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The Story Behind John Deere’s Harvester Line

The advent of tractors in the Deere family brought with it the desire on Charles Wiman’s part to raise the bar for harvesting machines. Wiman, Deere’s president, asked his engineers to create a homegrown combine that fit the needs of the average farmer in the Midwest. At this time, the market was loaded with gargantuan harvesters that were more than the average farmer could afford to run.

In response to Wiman’s plea, the No. 2 combine (shown at right) was born in 1926. And in rapid succession, it was replaced with lighter, smaller machines, as Deere engineers devised ways to get more harvesting capacity out of smaller components.

Deere’s line quickly grew to four models and then nearly doubled with the buy of the decade. In 1936, Caterpillar sold its vaunted combine line to Deere. With that deal came the famous Model 36, an industry standard that offered three cut widths in level land and two hillside versions. That acquisition took Deere from combine newbie to industry player in just over a decade.

The Auger Header

Great Green Harvester2
The hillside Deeres trace their roots back to Caterpillar design.
Deere engineers continued to refine and to expand their pull-type line, adding the innovative auger header to the harvesters in 1939. This advance was much more efficient at getting crop from the sickle bar to the thresher. 

Heeding the farmer’s call for self-propelled machines, Deere took to prototyping what would become one of the most copied harvesters in the world – the No. 55, introduced in 1946.

At the same time, the auger header was improved with the innovation of retracting fingers, soon to be another industry standard. And then in 1954, Deere engineers developed a two-row corn head that allowed farmers to pick, shell, and clean up to 20 acres of corn a day in one pass. The corn picker’s days were now numbered.

Relentless in its drive to dominate harvesting technology, Deere refined harvesting capacity while growing combine size. So much so that its Titan 8820 harvester, introduced in 1979, could easily consume the crop garnered from a 12-row corn head or 30-foot platform.

In 2000 came the introduction of the STS Series, which brought rotary threshing and grain separation to green harvesters.

Read more about John Deere's history in 100 Years of John Deere Tractors

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