John Steiger

Co-founder / Steiger Manufacturing Company / 1895 - 1976 / Inducted 2018

John Steiger

John Steiger and his sons, Maurice and Douglass, were responsible for initiating the trend in high-horsepower tractors in agriculture, with an articulated design not previously available in large-scale farming equipment, which contributed to greater efficiency and increased production.

By the late 1950s, the Steiger farming operation in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, had grown so large that it needed a more powerful tractor. Not finding what they wanted, the Steigers built one to meet their needs during the winter of 1957-58 in a previously abandoned dairy barn.

Douglass, a mechanical wunderkind, designed the machine despite no formal training in engineering or draftsmanship. They improvised much of the tooling with components off the shelf or from other machines. The only part of the drive mechanism that was custom-designed and built was the power divider.

With a lime-green paint job and new tires, Steiger #1 did the work of all three of their smaller tractors, cultivating a then-unprecedented number of acres in a day. Steiger #1 impressed local farmers, who asked the Steigers to build them tractors as well.

The Steigers officially went into the tractor business in 1963. Douglass was chief designer (and handled much of the sales effort), John provided overall leadership and guidance, and Maurice managed production.

Horsepower range increased, new features were added, and as the 1970s wound down, Steiger Tractor had produced its 10,000th tractor and had become an industry leader.

Steiger developed the first rear PTO option on an articulated 4WD machine and pioneered electronic control systems for tractors.

In addition to farming and manufacturing, the Steigers led several related businesses. They were active in the community, honored with several business and innovation awards, and received several patents.

The Steiger brand lives on still; the company was bought by Tenneco in 1986, then parent company of Case IH.