Harvest Tales - Harvey County
The First John Deere Self-Propelled Combine
It was in the early 1940s that my brother, Delbert, signed up for a self-propelled combine with the local John Deere dealer. This was during World War II and farmers' names were put on a waiting list at the dealership if they wanted new machinery. He got a call in the spring of 1947 that a self-propelled combine was being shipped to them and he was the next in line to receive it. He asked me to go into partnership with him as he really couldn't afford to buy it on his own. It was the first self-propelled combine made by John Deere and cost a lot more than other models, $4,700.00. We formed a partnership and purchased it.
Our Dad was very upset with us for spending that kind of money. He said it wouldn't do any more than the pull Gleaner (which cost $500) that we owned, except for the first round. It would take a long time to save enough to justify the cost.
This combine had a 12' header. We had some trouble with it being [a] new model and it was a "muddy" year. The drive wheels were small and didn't do too good in muddy fields. One of [its] nice features was a variable speed drive that you could move with a long lever. This was the only combine that had this feature. It could be slowed down or go faster by moving this lever; the transmission gears didn't have to be changed. We did some custom cutting around Newton; the going price in 1947 was $2.50 - $3.00 per acre.
My brother was impressed with this combine and signed up right away for another one. We took delivery on a new 14', 55 JD [John Deere] in 1949 and were able to sell the first one for almost the amount we had paid for it. (I do not remember what the second combine cost).
The picture is of me driving the first John Deere self-propelled combine in Harvey County in the 1947 Harvey County Fair parade in Newton, KS. (The JD dealer was very proud of this combine.)