John Deere

In 1837, John Deere was responsible for building the world's first steel plough in his blacksmith's shop at Grand Detour, Illinois (USA). To cope with subsequent demand, production later shifted to Moline, Illinois, and on John Deere's death in 1886, his son Charles took over the running of the firm. The range of implements expanded, and in 1912 the company decided to begin experimenting with a tractor design. In 1911, Deere and Co. had acquired the Dain Manufacturing Co. of Ottumwa, Iowa, and it was left to the company's founder, Joseph Dain, to design a new tractor for Deere to sell. After several prototypes, 100 of the three-wheeled "Dain" were built for sale in South Dakota. Rather than design their own tractor, Deere and Co. still preferred to purchase already established companies, and in 1918 they bought the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. of Waterloo, Iowa, who were already producing the popular "Waterloo Boy" tractors (see separate page on Waterloo Boy). It was not until 1924 that Deere & Co. designed their own tractor, the Model D with a two-cylinder horizontal engine. This model was to remain in production, with various modifications, for over thirty years. The Model D was followed by the GP (General-Purpose) in 1929, although this was widely regarded as under-powered and poorly designed. John Deere regained the initiative with their new Model A and B tractors that appeared in the 1930s, and went on to become American icons. The first John Deere diesel tractor, the Model R, appeared in 1949. It is interesting that John Deere still preferred to use two-cylinder engines when most other manufacturers had switched to four-cylinder power units. Indeed, it was not until a new streamlined range of tractors was introduced in the 1960s that four- and six-cylinder engines were utilised. In subsequent decades, John Deere continued to build on its reputation for high-quality, well-designed products, and today they are one of the largest manufacturers of tractors and agricultural machinery in the world; they are also one of the few companies to still retain their original name.

(Click on images below to enlarge)

John Deere "Dain" tractor (serial no. 79, built 1918) at the John Deere Collectors Center, Moline, Illinois, USA in 2004.

John Deere D with 24" spoked flywheel (serial no. 32466, built 1925) at Tractor World, Malvern, Worcestershire, England in 2008.

John Deere D with 24" spoked flywheel (serial no. 35865, built 1926) photographed in a private collection in the UK in 2013.

John Deere D with 24" spoked flywheel (serial no. 36204, built 1926) at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, Mt Pleasant, Iowa, USA in 2011.

John Deere D with 24" spoked flywheel at the Heidrick Ag History Center, Woodland, California, USA in 2008.


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