From plow king to worldwide corporation | TheFencePost.com

From plow king to worldwide corporation

Alison Connell
Kersey. Colo.

Alison ConnellA 1950 Joh Deere "B" owned by Larry Connell.

Many of us have seen the familiar green and yellow of the John Deere tractors and equipment working in the fields, what many of us do not know is how the company began, or how tractors in general became such an important factor in the everyday operations of a farm.

In 1837, a Vermont blacksmith had moved to Illinois, his name was John Deere. The ground in Illinois had a different make up than the ground in Vermont. The ground was harder and more difficult to cut through than the ground of Vermont; Mr. Deere came up with a plow that would cut through the Illinois ground, making the farmer’s job easier. Deere used a broker saw blade to fashion his plow and it proved more successful than the cast iron plows used in the area.

By 1848 the company was up and functioning well. In 1858, John decided to retire and turn the business over to his youngest son Charles, who in 1868 incorporated the company under Deere and Company.

In the early part of the 20th century, the company expanded and was manufacturing other types of farm equipment including corn and cotton planters, no longer just a plow manufacturer.

As the needs of the farmers changed, the company needed to change, so in 1911 Deere and Company bought several small equipment companies, expanded its product line to include cultivators. However, this was not enough to keep the company operating at a profit. Deere and Company needed to branch into the growing tractor manufacturing industry. By 1916 the company started experimenting with many different tractor prototypes and designs, but it was not yet building tractors at a competitive rate.

The company was under pressure by competitors who were already building tractors, but company executives remained indecisive about the production of what became the most important tool of modern agriculture. In 1918, John Deere bought Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company of Waterloo, Iowa. They manufactured a tractor called the Waterloo Boy. This was the beginning of the tractor era for Deere and Company.

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The Waterloo Boy was originally a steam-powered tractor, but developed into a kerosene tractor and eventually gas. The Waterloo Boys were first introduced in 1911 and was in production for Deere and Company until 1924, when the company began manufacturing the John Deere “D” model, when the company needed to produce a heavy tractor to accommodate the needs of farmers. The “D” was produced until 1953. Even though the company was growing, not all was well. The tractor industry was still in its infancy, and because of this, there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the tractor manufacturers, which led to the need to develop new and innovative machine.

One new and interesting machine, which never really took off, was called the Brown Motor Cultivator, also known as the tractivator. This machine was two in one – it was a tractor and a cultivator. This innovative machine was developed by a man called Theophilius Brown and was put into production in 1924. Unfortunately, it was bulky and difficult to handle, so many farmers did not use the machine and it did not sell well. No matter how many times it was changed and remanufactured, the interest never increased and stopped production.

In order to meet the changing needs of the farmer the company began work on a harvester plant in 1913. This action aggravated International Harvester executives, because harvesting equipment was its bread and butter so IH bought two small plow companies entering John Deere’s turf. So eventually in 1919, Deere and Company entered the harvest business, making threshing machines. However, there was a new piece of equipment on the horizon, the combine, a self-propelled threshing machine, went into production in 1923. It was amazing though, that new equipment was developed because the nation was in a depression, and sales were low.

This depression ignited a tractor price war launched by Henry Ford. Ford cut prices so dramatically that the smaller and lesser-known companies went out of business. Companies such as IHC, International Harvester Case, barely survived. John Deere Equipment survived because they not only produced tractors but various types of farm equipment.

By the 1940s and World War II, mechanization was advancing and John Deere was in the thick of it. During this time the company developed crawlers, a track driven machine, and later a front blade was added and it become a bulldozer. The company assisted in the war effort by building aircraft parts, military tractors and ammunition. It was during this time that many changes took place. Tractors became easier to start and use, one reason was because women were left to take care of the farms, it became a necessity to have an easier starting tractor if the country was to feed itself and its soldiers fighting in Europe and the Pacific.

By the 1950s, Deere and Company had built its first diesel tractors know as an “R” and built its largest row-crop tractor a model 70.

Today, Deere and Company is still operating, producing much more than tractors. It has worldwide factories and manufactures clothing and small carrier vehicles known as gators.

Many of us have seen the familiar green and yellow of the John Deere tractors and equipment working in the fields, what many of us do not know is how the company began, or how tractors in general became such an important factor in the everyday operations of a farm.

In 1837, a Vermont blacksmith had moved to Illinois, his name was John Deere. The ground in Illinois had a different make up than the ground in Vermont. The ground was harder and more difficult to cut through than the ground of Vermont; Mr. Deere came up with a plow that would cut through the Illinois ground, making the farmer’s job easier. Deere used a broker saw blade to fashion his plow and it proved more successful than the cast iron plows used in the area.

By 1848 the company was up and functioning well. In 1858, John decided to retire and turn the business over to his youngest son Charles, who in 1868 incorporated the company under Deere and Company.

In the early part of the 20th century, the company expanded and was manufacturing other types of farm equipment including corn and cotton planters, no longer just a plow manufacturer.

As the needs of the farmers changed, the company needed to change, so in 1911 Deere and Company bought several small equipment companies, expanded its product line to include cultivators. However, this was not enough to keep the company operating at a profit. Deere and Company needed to branch into the growing tractor manufacturing industry. By 1916 the company started experimenting with many different tractor prototypes and designs, but it was not yet building tractors at a competitive rate.

The company was under pressure by competitors who were already building tractors, but company executives remained indecisive about the production of what became the most important tool of modern agriculture. In 1918, John Deere bought Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company of Waterloo, Iowa. They manufactured a tractor called the Waterloo Boy. This was the beginning of the tractor era for Deere and Company.

The Waterloo Boy was originally a steam-powered tractor, but developed into a kerosene tractor and eventually gas. The Waterloo Boys were first introduced in 1911 and was in production for Deere and Company until 1924, when the company began manufacturing the John Deere “D” model, when the company needed to produce a heavy tractor to accommodate the needs of farmers. The “D” was produced until 1953. Even though the company was growing, not all was well. The tractor industry was still in its infancy, and because of this, there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the tractor manufacturers, which led to the need to develop new and innovative machine.

One new and interesting machine, which never really took off, was called the Brown Motor Cultivator, also known as the tractivator. This machine was two in one – it was a tractor and a cultivator. This innovative machine was developed by a man called Theophilius Brown and was put into production in 1924. Unfortunately, it was bulky and difficult to handle, so many farmers did not use the machine and it did not sell well. No matter how many times it was changed and remanufactured, the interest never increased and stopped production.

In order to meet the changing needs of the farmer the company began work on a harvester plant in 1913. This action aggravated International Harvester executives, because harvesting equipment was its bread and butter so IH bought two small plow companies entering John Deere’s turf. So eventually in 1919, Deere and Company entered the harvest business, making threshing machines. However, there was a new piece of equipment on the horizon, the combine, a self-propelled threshing machine, went into production in 1923. It was amazing though, that new equipment was developed because the nation was in a depression, and sales were low.

This depression ignited a tractor price war launched by Henry Ford. Ford cut prices so dramatically that the smaller and lesser-known companies went out of business. Companies such as IHC, International Harvester Case, barely survived. John Deere Equipment survived because they not only produced tractors but various types of farm equipment.

By the 1940s and World War II, mechanization was advancing and John Deere was in the thick of it. During this time the company developed crawlers, a track driven machine, and later a front blade was added and it become a bulldozer. The company assisted in the war effort by building aircraft parts, military tractors and ammunition. It was during this time that many changes took place. Tractors became easier to start and use, one reason was because women were left to take care of the farms, it became a necessity to have an easier starting tractor if the country was to feed itself and its soldiers fighting in Europe and the Pacific.

By the 1950s, Deere and Company had built its first diesel tractors know as an “R” and built its largest row-crop tractor a model 70.

Today, Deere and Company is still operating, producing much more than tractors. It has worldwide factories and manufactures clothing and small carrier vehicles known as gators.