The term “tractor” was first recorded in 1896—just four years after an Iowa blacksmith named John Froelich created what would become the prototypical farming tractor. It evolved from an earlier piece of equipment called a traction engine (1859). The meaning of both tractor and traction is anchored in the Latin trahere, which means “to pull, to draw”—which, while not the limit of what tractors do, is certainly their prime purpose.
Tractors revolutionized farming—though size and cost initially kept them from being rapidly adopted. However, as more and more companies made tractors, prices came down, and horses (which had replaced oxen by 1900) slowly began to be replaced themselves. The early 1900s saw a lot of experimentation and development. This 1930s John Deere tractor is a good example of those developments.