THE JOHN DEERE DAIN EXPERIMENTAL TRACTOR
Courtesy of Lowell Carson, History Department, Midwestern University, Wichita Falls, Texas 76308.
History Department Midwestern University Wichita Falls, Texas
While collecting material for my thesis I found a copy of a book
by Theo Brown, Early Tractor Development which was published in
1953 by John Deere and Company of Moline, Illinois. Apparently
never widely distributed because of the limited appeal such a book
would have, I found it of great value in writing about a
company's pre-production experimental work with tractor models.
And I wish to state here my indebtedness to John Deere for their
cooperation in allowing me to research their library. A primary
debt of gratitude must go to Theo Brown for his foresight in
preserving some record of early experimental tractor work.
Before John Deere acquired an established tractor line with the
purchase of the assets of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company,
March 14,1918, Deere had spent at least six years experimenting
with tractors. Deere's experimentation included some
innovations unique in tractor design at that time. They included
the following: the Sklovsky one-piece east iron body, the Melvin
integral power lift; and the Dain tractor transmission. The major
portion of this paper concerns this last named experimental
tractor, the Dain. While preceeded by the Melvin and succeeded by
the Sklovsky, the Dain has special significance because it was the
first tractor to bear the name John Deere on its hood.
The story begins officially March 5, 1912 with an Executive
Resolved: That in view of the inevitable future use by the
farmers for diverse purposes of gasoline and kerosene tractors, and
especially since the trend is to use them in connection with
implements, particularly plows, it seems vital to the interests of
the Company that serious cognizance should be taken of the
situation, and that through its experimental department, the
personnel and talent of which shall be increased, if necessary, a
movement to produce a tractor plow should be started at once having
in view constantly, that the success of the same would be enhanced
if not assured, were it possible to divorce the tractor from the
plow and thus make it available for general purposes.
After a survey of the tractor industry and a report by a
committee headed by George W. Mixter, Deere's official effort
was fixed on the motor plow avoiding the heavy and small tractor
classes as being already crowded.
The first efforts culminated with the Melvin tractor. Strongly
influenced by the Hackney Motor Plow, C. II. Melvin's tractor
was a disappointment. It was continually breaking down and in the
end only one Melvin was built and at a cost of $6,000. The tractor
had two seats and could be driven from either direction when
hauling with the drawbar or plowing with an under-mounted three
bottom plow. By 1914 company officials decided to halt any further
work with the Melvin tractor.
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