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John Deere tractors turn 100

A celebration of the event at Country Heritage Park showed how much tractors have changed

The 100-year evolution of farm power was on display at the recent celebration of 100 years of John Deere tractors at Country Heritage Park.

In 1918 John Deere bought the Waterloo Gas Engine Company and its Waterloo Boy tractor designs, paving the way for the addition of tractors to the lineup of the agriculture implement company founded in 1837.

There were two original Waterloo Boys on display in Milton, one placed next to a new 9520RX with tracks, a tractor with more than 500 horsepower (HP), showcasing the enormous change in tractor design in 100 years.

The other Waterloo Boy belonged to John Deere collector, Ken Glanville, of Walton, Ont. For collectors like Glanville, the two-day celebration was a chance to celebrate their dedication to all-things Deere and to show off some of the tractors that have worked on their farms or found their way into their collections.

Glanville bought his first John Deere in 1959, a 60 model, when he was 15, with the paper co-signed by his father. It cost only $1,200, but that was a lot of money in those days.

Visitors to the to the 100th anniversary celebration braved two days of rain, but came out in multiple generations.
photo: John Greig

Soon afterwards, he became interested in collecting, when he read about the spoke-fly-wheel Model Ds, and decided he needed to have one. That set off a long search until a friend found one in Manitoba.

Glanville caught what he calls the John Deere “virus” at an early age.

Since his first purchase, he’s spent years buying John Deere tractors, although he’s had to stop buying because his storage is full. He has some unique John Deeres.

There’s the rare Waterloo Boy on display that belonged to him, along with an eye-catching 8020, a larger four-wheel-drive articulated tractor with no cab. The list price was $32,000 in 1959, so they were difficult to market at that cost. The tractors were originally branded as 8010s, but they had some mechanical issues. The company brought them back into the factory, upgraded the clutch, transmission, hydraulics, the seat, along with other upgrades, and then sold them as 8020s. There were only 100 made. Glanville owns two and also a unique three-point hitch eight-furrow plow that goes on the 8020.

The event at Country Heritage Park was organized by Green Machinery History and Heritage, with help from John Deere dealers and other John Deere history clubs.

Both days featured consistent rain, but that didn’t stop enthusiasts, from collectors, to farm families, to those interested in equipment from touring tractors in the rain.

There were many generations of tractors on display.
photo: John Greig

Displays in the McDuffe building, an old tractor dealership, showed the history of John Deere tractors all the way from the Waterloo Boy to the 9000 series.

John Deere historical timeline

This timeline was created by a combination of information from the Country Heritage Park John Deere event and John Deere Canada’s historical timeline, highlighting some of John Deere’s tractor history.

1918-1924 Waterloo Boy Era

1918 — John Deere entered the tractor business. In the midst of the launch of the All-Wheel Drive Tractor, Deere bought the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company, manufacturers of Waterloo Boy tractors. The company sold 5,634 Waterloo Boy tractors in its first year.

1924-1938 Lettered Series (Unstyled)

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1934 — Despite hard financial times, Deere continued to introduce new products, including the Model “A” tractor. The similar, but smaller, Model “B” was produced the next year. These two models remained in production until 1952.

1935 — The Model “DI” tractor, John Deere’s first tractor built exclusively for industrial use, was introduced.

1938-1952 Lettered Series (Styled)

1938 — Industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, working with Deere engineers, streamlined the “A” and “B” tractors. Concern for attractive design joined traditional utilitarian values as hallmarks of John Deere products.

1947 — The Model “M” Tractor was built at the new John Deere Dubuque Works. Two years later, the “M” is produced as a crawler, called the “MC.” With a front blade, it became a bulldozer. The versatile product was a precursor to John Deere’s construction and forestry businesses.

1952-1960 Numbered Series

1961-1972 New Generation

1966 — John Deere introduced the first commercially available rollover protective structures for farm tractors. The company later shared the patent for this safety feature with the industry at no charge.

1973-1992 Generation II

1972 — Four new “Generation II” tractor models reached the market. The new models boost operator safety and comfort with exclusive Sound-Gard bodies.

1992-2001 All-New Breed of Power

1994 — The 8000 Series tractor debuted and established new standards in control, visibility, maneuverability and power. The tractor introduced a patented chassis designed for industry-leading turn radius, new transmission and updated cab.

2012 to today R Series

2012 — In 2012, Deere & Company celebrated the 175th anniversary of the company’s founding.

About the author


John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig



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