‘Tis the season for a list, and in the spirit of the season, here are my top ten books about John Deere history. I’ve spent twenty years providing historical research services in the John Deere Archives, and over time, strong subject trends appear. Based on those requests, here are my top ten books on the history of John Deere.
For a book to make my list, it must meet some criteria. It must have informational value, i.e., it must provide information and facts, must be written by experts, and in most cases, must include references and citations to primary sources.
These are listed in no particular order. I have also provided links to harder to discover, self-published titles.
- John Deere’s Company: A History of Deere & Company and Its Times by Wayne Broehl. Dartmouth professor Wayne Broehl published his definitive history of the company in 1984. This is an academic work, is heavily cited and exhaustive in its analysis of the company through 1984. It is the most comprehensive history of the company written.
- John Deere Tractors & Equipment: Volume 1 (1918-1959) and Volume 2 (1960-1992) by Don MacMillan and Roy Harrington. If you are looking for a concise, thorough, chronological product history, these two volumes are a great place to start. MacMillan and Harrington were the authoritative voices of company history for decades. These volumes are heavily illustrated and easy to navigate due to clear headings and date ranges for products.
- Designing the New Generation John Deere Tractors by Merle Miller. This is an insider’s look at the design and introduction of the New Generation of Power from 1953-1960. Miller retired after thirty-eight years with Deere, holding the position of supervisor of testing and design. Miller features interviews from the engineers and designers that created the iconic New Generation of Power.
- The John Deere Story: A Biography of Plowmakers John and Charles Deere by Neil Dahlstrom and Jeremy Dahlstrom. This biography covers the period from John Deere’s birth in 1804 to Charles Deere’s death in 1907, including the first seventy-years of John Deere company history. And yes, this is my own book, but it is the most comprehensive biography of John Deere available.
- John Deere Snowmobiles: Development, Production, Competition and Evolution, 1971-1983 by Ron Leonard and Richard Teal. This is an insider’s view of John Deere’ successful run in the snowmobile business from the 1970s to the early 1980s.
- John Deere in Nascar Racing, 1996-2000 by Wayne Smith. This is the most authoritative history of John Deere’s short stint in Nascar, including a chapter dedicated to collectibles.
- The John Deere Moldboard Tractor Plow 1914-1960 by David Wolfe. This is a heavily illustrated and thorough overview of John Deere tractor plows through the two-cylinder era. A companion book is also available, John Deere Moldboard and Disk Plows, New Generation Era.
- I’m going to cheat here. There are many books published by Green Magazine featuring specific series, ranging from the Unstyled Letter Series, to the 10 Series New Generation Tractors to the 20 Series New Generation Tractors. These are a great overview taken from the pages of the magazine over the years.
- Corn Pickers: And the Inventors Who Dreamed Them Up by Bob and Phyllis Johnson. This is an illustrated, self-published history of every corn picker ever developed. This is a thorough reference to complete anyone’s agricultural history bookshelf.
- John Deere Collectibles by Brenda Kruse. Of the books written on collectible ephemera and toys, this is the most thorough and prolifically illustrated. The book was published in 2001, so value estimates are out of date, but if you are looking for examples of rare and unique John Deere collectibles, this is the source to start with.
No list will be exhaustive, and you will notice the absence of general books about tractors. There are many good ones out there, and a quick online search will help you discover those. I hope this list will serve as a resource to some lesser known books on specific topics as you deep dive into John Deere history.