Tractor Wars: John Deere, Henry Ford, International Harvester, and the Birth of Modern Agricul ture

Tractor Wars: John Deere, Henry Ford, International Harvester, and the Birth of Modern Agricul ture

by Neil Dahlstrom
Tractor Wars: John Deere, Henry Ford, International Harvester, and the Birth of Modern Agricul ture

Tractor Wars: John Deere, Henry Ford, International Harvester, and the Birth of Modern Agricul ture

by Neil Dahlstrom


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"Mr. Dahlstrom...has written a superb history of the tractor and this long-forgotten period of capitalism in U.S. agriculture. We now know the whole story of when farming, business and the free-market economy diverged, divided and conquered." Wall Street Journal

Discover the untold story of the “tractor wars,” the twenty-year period that introduced power farming—the most fundamental change in world agriculture in hundreds of years.

Before John Deere, Ford, and International Harvester became icons of American business, they were competitors in a forgotten battle for the farm. From 1908-1928, against the backdrop of a world war and economic depression, these brands were engaged in a race to introduce the tractor and revolutionize farming.

By the turn of the twentieth century, four million people had left rural America and moved to cities, leaving the nation’s farms shorthanded for the work of plowing, planting, cultivating, harvesting, and threshing. That’s why the introduction of the tractor is an innovation story as essential as man’s landing on the moon or the advent of the internet—after all, with the tractor, a shrinking farm population could still feed a growing world. But getting the tractor from the boardroom to the drafting table, then from factory and the farm, was a technological and competitive battle that until now, has never been fully told.

A researcher, historian, and writer, Neil Dahlstrom has spent decades in the corporate archives at John Deere. In Tractor Wars, Dahlstrom offers an insider’s view of a story that entwines a myriad of brands and characters, stakes and plots: the Reverend Daniel Hartsough, a pastor turned tractor designer; Alexander Legge, the eventual president of International Harvester, a former cowboy who took on Henry Ford; William Butterworth and the oft-at-odds leadership team at John Deere that partnered with the enigmatic Ford but planned for his ultimate failure.

With all the bitterness and drama of the race between Ford, Dodge, and General Motors, Tractor Wars is the untold story of industry stalwarts and disruptors, inventors, and administrators racing to invent modern agriculture—a power farming revolution that would usher in a whole new world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781953295743
Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc.
Publication date: 01/11/2022
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 80,706
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Neil Dahlstrom is the author of The John Deere Story: A Biography of Plowmakers John and Charles Deere (Northern Illinois University Press, 2005), and Lincoln’s Wrath: Fierce Mobs, Brilliant Scoundrels, and a President’s Mission to Destroy the Press (Sourcebooks, 2005). Since the release of these two books he’s built a career in corporate archives, agricultural and brand history. Today, Neil the Manager of Archives and History at John Deere, the most well-known agriculture equipment brand in the world.

Recently, Neil has held a variety of leadership positions in archival organizations, with colleagues in some of the most prestigious archives and museums. Currently, he’s a member of the Kitchen Cabinet, the Food and Agriculture Advisory Board of The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and chair of the Society of American Archivists Business Archives Section, which includes more than five hundred corporate archivists.

Table of Contents

Key Tractors and Personnel xi

Prologue xiii

1 The Ford Tractor 1

2 John Deere: "The Newcomer" 13

3 The Tractor Works 27

4 "Divorce the Plow from the Tractor" 37

5 "The Great Awakening" 51

6 "Small Tractor Proposition" 61

7 Henry Ford Day 71

8 "A War to End All Wars" 79

9 "First Class All the Way" 91

10 "England Gets Them First" 103

11 The John Deere Tractor 111

12 "Ford Likes a Success" 123

13 Tractor City 133

14 "Better, Cheaper" 145

15 "Depression Is Awful" 155

16 Farmall 167

17 Iron Man 171

18 "Our Main Competition" 179

19 "Stick to It" 183

20 "A Vengeance" 189

21 "High Hopes" 195

22 "Power Farmer" 207

23 "The Layoff Will Be Brief" 215

24 "The Business of Raising Food" 219

Epilogue 227

Author's Note 229

Acknowledgments 231

Selected Bibliography 233

Notes 241

Index 265

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