November 25

John Deere through the Years


Last Updated on January 6, 2022

For almost 200 years, John Deere has been creating some of the most powerful and original agricultural equipment in the world. It is one of the world’s most well-known brands, boasts a sterling reputation among its peers, and currently has 103 offices across more than 30 countries.

The son of a tailor, Deere first made a name for himself after becoming a blacksmith at 17. He later moved his family to Moline, Illinois in hopes of making a better life. It was in Moline that he developed his first machine… and the rest is history.

But what lies behind the success of the man and his succeeding products? Let’s examine how John Deere’s machines have changed through the years and how they’ve managed to always stay ahead of the curve.

19th-20th Century

John Deere’s first product was his legendary plow. In fact, most of the products manufactured during the 19th century were plows and other similar implements for farming. The company’s first ridable farming vehicle developed during this timeframe was the Hawkeye Riding Cultivator.

Just after the turn of the century, the company started concentrating on its tractor business due to rising competition. Some of the notable Deere tractors manufactured during this time were:

The Waterloo Boy

In 1918, John Deere bought the maker of Waterloo Boy tractors. The tractor soon became the company’s basic and defining product.

john deere waterloo boy
John Deere Waterloo Boo courtesy of H. Zell

Model D

In 1923, Deere launched the Model “D.” The first 2-cylinder Waterloo-built tractor to bear the John Deere name, it was a success from its start and would stay in the product line for 30 years.

John Deere Model D
John Deere Model D courtesy of Artiez at the English language Wikipedia

Model “A” and Model “B”

Despite the Depression, the company emphasised product development. The Model “A” Tractor entered production. A similar but smaller Model “B” followed in 1935. These became the most popular tractors in the company’s history, remaining in the product line until 1952.

John Deere Model A
John Deere Model A courtesy of John Schanlaub

The “New Generation of Power”

In 1960, a new line of tractor models, known as the “New Generation of Power,” stole the show at Deere Day in Dallas. The launch was considered the most important change of the company’s products in 42 years. Some 6,000 people attended the sales meeting, including nearly all U.S. and Canadian industry dealers.

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What made the new models special was the transformation from the traditional John Deere 2-cylinder machines to 4- and 6-cylinder tractors. They were much faster, more powerful, easier to use, and more comfortable. They also provided better visibility and seat suspension for operators.

John Deere New Generation of Power
John Deere New Generation of Power courtesy of Dual Freq

5000, 6000, and 7000 Series

In 1993, new 5000, 6000, and 7000 Series Tractors drove up market shares in North America and Europe. Competing among 20 contenders in Germany, Deere moved from third to first place in tractor sales. Sales of lawn and garden equipment topped $1 billion for the first time.

John Deere 5000 series
John Deere 5000 Series courtesy of Marie T

21st Century

After experiencing tremendous success in the late 1800s and throughout the 1900s, John Deere boldly ventured into other sectors.

The New Forestry Leader

In 2000, John Deere acquired the Timberjack Group from the Metso Corporation (formerly Rauma-Repola), a world-leading producer of forestry equipment. The purchase also included a separate company, Waratah, which produces a forestry harvester head that is capable of handling large and heavily-limbed trees.

This acquisition was a major step in the company’s vision to become the worldwide leader in the forestry business. It allowed the company to achieve cost savings in product design, manufacturing, and supply management; improve efficiencies; and enhance customer support capabilities. In 2005, Timberjack Oy was renamed John Deere Forestry Oy and trademarked as part of John Deere.  

John Deere forestry harvester
John Deere forestry harvester courtesy of Kaibab National Forest

A New Cotton Innovation

Cotton was the secret sauce to the burgeoning U.S. economy for decades. This staple commodity has been the reason for the creation of innovative cotton picking technologies and and techniques that make the industry what it is today.

Before the 1930s, cotton harvesting was done entirely by hand. In the late 1930s, Texas-born John Rust built the first “harvesting locomotive.” Though his machine was too expensive and unreliable, his idea ignited others to redesign a new, improved version. The cotton harvester entered a different phase in the 1950s, which gave birth to a machine that is closer to what we see today.

In 1980, John Deere introduced the first cotton picker that offered non-stop harvesting and higher quality cotton, reducing the need for additional equipment in the field.

Fast forward to the present day, John Deere’s harvesting machines are seen as the pinnacle of innovation, enabling almost zero manual labor to harvest cotton. This allows the company to maintain its #1 position in the industry.

john deere cotton harvester
John Deere cotton harvester courtesy of By David Nance, USDA ARS

Integrated Customer Solutions

Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group adopted the “agile scrum methodology” – a popular work style and development process in the information technology field. This process consists of scores of “scrum” teams, or small groups, that focus intensively on collaborating and working on short-term projects in order to foster rapid innovation.

One of the major internal changes made by the company was the replacement of cubicles with rectangular tables in a benching layout that allows for instant interaction and communication between team members. This results in increased productivity and collaboration, which in turn allows the company to develop new, more effective technologies and solutions while decreasing their expenses.

With technological solutions that collect, transfer, store, and analyze data, John Deere can serve its customers to a greater degree by enabling workers to better address customer challenges.

Apart from heavy agricultural machinery, John Deere offers a wide range of products including riding mowers, utility vehicles, snow removal equipment, and all sorts of home workshop products.

What’s Next?

There’s a reason why John Deere has been called one of the most admired companies worldwide and has ranked as one of the 100 best global brands by a leading business-consulting firm. Its constant desire to innovate, improve, expand, and meet customer demand ranks it among the most respectable businesses in history.

John Deere will continue to expand its product line and bring new solutions to customers all over the world. What’s more, it will continue implementing cutting-edge technology while keeping a close eye on the traditions that defined it since its humble beginnings.


Heavy Equipment, John Deere, landscaping, tractor

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