Books

Available January 2022

Tractor Wars: John Deere, Henry Ford, International Harvester, and the Birth of Modern Agriculture

Tractor Wars

Before John Deere, Ford, and International Harvester became icons of American business, they were competitors in a forgotten battle for the farm. From 1908-1928, against the backdrop of a world war and economic depression, these brands were engaged in a race to introduce the tractor and revolutionize farming. 

By the turn of the twentieth century, four million people had left rural America and moved to cities, leaving the nation’s farms shorthanded for the work of plowing, planting, cultivating, harvesting, and threshing. That’s why the introduction of the tractor is an innovation story as essential as man’s landing on the moon or the advent of the Internet—after all, with the tractor, a shrinking farm population could still feed a growing world. But getting the tractor from the boardroom to the drafting table, then from factory and the farm, was a technological and competitive battle that until now, has never been fully told.

In Tractor Wars, Dahlstrom offers an insider’s view of a story that entwines a myriad of brands and characters, stakes and plots: the Reverend Daniel Hartsough, a pastor turned tractor designer; Alexander Legge, the eventual president of International Harvester, a former cowboy who took on Henry Ford; William Butterworth and the oft-at-odds leadership team at John Deere that partnered with the enigmatic Ford but planned for his ultimate failure. 

With all the bitterness and drama of the race between Ford, Dodge, and General Motors, Tractor Wars is the untold story of industry stalwarts and disruptors, inventors, and administrators racing to invent modern agriculture—a power farming revolution that would usher in a whole new world.


The John Deere Story

The John Deere Story: A Biography of Plowmakers John and Charles Deere

Today, John Deere is remembered-some say mistakenly-as the inventor of the steel plow. Who was this legendary man and how did he create the internationally renowned company that still bears his name? He began as a debt-stricken blacksmith who, fleeing debt in New England in the 1830s, set up shop in a little town on the Illinois frontier. There, in response to farmers’ struggles, he designed a new plow that cut through the impervious prairie sod and lay open the rich, heavy soil for planting. The demand for his polished steel plow convinced him to specialize in farm implements.

In the decades before the Civil War, John Deere envisioned a company supplying midwestern farmers with reliable, affordable equipment. He used only high quality, imported steel and resisted pressure to raise prices. At the same time, he won respectful affection from his employees by working alongside them on the shop floor. Upon taking the helm in the 1860s, John’s only surviving son, Charles, expanded the Moline factories to increase production, started branch houses in major Midwestern cities to speed distribution, and began to transform the company into a modern corporation. The transformation didn’t come without difficulties however: Charles found himself battling the Grange, facing threats of labor unions and strikes led by his own employees, and enduring patent suits and blatant thefts of product designs and advertising.

“[An] outstanding study in business history… particularly illuminating on the close relations that bound industry to agriculture during the pioneering period of settlement in the Midwest. It is an enthralling story.”

Indiana Magazine of History
Lincoln’s Wrath

Lincoln’s Wrath: Fierce Mobs, Brilliant Scoundrels, and a President’s Mission to Destroy the Press

In the blistering summer of 1861, President Lincoln began pressuring and ordering the physical shutdown of any Northern newspaper that voiced opposition to the war. These attacks were sometimes carried out by soldiers, sometimes by angry mobs under cover of darkness. Either way, the effect was a complete dismantling of the free press.

In the midst stood publisher John Hodgson, so hated that a local newspaper gleefully reported his defeat in a bar fight. He was also firmly against Lincoln and the war–an opinion he expressed loudly through his newspaper.

When his press was destroyed, first by a mob, then by U.S. Marshals “upon authority of the President of the United States,” Hodgson decided to take on the entire United States. Thus began a trial in which one small-town publisher risked imprisonment or worse, and the future of free speech hung in the balance.

Based on 10 years of original research, Lincoln’s Wrath brings to life a gripping, dramatic retelling of one man’s fight to protect his civil liberties.

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