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]

Antiquefarming.com

Antiquefarming.com

This antique tractor and farm machinery site is a great resource for researching brands like Deere, International H… [read review or visit site]

AntiqueTractors.com

AntiqueTractors.com

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    

John Deere 620 Standard Antique Tractor Factory Rockshaft Three Point HitchFarmall Smta Diesel Antique Tractor No Reserve International Harvestor International Harvestor Farmall 350 Utility Antique Tractor No Reserve OliverAntique John Deere 70 Tractor Standard. Power Steering. Pto. Live Hydraulic. 2000 John Deere 5310 Tractor W/ Bush Hog - 332392Very Nice Ford 7610 Series Ii Special 4 X 4 TractorIh International Harvester Farmall Cub Tractor With Mott Side Mower Nice NrAntique John Deere R Tractor. Pto. New Tires! Serial 91701951 Ford 8n Tractor1950 Farmall Cub With Attachments!!1968 Massey Ferguson 2200 Loader Tractor No Reserve Ford Antique Power SteeringJohn Deere Unstyled GBarn Find Howard Rotovator & Speed Reducer With 1948 Ih Farmall Cub Tractor Rare1945 Farmall M Antique Tractor No Reserve International Harvestor Power Steering Very Nice John Deere 4120 4 X 4 TractorJohn Deere 855 4x4 Diesel 72" Pto Driven Mower 3 Point Hitch Center And Rear Pto1950 Farmall W6 Antique Tractor No Reserve Internatonal Mccormick DeeringNice Ford 8600 2wd Cab Tractor Cold A/c One Owner1986 Ford Tractor Model 39101983 John Deere 4455 Tractor And Disc 150hp Jd 18 Speed Quad North CarolinaJohn Deere 41201969 John Deere 2520 Original Condition 4264 HoursVintage 1950's Farm Tractor John Deere Pull Combine (3) & Tractor 1/16 Ertl? John Deere Tractor Model 40 Very Nice John Deere 1070 2wd Tractor Only 667 Hours1959 John Deere 630 Antique Tractor No Reserve Power SteeringVintage John Deere Green Model 520 Ertl Tractor Pedal Car Very Good Condition1951 John Deere Ar Antique Tractor No Reserve Nice Tractor Oliver Farmall1010 John DeereLot #2 Of 7 Vintage John Deere: Tractor, Mow, Bale, HaulVintage 1950's Farm Tractor John Deere Plow 1/16 Ertl? Very Nice John Deere 4520 4 Wheel Drive Tractor Power Reverser1982 John Deere 4040 Nice John Deere 5425 2wd With Power Reverser TractorFord 4000 TractorAllis Chalmers Tractor Implement One Bottom Plow & Cultivator Garden G B D WdLarge Vintage John Deere Farm Tractor Dealership 120" Embossed Metal Sign~nice Nice John Deere 737 Zero Turn Mower1999 John Deere 5210John Deere 650 4wd Nice Nice Nice1948 Restored 8n Ford TractorLot 15 Vintage John Deere Sales Brochures Farm Tractor Combine Cultivator ManualVintage John Deere Farm Tractor Dealership 42" Embossed Metal Sign~nice W/box1989 John Deere 4555 Tractor 168hp Jd 15 Speed Powershift Colorado Lot #1 Of 4 Vintage John Deere: Tractor, Plow, Disk, PlantFarmall 450 Tractor International Ih Ertl Eska Vintage Farm ToyAntique John Deere Tractor Coldwater, Ohio Dealer Oil Can 1435 John Deere Diesel Front Cut Mower Nice John Deere 345 Riding Mower Hubley Vintage 1/12 Scale Ford Select-o-matic Tractor W/correct Display Box!!!Vintage 1950's International Harvester Farmall M H Toy Tractor W/ Box And WagonAntique Chad Valley Fordson Major Tractor Diecast Intricate & Nice England FordVintage 1950s International Mccormick Farmall 400 Toy Metal 1/16 Farm TractorNice John Deere 425 Zero Turn Mower John Deere F911 Front Cut Mower Vintage International Ihc Farmall M Md W6 W-6 Wd6 T6 Tractor Crawler Pre CleanerVintage Ertl Green John Deere Pedal Tractor Model 520 With TrailerExcellent Condition 1960's Vintage Diecast John Deere Farm Tractor 3020? SeriesVintage Eska Ertl John Deere Pressed Steel Hay Baler Farm Toy Tractor ImplementVintage Ertl International Farmall 1026 Hydro Tractor

Recent News: Tractors

Source: Google News

Picnic fundraiser features primitives, antique tractors
The Cross Timbers Gazette, September 2nd

Enjoy a free picnic and looking at antique farm equipment while donating to a good cause? The Denton County Antique Tractor, Farm Equipment and Primitives Club's annual fall meeting and picnic is slated for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 27 at Raymond and Mary ...Read more

Antique Tractor Assoc. nears season end
SalemNews.net, August 31st

Antique Tractor Assoc. nears season end. September 1, 2014. Salem News. Save |. ALLIANCE- The Columbiana County Antique Tractor Association had a nice turnout at its Aug. 23 tractor pull. The last two pulls of the season will be held at 5 p.m. Sept...Read more

S.C.R.A.P. celebrates antique tractors, engines
Fremont News Messenger, August 31st

GIBSONBURG – George Miller Jr. took his family's 1941 McCormick Farmall tractor out for a spin Sunday, as he and several other competitors brought their antique tractors and engines to the annual Sandusky County Restorers of Antique Power's show at ...Read more

No. 22: Vintage tractors celebrated
Mason City Globe Gazette, August 30th

Many tractors have also found a home in museums including the Heartland Museum in Clarion, which includes a portion of Larry Maasdam's collection of 100 crawler tractors and more than 400 antique tractors. In addition to the tractor rides and events, ...Read more

Bring your antique tractor to Wayne County Sept. 1
The 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 Nebraska
Hutchinson 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 pull
Fremont 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

Old equipment highlights antique tractor show
Lancaster 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