The Little-Known Blue Tractor

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This John Blue Co. G-1000 tractor was priced at $10,250. 
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A line-up of John Blue tractors at a recent John Blue festival in Laurinburg, N.C.
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An original John Blue fertilizer spreader on exhibit at Laurinburg’s annual cotton festival.
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A portrait of John Blue that hangs in his house in Laurinburg.
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The magnificent Queen Anne Victorian house built by John Blue on his Laurinburg farm.

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.

Engine at the rear

Now, back to the Blue G-1000 tractor, which company advertising called “the NEW precious crop agricultural tractor for nurseries, garden farming and 1,000 uses.”

As might be imagined, Blue tractors were painted (what else?) blue, with cream-colored wheels and implements. Similar to an Allis-Chalmers Model G, the tractor’s engine is at the rear and there is a high-arched front end. The operator sits just ahead of the engine and behind twin arches that go forward to the front axle and wheels. Implements are mounted beneath the arch, giving the driver an unobstructed view of the work being done.

The Blue tractor is powered by an International C60 4-cylinder, water-cooled engine, the same power plant used in the popular Farmall Cub tractors. Although the last Nebraska test of the Cub in 1956 yielded just 9.87 hp, Blue claimed 16.8 hp for its G-1000, which was never tested at Nebraska.

Power is transmitted to the 2-speed transaxle via a 3-speed transmission, giving the G-1000 six forward and two reverse speeds. The thing is 12 feet, 7 inches long, about 5 feet high and weighs 1,850 pounds. Wheel tread is adjustable from 40 to 60 inches. My tractor is equipped with the optional 12.4-by-24 turf tires in the rear and 23-by-8.50-12-inch flotation front tires. Also available were 8.3-by-24 or 9.5-by-24 ag tires with 4.00-by-12, 3-rib front tires.

Well built but no bargain

A Feb. 1, 1976, price list sets the Blue’s base cost at $4,495 (less tires and wheels), about $16,200 in today’s terms. The 8.3 tires cost an additional $180, while the 9.5 option tacked $190 onto the price. Turf and flotation tires, recommended for use with the mower, added a hefty $334 to the bill.

Available implements included a 12-inch moldboard plow for $250, a single-row cultivator at $239, and a 60-inch, 3-spindle rotary mower for $450 (which required an auxiliary mower drive with an electric clutch, for another $156). Three pull-behind implements were offered: a 6-1/2-foot single disc harrow for $296, a 5-foot spike tooth harrow, $171.50, and a 5-foot spring tooth harrow, $224. For an additional $20, you could get an adapter assembly that allowed use of Allis-Chalmers Model G implements with the Blue tractor.

The price list may explain why the Blue G-1000 was made in such limited quantities for so short a time. To have bought my machine new, with the optional flotation tires, a mower and PTO unit as well an optional fixed rear drawbar ($21) would have set me back $5,456 (about $19,700 today), plus shipping and sales tax. That was quite a sum in 1976, when a Ford 2000 cost about $3,500 ($12,600 today) and a good used Allis-Chalmers G probably less than $1,000 (about $3,600 today).

Every October, a cotton festival is held at the John Blue homestead near Laurinburg, and I attended one recently. There were seven G-1000s at the show. In talking to several of the owners, the consensus seemed to be that fewer than 200 Blue tractors were built during a period of less than two years and that, although they were good machines, they were too expensive. I also heard a rumor of a lawsuit that may have contributed to the line’s demise. Out of all Blues built, just over 20 have been accounted for. Most are in the hands of collectors; one is owned by CDS-John Blue Co., and one reportedly remains in use on a farm near Ray, Mich.

At the festival I saw a nicely restored John Blue G-1000 tractor with a 1-row cultivator for sale for $10,250. I don’t know if the owner ever got that much, but it makes me feel pretty good about my $1,200 investment. FC 

Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by e-mail at
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