John Deere, the man, was born on February 7, 1804. An American blacksmith, he started manufacturing agricultural implements in 1837.
In Grand Detour, Illinois, blacksmith John Deere hears farmers’ concerns that their plows, designed for the sandy soil of the eastern United States, aren’t shedding the thick prairie soil. In response, Deere fashions a highly polished steel mold board from a broken sawblade, the first commercially successful steel plow, in 1837.
Deere’s factory came to be known as “The Plow that Broke the Plains” and is commemorated as such in a historic place marker in Vermont.
When confronted by his partner that customers would buy whatever they make, Deere responded, “They haven’t got to take what we make and somebody else will beat us and we will lose our trade.”
1868, Deere incorporated his business as Deere & Company, which grew to one of the largest and leading agricultural and construction equipment manufacturers in the world.
He once said, “I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me.”
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 a trustee of the First Congregational Church. Deere also served as Moline’s mayor for two years but due to chest pains and dysentery Deere refused to run for a second term.
He died at home (known as Red Cliff) on May 17, 1886.
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