors, food, games and a concert Saturday night. (Photo: Jess ...Read more
Nostalgia and farming at Antique Tractor PullEmporia Gazette, August 15th
The nose of the pink tractor lifted into the air as it veered off course. But the relatively lightweight piece of equipment went farther than Judy Rice thought it would, especially for someone who has never done a tractor pull before — and for a...Read more
Antique tractor dreaming, it could happenGeorgetown News Democrat, August 14th
What does it mean to be an antique machine? Some say that anything dating prior to 1960 is antique, others say that anything older than twenty five years is considered an antique, but by this last reckoning, all of my children are now antiques. I...Read more