Wooden plows were no match for the sticky, thick clay soils encountered by settlers of the Central Plains states of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Eventhe ironplows invented by Charles Newbold of New Jersey in 1703 and by Jethro Wood of Massachusetts in 1819 caused the soil to bunch up in large sectionsrather than scour into neat furrows.
Deere developed a steel plow that could cut through the plains mud with the speed and efficiency demanded by the farmers. Deere's implements played a major role in the transformation of the continent's wild prairies into fertile farmland.
Deere was born in Rutland, Vermont. At the age of seventeen, he began a four-year blacksmith apprenticeship in Middlebury, Vermont. After mastering his trade, he spent twelve years working as a blacksmith in various towns throughout Vermont.
In 1837 Deere moved to the small northern Illinois town of Grand Detour wherehe became aware of the iron plow's inability to penetrate the clay soil. Fashioning a plow from a discarded steel circular saw blade, he was able to successfully plow a dozen rows nonstop. The blade was curved to one side, eliminating the need to push the dirt aside by hand. Establishing a partnership withLeonard Andrus, Deere built three steelplows in 1838. By 1842 over 100 plowswere being made.
In 1846 the Pittsburgh firm of Jones and Quigg shipped a large quantity of steel to Deere and Andrus. That year they produced a total of 1,000 plows. Deere also contracted with the English firm of Naylor and Company for the fineststeel. Although the shipment of steel arrived pitted from exposure to the salty sea air, Deere was able to manufacture fifty plows from it in 1847.
It was about this time that Deere decided that Grand Detour was not ideally situated for a growing business. He sold his interest in the partnership to Andrus and moved to Moline, Illinois, which had the advantage of access to major rail and river routes. It was here that he organized his own company.
By 1857 Deere's company had produced over 10,000 plows, most of which were being carried by nearly every covered wagon that headed across the western prairie. Deere's plow became known as the "singing plow" because of the distinctive humming sound it made while sliding through the dirt. In 1858 Deere made his son, Charles Deere, his partner, and in 1868 the company became Deere andCompany.
Deere and Company steadily expanded its output and diversified into production of cultivators, hay balers and other agricultural equipment. The company isespecially well known for its line of tractors. Also recognized for its generosity, the company helped numerous farmers during the Great Depression of the 1930s by extending credit and forgiving debts.