John Deere's Oldest Tractor Returns Home
Circa-1918 4-cylinder Dain All-Wheel-Drive tractor put on permanent display at John Deere Collectors Center
The only complete 4-cylinder Dain All-Wheel-Drive tractor, John Deere’s oldest known, pre-dates John Deere’s first 2-cylinder tractor (the 1923 Model D).
Courtesy of Deere & Co. archives
The only complete 4-cylinder Dain All-Wheel-Drive tractor, John Deere’s oldest known, was welcomed back into the Deere & Co. family.
The Dain, which pre-dates John Deere’s first 2-cylinder tractor (the 1923 Model D), was put on permanent display at the John Deere Collectors Center in Moline, Ill., March 13, 2004.
“The response has been wonderful!” says Brian Holst of the Collectors Center. “Collectors who didn’t understand the significance of this tractor have been surprised since this tractor was made locally and has a lot of heritage in common with this area.”
Now that the Dain is parked at the Collectors Center, the tractor’s special place in history can be shared.
One owner to the next
This particular Dain tractor’s history started like any other. Emil Obitz of Stockton, Minn., bought the tractor from a John Deere dealer in Winona, Minn., in 1918. He used it for about a decade until he traded it for a Model D in 1928. The receiving dealership’s owner, in turn, loaned the Dain to his brother, who used it for a year then parked it in the trees because of an engine malfunction.
In 1930, Morris and Erwin Timm, who lived in rural Minnesota, purchased the Dain. The Timms bought it for the tractor’s chains, with which they wanted to repair a feed mill. Evidently, the brothers never got around to using the chains, and the Dain languished outdoors until 1962 when Frank Hansen purchased it for $1,000.
Hansen had known about the tractor’s whereabouts as a boy, and after he returned from military service, he researched and confirmed the special nature of the Dain. Hansen then restored the neglected Dain tractor from pure rust and displayed it at antique tractor shows until he died about a year ago.
Hansen’s family auctioned the Dain tractor on eBay, but it didn’t sell because the reserve was never met. Deere & Co. negotiated with the Hansen family to purchase the tractor for an undisclosed amount in July 2003. Now, the Dain is finally at its new home in the Collectors Center.
During the Gathering of the Green – a John Deere-specific equipment show held every other year in Moline – Al Higley of the Collectors Center led a dedication that thanked the Hansen family and included a 45-minute history session with an explanation of the tractor’s mechanics.
The Dain was well-advanced, sporting features that John Deere tractors didn’t utilize until the 1960s and some not even until the 1980s. Many of those features include a gear-driven water pump, key ignition, on-the-go shifting, shiftless speed changing and positive traction. These features, however, made the Dain too expensive for most farmers to afford its $1,500 price tag (about $18,500 in today’s terms).
Holst says the Dain will be available for special events if and when the Collectors Center deems the function appropriate. Until then, every collector who “bleeds green” should be pleased that such a unique tractor is finally back in Moline at a permanent home in the Collectors Center.
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