Okay, we all know that John Deere Tractors, Ltd comes nowhere near the automotive industry.  But, John Deere was an amazing man who deserves more attention than he’s received.  So, I want to honor that, and the memory of John Deere.

John Deere was born into a family of deep poverty on February 7, 1804, in Rutland, Vermont.  John Deere was the third son of William Rinold Deere and Sarah Yates Deere.  In 1805, the Deere family moved to Middlebury, Vermont, where William Deere got a job as a merchant tailor.  Three years later, William boarded a boat heading to England, in hopes of finding a better life for his family.  William Deere was never heard from again, and after a lengthy search, presumed dead.

Raised by a mother on a barely existing income, one can only guess the John Deere’s education was probably rudimentary at best.  At age seventeen, John Deere was lucky enough to get random apprenticeships around Vermont.  By learning the trade of smithing, John Deere was able to find small jobs in Vermont.

In 1837, because of extremely depressing business conditions in Vermont, John Deere decided that it was time to move his small family to Grand Detour, Illinois.  His amazing blacksmithing skills immediately found him a job.  He found out that the plows manufactured (and used) in Vermont didn’t work in the heavy soils of the Midwest.  John Deere thought that a plow with a sharp, polished blade could turn the heavy, sticky Midwest soil.  Within two weeks, his plow was ready.  John Deere then decided to try it out.  It had a broken saw blade that had been polished to perfection.  He then took it through his backyard.  It worked so well that he was able to plant potatoes in the same day (normally a two-day job)!

Within four years, John Deere was making 100 plows a year.  Business was getting so out of hand that John Deere got a patent for the plow, and partnered with Leonard Andrus to keep up with demand.  Six years later, 1000 plows were being made annually.  But, Andrus kept bugging John Deere about the constant changes made to improve the plow.  Andrus told Deere that “the farmers will keep on buying the plow for a long time.”  In other words, farmers will keep on buying Deere’s plows because they dodn’t have a choice.  Deere didn’t feel this way.

Deere retorted with “They ( the farmers) haven’t got to take what we make and somebody else will beat us, and we will lose our trade.”  This was the foundation for the John Deere company philosophy.  It also is one of the company’s motto’s.

In the midst of the Civil War, in 1863, John Deere built a new invention.  It was called the Hawkeye, and was a riding cultivator/plow.  This meant that if a farmer was going to cultivate his field, he no longer had to push it; with a horse pulling.  Now he could sit on the Hawkeye and guide the horse.  Other inventions of John Deere before the Hawkeye were: other cultivators, a lot of steel plows, cotton and corn planters, wagons, buggies, and harrows.  He also considered making a hearse!

John Deere had a challenging life.  He had suffered food loss and destruction near Moline, during the Civil War, and was fatherless for most of his life.  He was actively into politics.  He served for about seven years as the president of the National Bank of Moline, served ten years as the president of the Moline Public Library, and served two terms as the Mayor of Moline.  Twenty-three years after making his first plow, on May 17, 1886, John Deere died at his home in Moline, Illinois.

John Deere started building tractors in 1903.  The first tractor off the production line was called the Model D.  It was so popular that it remained in production until 1935.

During WWII, all the automotive, aircraft and tractor industries were all asked (more like forced) to join the war effort.  The John Deere Company was no exception.  They made aircraft parts, tractors, and guns for the Allies.

In 1946, Caterpillar merged for a short time.  However, in the 1960’s, they went their separate ways.  Caterpillar wanted to build heavy machinery, and the John Deere Company wanted to build backhoes and tractors.started making lawn and garden tractors.  In the 1980’s they got interested in mowing golf courses.  After all, the golf courses were snapping up all the lawn tractors the minute the for sale sign was placed on their hoods.  Why not take a chance?  The result turned out to be so popular that John Deere had to open a new factory!  Now, there are many different lines of products for John Deere.  They include:  Backhoes, Skiploaders, Lawn and Garden tractors, pesticides, large tractors, just to name a few.  Oh, I forgot to mention that they make snowmobiles and snow-blowers!

One can always tell a John Deere tractor by it’s characteristic signature; a green tractor with yellow writing.  Their backhoes are a different story.  They are yellow, for better visibility.

For more information, you can visit the John Deere website at http://www.deere.com/wps/dcom/en_US/regional_home.page

2 thoughts on “John Deere, an Amazing Man in the tractor industry

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