Almost The Same, But Not Quite


John Deere H Tractor

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2731 Harmony Drive Bettendorf, Iowa 52722

When a viewer not familiar with the John Deere 'H' sees one, the dialogue can go like this: 'Is that a B?' 'No, it's an H, a little brother to the B.' 'Well, I'll be darned, sure looks like a B to me!'

Then, 'Hey, mister, the belt pulley is turning backward.' 'Yes, it is.' 'Well, did you put it together wrong?' 'No sir, you see, the pulley and clutch are mounted on the camshaft.' 'On what?' 'The camshaft, so the pulley then turns backwards.' 'Well, who ever heard of such a thing! But it is a cute little tractor.'

At the risk of boring some Deere collectors, I'll plunge ahead. The very well known John Deere A, B, and G are three sizes of practically the same design. The H differs mainly in these ways:

A) The belt pulley/clutch are on the end of a relatively heavy camshaft. The camshaft turns counterclockwise at 700 r.p.m. versus the crankshaft speed of 1400 r.p.m. So, normally you didn't cross the belt on belt work. B) It had only three forward speeds. C) It had a foot throttle override which could give a 7 1/2mph road speed. D) It had only one stack the exhaust muffler. Carburetor air was drawn through a small screened opening on the left side of the hood. E) The differential brakes were on the rear axles, inside the rear axle housings. F) The power-take-off was optional. G) It was always styled. H) It was not ever sold with steel wheels.

The little H produced a not-so-whopping 13 belt horsepower. (My lawn and garden tractor has more, but I wouldn't want to subject it to pulling a plow all day.)

Horses and mules remained important sources of farm power in the 1930s. The H was introduced in 1939 to compete in the last period of horse replacement. I recall my farmer father stating bluntly that no tractor was ever going into his cornfield. And no tractor ever did. There was lots of time to ponder his firm stand as I rode a one-row horse drawn cultivator back and forth on the corn rows with my overall legs soaking wet from straddling wet corn leaves.

Bruce Dougan, 2731 Harmony Drive, Bettendorf, Iowa, owns this john Deere H. Just beyond the horizon in the photo lies the factory where this little tractor was 'bom' 54 years ago. Look inside for Bruce's story, 'Almost the Same, But Not Quite.'

A project engineer who worked on the H design once told me their price goal was originally $500, but he acknowledged that the selling price ended up considerably higher.

60116 Hs were made. The H was discontinued February 6, 1947, and was replaced by the Model M.

The little H, with a two-row cultivator, could cover 25 to 35 acres per day, using three cents or less of kerosene per acre. With its narrow chassis, slim-waisted tapered hood, simplicity, absolutely safe starting, and nimble performance, the H was, arguably, one of the best cultivating tractors. Its being cute is not arguable.