What is the History of the John Deere Tractor?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The John Deere tractor is a farm implement with a long and illustrious history. The products of the John Deere Company have long been admired by dedicated followers, and the company has notably inspired very strong loyalties among the users of its products. While the man for whom the company is named is long dead, many of the company's modern officials would agree that he probably would have been pleased by the direction the John Deere Company has taken.

A John Deere tractor on a farm.
A John Deere tractor on a farm.

John Deere was a blacksmith who came up with a revolutionary new plow design in 1837. Deere switched to an all-steel design, rather than the traditional iron and wood plows, and within a few years, he had established his own company selling farm implements, with plows as the centerpiece. John Deer products were known for their reliability and innovative design; in 1866, for example, a line of plows specifically designed for soldiers disabled by the Civil War was released.

John Deere was a blacksmith who came up with a revolutionary new plow design.
John Deere was a blacksmith who came up with a revolutionary new plow design.

In 1868, after an assortment of business dealing and acquisitions, John Deere incorporated. 18 years later, the original John Deere died, and the first steam tractors began to be released by rival companies. The John Deere Company was actually initially slow on the uptake, and reluctant to invest in the development of a steam tractor. Instead, the company focused on new plows and other agricultural implements, not developing a tractor prototype until 1916. The early John Deere tractor was refined in 1918 when the company acquired the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company along with its tractor designs, and John Deere started to get into tractors in a serious way, eventually making the John Deere tractor the cornerstone of its business.

The 1920s and 1930s were a difficult time for farming and the companies which made farming implements, but John Deere managed to persevere. The company had already successfully navigated periods of economic hardship, and proved itself adaptable to changing financial and social times.

By 1923, the company had released the Model D, once of the most famous John Deere tractor models ever made, and when the rival International Harvester produced the famous Farmall tractor in 1924, John Deere retaliated with the GP, which came out in 1929. The company went through a series of notable models, including a family of two cylinder “Johnny Poppers” which made a very distinctive sound while in operation, and diesel tractors in the 1950s. The 1950s also brought about the end of the lettering system in reference to models, with the company switching to a numeric system for convenience. Along the way, the company made its famous green and yellow color scheme famous, and it prided itself on building tractors which were innovative, functional, and beautiful.

One of the landmark moments in the history of the John Deere tractor came in 1971, when the slogan “nothing runs like a Deere” was developed. The slogan was initially used to market the company's short-lived snowmobile line, and it was later used to refer to the company's offerings in general. The John Deere Company was also lauded in the early 2000s for its commitment to environmentally friendly technology, and it is widely recognized as an economic powerhouse, a leader in the field of farming implements, and a forerunner in the realm of green design.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


According to a search done by one of the search engine companies, John Deere is the most popular tractor name in the United States and in the World. I guess that surprises no one considering how many of the green John Deere tractors you see compared to some of the other brands.


I grew up in a farming community, and there was a constant debate regarding which was better the International Harvester or the John Deere tractor. If you're not a farmer or haven't been around farmers then you probably don't have any idea how loyal they can be to a particular machine.

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