John Froelich was born on this day in 1849. Who? John Froelich.
John was the inventor of the first gas-powered tractor, an invention that dramatically changed the lives of farmers everywhere. Prior to John’s invention, farmers relied on either horse-drawn field equipment or bulky and dangerous steam-powered equipment that resulted in frequent fires.
In 1890, Farmer Froelich tried something new: he mounted a one-cylinder gasoline engine onto the running gear of his steam-powered thresher. (Gasoline, or internal combustion engines were a new invention; Karl Benz, founder of Mercedes-Benz, had just designed the first automobiles in production in 1885.) With his experiment a success, he went on to found the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company, and continued to work on his engine, but by 1913, he had sold only 20 tractors. That didn’t stop John though—plowing through adversity is something farmers know well. John continued to improve his tractor engine, and considered it a success when he sold 118 tractors in 1914 alone. He named his hit The Waterloo Boy and went on to sell 8,000 tractors by 1918, when plow-manufacturing company Deere & Company (later renamed John Deere) bought the company for over 2 million dollars!
The Waterloo Tractor Works, in Waterloo, Iowa, is still owned by John Deere, and is one of the largest tractor factories in the U.S.
Thank you, John, for your visionary invention.