John Deere Tractor History

by Jason Chavis

The John Deere company was established by John Deere in the mid-1800s. He lived in Grand Detour, Illinois, and worked as a blacksmith. Facing the tough soil on the Midwest plains, John Deere began to build tractors for use by farmers and businesses that were better capable of tilling the ground. These early tractors were responsible for establishing much of the agricultural development throughout the Midwest.

Steel Plow

The cast-steel plow was the first tractor produced by John Deere in 1837. It helped establish the brand and company as one of the most famous in the world. Deere developed the plow after noticing how a pitchfork could easily penetrate a pile of hay, and adapted the concept to the plow for tilling the soil.

Clipper Plow

After building a large factory to build its tractors in Moline, Illinois, the John Deere company expanded its product line. In 1857, the Clipper Plow was introduced. This new plow featured a rolling blade that could cut vegetation cleanly.


The John Deere Tractor Company went public in 1868, just in time for the firm to expand its product line. The company began making specialized tractors that could work as cultivators, harrows, drills and planters.

Gasoline Engine

With growing competition from the Ford Motor Company and General Motors, John Deere bought Waterloo Boy Tractors and began manufacturing gasoline-powered tractors in 1918. In its first year, these models sold 5,634 units.


It wasn't until 1980 that John Deere made the next great advancement in tractor technology. That year, Deere introduced the 4-row cotton picker, a massive tractor that could increase productivity on farms by up to 95 percent.

About the Author

Jason Chavis has been a professional freelance writer since 1998. He is the author of four books, two movies and a play as well as numerous articles for "Scientific American," The History Channel, City Pages and "The Onion." In 1996, Chavis won the award for "best science fiction/fantasy" from the River Valley Writer’s Conference.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Wikimedia Commons