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Iowa History Daily: January 10 - Big Green (Waterloo Boy) Tractor

Iowa History Daily: On January 10, 1893, John Froelich founded the forerunner to the iconic American tractor brand John Deere in Waterloo. The first company to ever manufacture and sell gasoline powered farm tractors, the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company, eventually became John Deere tractor after purchase by the popular plow company. 

Froelich, born in a northeastern Iowa village named for his father, started experimenting with machinery after attending the College of Iowa. With the help of blacksmith Will Mann, Froelich built a 16-hp gasoline tractor with forward and reverse gears in 1892. When attached to a J.I Case threshing machine, the first tractor threshed 72,000 bushels of wheat over 52 days.

In 1893, Froelich went into business with several Waterloo area investors to found the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company. Only two of the four engines produced by the company were purchased, and both sales ended up returned to the company by unsatisfied customers. John W. Miller bought the company in 1895 and focused solely on building gasoline engines.

In 1911, the company again started to design and sell tractors with the introduction of the kerosene-fueled Model R Waterloo Boy. The popular tractor sold over 8,000 units before discontinuation in 1923. In 1918, Deere & Company, an equipment company, purchased the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company for $2.1 million to enter the tractor market. After the sale, the company changed names to become the John Deere Tractor Company. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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