The Little-Known Blue Tractor

You’re forgiven if you've never heard of or seen a Blue tractor, as only about 200 were built.

| July 2009

Well, a while back, I bought another tractor, even though I had planned to cut back my collection.

I found this one by accident while driving down a road I hadn’t been on for a while – and only three or four miles from home.

The tractor is a Blue G-1000, made during the early 1970s by the John Blue Co., Huntsville, Ala. You’re forgiven if you never saw or heard of a Blue tractor, as only about 200 were built.

A tinkerer’s legacy

John Blue, born Nov. 28, 1861, was a cotton farmer and tinkerer in Laurinburg, N.C., during the latter part of the 19th century. Cotton was the main crop in the area and most local farmers had only one horse or mule to work their fields.

Blue’s first invention seems to have been a stalk cutter that he patented in 1891. The cutter consisted of a wooden drum with eight horizontally mounted, sharpened steel blades. The drum was mounted in a simple wooden framework that could be, as noted in the patent application, “readily attached (beneath) the running gear of an ordinary wagon, thus dispensing with separate running gear for the machine, and consequently cheapening the construction.”

Blue also developed a 1-horse fertilizer spreader, patented in 1893. The machine worked well, and word of its dependability and accuracy spread quickly. The John Blue Co. was formed in Laurinburg in 1886 to build implements, and over the years built 1-row guano and fertilizer spreaders, 1-row cotton planters, and plow stocks. In 1945, after a bad fire, John Blue Jr. moved the firm to Huntsville, where Blue tractors were built later for a short time, probably in 1975 and 1976 (the front wheel rims on mine were made by French & Hecht and are stamped with a 1974 date).

At Huntsville through the 1970s, the firm made cotton wagons and self-propelled and pull-type sprayers, as well as various applicators for anhydrous ammonia. Agriculture changed drastically during the 1980s and the company decided to concentrate on developing and building pumps, flow dividers, manifolds and accessories for use in applying liquid fertilizers and chemicals. In 2000, John Blue merged with CDS Ag Industries Inc., a Chino, Calif., manufacturer of squeeze tube and irrigation pumps. Today, CDS-John Blue is still in business in Huntsville making pumps and other components for liquid fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, as well as irrigation systems.