Evolution of John Deere Manure Spreaders

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The John Deere Model E manure spreader in all its glory.
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The New John Deere Spreader Model D: “The Spreader with the Beater on the Axle and the Box-Roll Turn.”
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A Deere & Co. ad from the September 1939 issue of Farm Implement News.
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A John Deere Model B apron-type manure spreader; the “Spreader with the “Beater-on-the-Axle.”
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A 1904 ad for the Kemp & Burpee Success manure spreader that got Deere started in the spreader business.
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My favorite shot of a Model E spreader. The caption reads: “‘Knee deep’ in fertility is this John Deere spreader owned by Henry Stueland, Grand Mound, Iowa. Two horses do the job easily.”

The following is probably more than you ever wanted to know about horse-drawn manure spreaders offered by Deere & Co. over the years.

Deere first got into the manure spreader business in 1902, when John Deere dealers started carrying the Success spreader that was being manufactured by Kemp & Burpee Mfg. Co., Syracuse, New York. In 1910, Deere bought Kemp & Burpee and began making the Success spreader in their Marseilles plant in East Moline, Illinois.

In 1911, Theo Brown, who had earlier patented a spreader with the beater on the rear axle, was hired by Deere and put in charge of the Marseilles factory. Brown’s beater-on-the-axle spreader was introduced as Deere’s first spreader in 1912, and was sold as a Model B two-horse version, and the Model C for three horses, although the capacity of both machines was the same.

Lowest in the industry

The Model B and C machines had high rear drive wheels for plenty of traction and leverage. The beater was mounted on roller bearings on the rear axle, and was driven through three planetary gears that were enclosed and ran in oil. The wooden slat feed apron was ratchet-driven, and could be varied to apply from five to 25 loads per acre.

The beater-on-the-axle design, along with the front wheel arrangement, gave the John Deere spreader the lowest loading height in the industry; just 36 inches from the ground to the top of the box. The two small front wheels were mounted close together under the extended gooseneck frame, allowing the machine to be turned almost within its own length. Options included hitches for two, three or four horses, an end-gate, brake, tractor hitch and widespread attachment.

The new spreader’s sturdy construction, lack of complicated clutches and drive chains, and the low loading height in those days of hand loading, made it very popular with farmers.

Innovative features in the Model D

Introduced in 1929 and built until at least 1936, Deere’s Model D spreader – “the New John Deere Manure Spreader” – was much improved. The main beater was still on the rear axle, but the 26-inch front wheels were spaced farther apart, outside the spreader box. The new front-end arrangement was called the “Box-Roll Turn.” This “ingenious feature” allowed the box to be set low between the wheels for easy loading, while still providing a tight turning radius.

To achieve this, auto-type steering was used and the front of the box was moved away from the cramped inside wheel on a turn by steel rollers and a rack that was attached to the underside of the box, and was engaged by a pinion on the rear of the tongue. When the tongue turned, the pinion moved the rack and the box away from the inside front wheel, allowing very short turns.

The box was tapered outward from front to rear, to reduce friction as the load of manure moved rearward, and was made of yellow pine with creosote-treated bottom boards. Besides the main beater on the axle, there was a spiral widespread at the rear, as well as a smaller beater above the main one, all turning in roller bearings that were “lubricated by the pressure system, similar to that used in automobile construction.” The Model D featured a flat-link chain conveyor with steel slats that could be adjusted to apply from 5 to 25 loads per acre and was available with either two or three horse eveners, while other options included an end-gate, a brake, a lime-spreading attachment and a tractor hitch.

Like all Deere spreaders of the era, the Model D’s wooden box and tongue were painted red. The frame, beaters, levers, steel eveners and seat were green, while the wheels were yellow. “New John Deere Moline, Ill. U.S.A.” was painted on each side of the box, and possibly across the front as well, in yellow letters (some had yellow letters outlined in black).

Style comes to the lowly spreader

In about 1936, the last of the “beater-on-the-axle” spreaders, the Model E, came out. It was similar to the Model D, but the “Box-Roll Turn” feature was dropped. The Model E retained the auto-style steering, but now provided a cutout at the front of each box side so the wheels could turn under the box. Each front wheel rode on a heavy coil spring for longer spreader life and an easier ride for the operator.

The new machine used a hardened steel roller chain for the main beater and conveyor drive. The beaters were improved for a more even spread, and a steel pole and eveners were standard equipment. The heavy, flat-link chain and steel slat conveyor could be regulated to apply from five to 20 loads per acre. The box was made of the “Finest-quality wood, creosoted and painted to resist manure acids and the weather.” The option list included three-horse or tractor hitch, rubber tires, brake, end-gate and lime spreading attachment.

The next John Deere horse-drawn manure spreader was unveiled in 1941. Called the Model HH, the new machine (with sleek, streamlined styling by Henry Dreyfuss) no longer featured the beater on the axle design. The main drive was by a heavy roller chain from a large sprocket on the rear axle, with the main beater mounted on its own axle. A top beater and a rear-mounted spiral widespread assured thorough shredding and even application of the manure. All steel and painted green with yellow wheels, the Model HH had roller bearings throughout and rubber tires, while the options were a two- or three-horse hitch, an end-gate and a lime-spreading attachment.

The end of the line

The Model HH was replaced in 1948 by the 4-wheeled, ground-driven all-steel Model K, which was meant for use with either a team or a tractor.

In 1951, the last of Deere’s four-wheel spreaders, the 70-bushel Model M, replaced the Model K. Although still a ground-driven spreader, the Model M had a heavier steel frame, and the tops of the box sides were flared and made of heavy steel to withstand the beating from the increasingly popular manure loaders. Deere reverted to wood for the lower sides and bottoms of the Model M boxes, as it had better resistance to manure acids than steel.

Finally, in about the mid-1950s, Deere decided that the market for horse-drawn spreaders no longer existed and the Model M was discontinued.

On a personal note, a very Merry Christmas to all of you, and thanks for reading “Let’s Talk Rusty Iron” for all these years (due to the mysteries of magazine publishing, this January issue of Farm Collector will be hitting mailboxes before Christmas). 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 email at letstalkrustyiron@att.net.

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