John Deere

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John Deere

For information on the John Deere manufacturing company, please see the Deere & Company article.

John Deere (February 7, 1804 - May 17, 1886) was the blacksmith and manufacturer who founded Deere & Company - one of the largest agricultural and construction equipment manufacturers in the world. Deere was born in Rutland, Vermont, the son of William Deere. After his father disappeared enroute to England, Deere was raised by his mother. He received an education in the Vermont primary school. He served a four-year blacksmith apprenticeship, and entered the trade in 1825. In 1827 he married Demarius Lamb. By 1836 the couple had four children, with a fifth child on the way. Facing bankruptcy, Deere sold the shop to his father-in-law, and departed for Illinois.

Deere settled in Grand Detour, Illinois. As there were no other blacksmiths in the area, Deere had no difficulty finding work. He found that cast-iron plows were not working very well in the tough prairie soil found in Illinois. Deere eventually came to the conclusion that a plow made out of highly polished steel and a correctly shaped moldboard would better be able to handle the soil conditions of the prairie.

In 1837 Deere developed and began commercially manufacturing the first cast-steel plow. The wrought iron plow had a steel share which made it ideal for the tough soil of the midwest, and worked better than other plows. In 1843 Deere partnered with Leonard Andrus to produce more plows to keep up with demand. In 1848, Deere dissolved the partnership with Andrus, and moved to Moline, Illinois because the city's location by the Mississippi River, and because it was a transportation hub. By 1855, over 10,000 such plows were sold by Deere's factory. From the very beginning, Deere insisted on making high quality equipment. Deere once said, "I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me." As the business improved, Deere left the day to day operations to his son Charles. In 1868, Deere incorporated his business as Deere & Company.

Later in life, Deere focused most of his attention on civil and political affairs. He served as President of the National Bank of Moline, a director of the Moline Free Public Library, and was an active member of the First Congregational Church. Deere also served as Mayor of Moline for two years.

Deere died at home on May 17, 1886. The company he founded continued following his death, and has become one of the largest manufacturers of agricultural and construction equipment in the world.

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