• Tractor Wars

  • John Deere, Henry Ford, International Harvester, and the Birth of Modern Agriculture
  • By: Neil Dahlstrom
  • Narrated by: Brian Holsopple
  • Length: 7 hrs and 50 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (26 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Discover the untold story of the “tractor wars”, the 20-year period that introduced power farming - the most fundamental change in world agriculture in hundreds of years.

Before John Deere, Ford, and International Harvester became icons of American business, they were competitors in a forgotten battle for the farm. From 1908 to 1928, against the backdrop of a world war and economic depression, these brands were engaged in a race to introduce the tractor and revolutionize farming. 

By the turn of the 20th century, four million people had left rural America and moved to cities, leaving the nation’s farms shorthanded for the work of plowing, planting, cultivating, harvesting, and threshing. That’s why the introduction of the tractor is an innovation story as essential as man’s landing on the moon or the advent of the internet - after all, with the tractor, a shrinking farm population could still feed a growing world. But getting the tractor from the boardroom to the drafting table, then from factory and the farm, was a technological and competitive battle that until now, has never been fully told.

A researcher, historian, and writer, Neil Dahlstrom has spent decades in the corporate archives at John Deere. In Tractor Wars, Dahlstrom offers an insider’s view of a story that entwines a myriad of brands and characters, stakes and plots: the Reverend Daniel Hartsough, a pastor turned tractor designer; Alexander Legge, the eventual president of International Harvester, a former cowboy who took on Henry Ford; William Butterworth and the oft-at-odds leadership team at John Deere that partnered with the enigmatic Ford but planned for his ultimate failure. 

With all the bitterness and drama of the race between Ford, Dodge, and General Motors, Tractor Wars is the untold story of industry stalwarts and disruptors, inventors, and administrators racing to invent modern agriculture - a power farming revolution that would usher in a whole new world.

©2022 BenBella Books (P)2022 BenBella Books
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Mr. Dahlstrom has written a superb history of the tractor and this long-forgotten period of capitalism in US agriculture. We now know the whole story of when farming, business and the free-market economy diverged, divided and conquered." (Wall Street Journal)

What listeners say about Tractor Wars

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Love it

Coming from small town America farming has always been a part of my life! It was a great book with awesome history. It relates to every industry and those who make the decisions that affect how the future will be come reality. Farming has made the USA what it is today and it was very interesting to hear how long it took for adoption of the tractor to come about

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Not very cohesive

Jumped all over the place and was hard to follow. Wish is covered a long history and not just the formative years. A bit of a let down.

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Great Read for Agricultural History Buffs

I wrote my senior thesis as a History major on the impact of the early tractor. Great book

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Love this History!

I love the history of the Gilded Age and this falls within that scope and right through the early decades of the 1900s. Dahlstrom's gifted writing presents this agricultural and manufacturing history in a way that keeps the reader engaged. I love our farmers including my own family that used one of those early tractors during the Great Depression for heavy work while a team of horses served as a secondary power for farm work. Holsopple's narration is spot on!

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Evan's Review

Good book I enjoyed the book. I recommend this book if you are interested in agriculture and History. I hope the will continue writ>ng beginning with 1930 and come forward.

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It was a changing time

In our age of industrial agriculture it is hard to imagine a time when the horse reigned supreme and the tractor was a new and highly controversial innovation. This book details the invention of the tractor, early pioneers, early failures and the eventual rise of the Fordson, the McCormick Deering 10-20 and 15-30 with their companion the Farmall and the John Deere D and GP.
The descriptions of early factories that produced one machine at a time and producers who made less than 10 machines a year seem almost unbelievable today. The internal squabbles in the various companies of whether to build a tractor and what that machine should look like are stories unfamiliar. The book ends in the late 1920s and begs a sequel. It's thought provoking, informative and I recommend it.