John Deere and the Motor Cultivator

| March/April 1970

Route 5, Maquoketa, Iowa 52060. (The photograph photocopies are through the courtesy of John Deere and Company, Moline, Illinois.

Deere and Company's involvement with the production of tractors includes some unique experimental firsts. There is Max Sklovsky's one-piece, cast iron body which was the first experimental tractor to use such a frame. C. H. Melvin's integral power lift was unique when he experimented with his model at the Deere Plow Works from 1912-1914. And Joseph Dain's all-wheel drive tractor that could change from low to high gear without clutching was certainly unusual in design.

John Deere was anxious to retain its important position in the implement trade and it was only prudent to recognize the potential change the tractor might bring to the implement industry. Thus, through several board directives, engineers and designers were put to work on a broad front. A motor plow design, a heavy tractor and various motor cultivators were all pursued from about 1912 to 1921. When Deere acquired the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company, Waterloo, Iowa, in 1918, most tractor work was focused on the re-design of the Waterloo Boy.

There were quite a few motor cultivators on the market by 1916. International Harvester, Moline Universal (Moline Plow Company), B. F. Avery, Emerson-Brantingham, Toro, Allis-Chalmers, Parrett and Bailor all produced either one or two row models. The Model D Moline Universal, introduced in 1916, was perhaps the best known of the early motor cultivators; it was one of the first tractors to use a storage battery for starting, ignition and lighting. Unfortunately, the cross-mounted motor had no air cleaner and limited forward vision further decreased its usefulness. The International Harvester motor cultivator also presented some distinct limitations. Its center of gravity was so high that it was dangerous to operate on hilly ground. Also, the small rear drive wheels left objectionable ruts in the field. Later models of the International included a PTO which was probably a result of the influence of E. A. Johnston and Bert R.

Benjamin, two men of extraordinary engineering ability. While articulation of the front and rear sections of the Moline provided a means of dodging row crops, it had the drawback of dividing the operator's attention between steering and dodging the rigs. The International motor cultivator was faulted by this same limitation.

Theo Brown, Early tractor Development, this was one of the twenty-five 'Tractivators' built at the Marseilles Plant in East Moline in 1917.


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