Celebrating the ‘Year of the Tractor’

Slideshow: Smithsonian highlights John Deere’s 100th anniversary selling tractors, but the exhibit contains much more than that.

Successful companies celebrate anniversaries. In the farm equipment business, there are a few companies still around that can celebrate big milestones, and for John Deere, 2018 is significant. The company is commemorating its 100th year selling tractors, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is taking part, too.

The museum has declared 2018 the “Year of the Tractor” in its American Enterprise exhibition, where visitors will get a look at a vintage Waterloo Boy tractor. The machine turned John Deere from an established implement maker into a tractor powerhouse, though at the time, its founder wasn’t too keen on the idea. John Deere purchased Waterloo Boy in 1918 and started marketing tractors the same year.

A walk through the exhibit provides a look back in time for America and for agriculture. And the museum is highlighting not only that 100th anniversary, but also precision agriculture — from early yield monitors to GPS use to the rise of drones as an information-gathering tool.

On a walk through the exhibit, Farm Progress picked up a few images to share, but the display is richer than what’s shown here. It interweaves the rise of America as a business powerhouse during the same time that U.S. farmers turned away from horses and moved on to greater efficiency tools for their operations.

The slideshow shares some of those images.

But why pair the tractor with precision farming? Peter Liebhold, agriculture curator and co-curator of the American Enterprise exhibition, says pairing the story of the introduction of the gasoline tractor with the kinds of tools and technology that today’s farmers are using “allows our audiences to understand how agricultural practices have evolved over 100 years. GPS and computer technology is allowing farmers to see and manage their fields in fundamentally new ways.”

American Enterprise is a permanent exhibition that opened July 1, 2015, and offers a look at the interaction of capitalism and democracy that resulted in the continual remaking of American business. The slideshow with this story offers but a glimpse of what’s on hand at the exhibit. If you’re heading to Washington, D.C., this exhibit is worth a look.

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