Almost The Same, But Not Quite

By Staff
article image

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

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

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

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

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.

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