Deere & Company Celebrate 150 Years

| October/November 1987

  • John Deere tractor

  • John Deere tractor

This year Deere & Company celebrates a corporate milestone that few American industrial companies have attained-the 150th anniversary of continuously doing business under the same name.

The event that led to the founding of the company in 1837, while unheralded at the time, changed the course of an important segment of U.S. history: the agricultural development of the bountiful midwestern prairies by eastward moving frontiersmen and women.

Working in a small blacksmith shop in the tiny village of Grand Detour, Illinois, a 'smithy' from New England named John Deere set out to solve a problem that was plaguing the farmers who were arriving in the midwest from the east in increasing numbers.

The problem was simple: the fertile midwestern soil was so sticky that it gummed up on the farmers' plows. This meant they had to stop their teams of horses every few steps and scrape the plow blade clean.

This was a laborious task and was so discouraging to some frontier farmers that they were beginning to pack up and return east. John Deere had been in Illinois for less than a year in 1837, having migrated from Vermont, when word of this dilemma caught his attention and his craftsman's imagination. He set out to find a solution to the problem and, by changing the material used in the plow from cast iron to steel, he succeeded.

Deere soon showed he had as much talent as a marketer as he did as an inventor and his new self-scouring plow became a hit with farmers. Within ten years, the farm equipment business of John Deere had grown at such a pace that he decided to move it to the Mississippi River town of Moline, Illinois, to take advantage of the water power and better transportation facilities.