Did William Butterworth Oppose John Deere’s First Tractor?

For decades, William Butterworth, John Deere’s third president, has been the scapegoat, the person to blame for Deere’s “late” entrance into the tractor business. I think it’s time to let him off the hook. Deere’s tractor development program began in 1912. The industry at that time was nascent. There were thirty-one manufacturers with industry sales …

Top Ten John Deere History Books

‘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 …

Remember the Titans: International Harvester’s Titan dominated the early tractor industry

I studied History and Classics as an undergraduate. Much of it felt so familiar, and it took some time for me to realize how much classical history surrounds us every day. From the Gemini space program and the Titan rocket, to the naming of elements such as titanium, to an athletic shoe and clothing company …

The 1920s tractor bubble.

The farm tractor was still an unknown, emerging technology in the first decade of the twentieth century. But as automobiles replaced horses and wagons on farmsteads across the country, it seemed only a matter of time before the tractor displaced the horse entirely. But sometimes things happen too fast. If you were farmer, the largest …

Selling the Bull Tractor

Pastor Hartsough. D.M. Hartsough. Daniel Hartsough. D. Maurice Hartsough. Tracking him down in newspapers, trade journals and archives has been as difficult as finding a photo (which I still have not), or piecing together the tractors he designed and launched. Or the trail of partners left in his wake. Throughout my research, I keep getting …

The John Deere Story story

One of my professors gave me perhaps the best research advice I’ve ever received. It was early in my college career. It was simple. “The book you need is next to the book you’re looking for.” He was referring to the library bookshelf. You search for a title or topic in the card catalog, which …

A trainload of green and red combines

I’ll admit it. I did not grow up on the farm. But green and red combines are a vibrant memory. I grew up in East Moline, Illinois, in one of the Quad Cities. In the big city I thought, with a population approaching thirty thousand. Yet, the farm was all around us. I remember train …

Poor Paul Ford

No, not Bill Ford, the “coward” that shot Jessie James. And no, not Henry Ford, or even a relation, at least not directly. He was just Paul Ford, trying to make his way. He was recently married, with two young children, living in Minneapolis. Imagine his good fortune when the young electrician was approached about …