Brief History Of The John Deere Two-Cylinder Tractors

From the Froelich tractor to the 20 series and all the John Deere two-cylinder tractors in between


| December/January 1991



John Deere Model A

John Deere Model A

The following paper was presented at "Tracking the Deere", a conference for John Deere enthusiasts held in March 1991 in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

The theme of this conference is "Tracking the Deere." In this session we will discuss a brief history of evolution of the gasoline tractor from the 1892 Froelich through the two-cylinder group ending in 1960.

Mr. R.B. Gray, who was with the U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research Service (Information Series No. 107), published a treatise entitled "Development of the Agricultural Tractor Through 1950." Although there was considerable controversy on who introduced the first internal combustion engine traction machine, Mr. Gray credits John Froelich with probably the first gasoline tractor with a record of operating success. The 1892 Froelich tractor is listed as 20 HP with a 14" bore, 14" stroke, single cylinder, vertical type engine. The tractor had one forward speed (approx. 2-1/4 mph) and one reverse speed. The machine successfully completed a 50-day threshing run in Iowa and South Dakota, pulling and operating a 40 x 58 thresher.

John Froelich and a group in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1893 organized the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company. In 1912, along with their stationary engines, the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company started to build what became known as the Waterloo Boy. Between 1912 and 1914, there were several engine arrangements. It appears that the two-cylinder horizontal engine arrangement was introduced in 1914 by the Waterloo Boy Model R, Style A, Serial No. 1026. This used a two-cylinder, horizontal, 5-1/2" x 7" engine. In 1917, the engine was revised to a 6-1/2" bore, which was retained through 1925. In the spring of 1920, the Model N Waterloo Boy was the first tractor to complete the newly formed Nebraska Tractor Test. Per Nebraska Tractor Test No. 1, a brief of the specifications and performance is as follows:

Engine 6-1/2" bore x 7" stroke, 750 r.p.m., 25.5 belt HP, travel speeds 2-1/3 and 3 mph forward, 2-1/4 mph reverse, using kerosene for fuel.

In 1912, several of the Deere branch houses and dealers wanted a tractor to sell. The St. Louis and Atlanta, Georgia, branches included the Big Four "30" gas tractor (20 draw-bar HP) in their sales catalog.