Gasoline Tractor


In 1892 John Froelich built the first gasoline-powered tractor that propelled itself backward and forward. His invention helped pave the way for modern farming.

John grew up in Froelich, a Clayton County town named after his father, Henry. John ran a feed mill and elevator and tinkered with machines. Mounting a gasoline engine on a well-drilling rig gave him the idea to mount an internal combustion engine on a tractor. A few weeks later, the tractor— a forerunner of John Deere tractors— was shipped to South Dakota, where it threshed 72,000 bushels of wheat in 52 days.

Froelich, with other investors, founded the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company in 1893. This company eventually became the John Deere Tractor Works.

Like many inventors, Froelich received little recognition for his work during his lifetime while others profited from his creations.

Adapted from an article printed in The Goldfinch 20, No. 1 (Fall 1998). Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.
© State Historical Society of Iowa

 

 


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