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Deer's First Tractor
Minnesota farmer Frank Hanson, of Rollingstone, has won a court case against Deere and Co., confirming that his antique tractor a 1918 Deere All-Wheel Drive was the first to bear the John Deere name.
In a decision by Judge Lawrence Collins in Winona District Court, Deere was enjoined from claiming that its 1923 Model D was "the first to bear the John Deere name." The decision, which didn't award any monetary compensation, allows Hanson to promote his 1918 tractor as "the first Deere tractor".
Hanson, who first discovered the tractor rusting away in a neighbor's junkyard, bought it for $1,000 in 1962 after spending 14 years studying its history. Today, the fully-restored tractor is the envy of collectors who would pay $500,000 or more for it, says Hanson. "But it's not for sale. I don't want it to fall into Deere's hands and stashed away someplace where the public can't see it," he told FARM SHOW.
Hanson says his green, yellow and red tractor, described in 1918 brochures and advertisements as "The John Deere All-Wheel Tractor" was one of 200 built between 1916 and 1919, and that his is the only intact one in existance: "It bears serial no. 191879, which signifies that it's the 79th John Deere tractor manufactured in 1918, which is nearly six years prior to the introduction of the Model D, the tractor Deere has claimed to be their first."
Deere officials have acknowledged that, at one time, the company did make 100 or more of the tractors, but deny that it played a significant role in the growth and history of Deere and Co.
"The tractor had a tendency to tip over, which is probably one reason Deere refused to claim it as their firstborn. Also, with only the single wheel in back, it probably didn't have enough traction under load," Hanson points out. "In court, we were able to prove that the 1918 tractor was sold as a fully developed John Deere backed by a Deere and Co. guarantee."
What the court has now decreed to be the first Deere tractor was, in many respects, years ahead of its time. It offered a number of exclusive features, including front wheels that both drive and turn, and a transmission which enabled the operator to change gears from high to low, and vice versa, while under full load without stopping the tractor.
The Deere "firstborn", which Hanson plans to exhibit at fairs and shows, weighs 4,600 lbs., and develops 12 hp at the drawbar and 24 on the belt. It's equipped with a gasoline engine developed especially for tractor work by Walter McVicker, a leading Minneapolis engineer in the early 1900's. "One of the main features of this engine was the simple manner in which the pistons could be removed, and the connecting rod and main bearings adjusted and replaced," Hanson notes.

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1983 - Volume #7, Issue #5