Waterloo tractor

Waterloo Boy

On View 1 West

In the early 1900s farmers switched from horses to tractors. While much of the world continued to rely on human brawn or draft animals, Americans adopted the new technology of gasoline-powered tractors.

The development and use of gasoline-powered tractors in the early 1900s helped change the business of American farming. Turning away from animal power and labor-intensive production, farmers modernized their rural operations, seeking the efficiency, size, and use of machines typical of urban factories.

The plow and agricultural implement maker Deere and Co. experimented in-house with tractor design in the early 1910s, but got into tractor sales by buying the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. in 1918. The investment was a success. By 1936 a whopping 40% of John Deere’s sales came from tractors.

For more on the Smithsonian tractor collection, see s.si.edu/tractors.