History of Farm Tractors

The word tractor comes originally from the Latin verb trahere meaning to pull, which is logical enough. The noun itself was first used with its current meaning in 1901, although prior to this date those traction engines that you can still see at old country fairs were already around. These were developed for agricultural use in about 1850, following on from portable steam engines that, from the beginning of the nineteenth century, had helped drive mechanical farm machinery.

The first gasoline-powered tractor with any practical purpose was built by John Froelich of Clayton County, Iowa in 1892 - but he only sold two of them. In the early 1900s, the Hart-Parr Company, also in Iowa, designed and built a tractor for use on farms to help with plowing, planting, tilling the earth, harrowing and disking. In Britain, there were early designs by Hornsby-Ackroyd in 1897 and a three-wheeled version by Dan Albone in 1902 but the first commercially successful tractor came from Saundersons of Bedford in 1908. In the USA, the Twin City Traction Engine Company brought out a successful gasoline-powered tractor in 1911.


When Henry Ford introduced the first, fully mass-produced tractor, the Fordson, in 1917, it was much smaller and more within the price range of ordinary farmers and so the American market began to really develop. Tractors began to make a significant impact on British farming because of the First World War, when there was a great need to increase food production.

In 1918, the John Deere Company - whose leaping deer trademark has been known for 120 years - bought Waterloo Boy Tractors; part of its journey from being a one-man blacksmith shop in 1837 to the global concern it is nowadays.

By 1923, Fordson - by then being manufactured in Ireland, England and Russia as well as back home in the USA, had 77% of the American market and a good foothold overseas. During the 1920s, tractors which had gasoline powered internal combustion engines were becoming standard everywhere. Cheaper manufacturing methods and design improvements led to tractors becoming essential requirements for farmers and, in the 1930s, when Harry Ferguson devised a hydraulic system for attaching implements to the tractors, the hi-tech, multi-functioning vehicle of today was becoming more of a reality.

Modern tractors are now employed in both field and farmyard operations, carrying, powering and using an enormous range of equipment. It's possible for one man and his tractor to plow in excess of 10 hectares in a single day and it's not unreasonable for a contemporary farmer to anticipate up to 8,000 hours of relatively trouble-free use from his machine.

Modern improvements in tractor technology have included the introduction of turbo chargers, more four-wheel drive tractors, front and rear mounted tools and attachments, vastly improved tire technology, chassis strength and weight distribution as well as significantly more comfortable cabins and seats for drivers.

Space technology has also found its way to tractors in the form of GPS devices. These devices come in handy when used in modern, precision farming techniques. They sure have come a long way in comfort, style and efficiency. Soon it will be "fashionable" to be seen in a tractor. Ok, maybe we're not to that point, but tractors have and will continue to play a big role in agriculture and other industries. There will always be a need for farmers and where you find farmers, you'll find a tractor.

History of Farm Tractors

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