Pedal toys have been around since the late 1800's, starting as velocipedes, which was basically a tricycle. These eventually evolved into pedal cars after the turn of the century with the invention of the automobile. However, it was not until 1946 and 1947 that pedal tractors were created.
Harold (Jimmy) Heller, from Dubuque, Iowa, was the inventor of the very first pedal tractor. His original prototype was carved out of wood. He then pitched his idea for this new toy to the International Harvester and John Deere Companies. After approval from each company, Heller began his own company, "Tractoy," and began producing these toy riding tractors.
The Tractoy company eventually merged with the Eska Company of Dubuque, Iowa, in 1949. They produced the tractors through 1960, for many different companies including John Deere, International Harvester, Ford, Oliver, Case, Massey Harris and the Allis Chalmers Companies. In 1960, Eska stopped production. The Ertl Company of Dyersville, Iowa then began producing these riding toys.
In similar fashion to the car companies of their day, the farm tractor companies listed above would have these tractors produced for them and they would give them to the children of their customers who purchased the real thing. Most of the toy tractors produced were similar to the full size tractors and even had the same model numbers painted on the sides.
While the original pedal tractor was crafted out of wood, the later toys were all sand cast in aluminum. Even today these unique, heavy duty toys are made, but with aluminum alloy.