John Deere The Inventor

By Martin Gilliard

John Deere the inventor of the improved steel plow was born on February 7, 1804 in Rutland Vermont. John Deere’s father was lost at sea when he was just four years old which left his mother on her own to raise him and his five siblings. As a result the family were very poor.

Deere only had a basic education; he attempted to support his family financially whilst simultaneously trying to get an education.

A modern john deere plow

A Modern John Deere Plow / Tractor (Photo Credit Kenjonbro)

At the age of seventeen he started an apprenticeship with Captain Benjamin Lawrence who was a renowned blacksmith.

He spent four years as an apprentice before setting up his own shop.

Deere spent his youth assisting his father in his tailors shop. During this time he helped sharpen and polish needles that were used for sewing soft leather.

After his apprenticeship he went to live in Grand Detour as the town had no blacksmiths, which was a blessing as the work came thick and fast.

From his work as a blacksmith Deere found that cast iron plows were not so effective in plowing especially when the soil was hard or sticky which was common in the westward prairies of America.

One day, John was making repairs at a saw mill and he noticed a shiny, circular saw blade that self-polished itself from the friction created by the wood. This combined with his earlier efforts sharpening needles at his father’s tailors shop gave him an idea. He made a prototype plow which with a highly polished steel share that proved to be surprisingly efficient.

From that point on Deere started to design and manufacture highly polished and properly designed cast-iron plows suitable for almost any soil condition. John sold his first completed plow in 1838 to one of his neighbour farmers, Lewis Crandall. Crandall’s farm was next to the river and was known to have the stickiest soil in the community.

Crandall hitched his horse to the new plow, slapped the reins and watched the soil begin to efficiently cut through and curl away from the steel mold-board, leaving a smooth furrow, impressing the many onlookers.

In 1837, John Deere the inventor of the modern plow made only one more, however in the following year he made three all for his Illinois neighbors.

In following years he was turning out a plow a week which he would sell for $10 each.

Thus, John Deere started selling many plows. It was 1837 when Deere sold his first plow and by 1841 the number had crossed to over a hundred per year. Later he made a partnership agreement with Leonard Andrus and moved to Moline, Illinois. This enabled them to transport the plows more easily as the city stood on the banks of the Mississippi river.

Deere’s factory produced and sold more than four thousand plows by 1852.

The use of plows date back as far as recorded history – John Deere the inventor improved existing designs by creating the first self-polishing plows.

Prior to the self-polishing plow a farmer would be lucky to plow an acre of field a day as so much of his time went in to cleaning the plowshare.

Large scale agriculture particularly in the hard clay soil regions of Midwestern America can be attributed to Deere’s invention.

His company was incorporated as Deere & Company in 1868 and still it is going to this day.

John Deere the inventor was an inventor indeed. His plow served thousands of farmers and he is noted as the father of modern farming plows. This brilliant and successful man passed away on the 17th May 1886.


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