Like a Deere
May 17, 1886: John Deere dies. He was born in Rutland, Vermont on February 7, 1804. He was apprenticed, at the age of 17, to Captain Benjamin Lawrence who was a successful blacksmith in Middlebury. Deere became a blacksmith out on his own in 1825. He moved to Grand Detour, Illinois and found work immediately since blacksmiths were scarce. The tough prairie soil was different from the farming lands back east and the cast-iron plows were not very effective. One of his tasks as a boy working in his father’s tailor shop had been to polish needles by running them through sand. With this in mind, he believed that a plow made out of highly polished steel and with the correct configuration of the moldboard would be self-scouring and more effective against the prairie’s sticky clay soil.
Other versions of the inspiration for his plow mention the way polished steel pitchfork tines moved through hay and soil and that the idea could be implemented in the design of a plow. Whatever the thought process, Deere developed and manufactured the first commercially successful cast-steel plow in 1837. The plow had a wrought-iron frame but a polished steel share. It was ideal for cutting through Midwest soil and Lewis Crandall, his first customer, was able to spread the word about the exceptional qualities of Deere’s plow. Two neighbors soon ordered plows of their own and by 1841 Deere was manufacturing between 75 and 100 plows per year.
In 1843, Deere partnered with Leonard Andrus to try to keep up with demand. They were not ideal business partners and they went separate ways in 1848. Deere moved his business to Moline. By 1855, Deere’s factory sold more than 10,000 plows and his product came to be called “The Plow that Broke the Plains”. He demanded anything with his name on it be made to the highest standards. After the Panic of 1857, business improved even more and John left the running of the company to his son, Charles and in 1868 they were incorporated as Deere & Company.
Still in business today, they are one of the leading companies in heavy equipment used in agriculture, construction, and forestry as well as making diesel engines. In 2013 they were listed as 85th in the Fortune 500 for America and 307th in the Fortune Global 500 ranking. Today, they are headquartered in Moline, Illinois and Sam Allen in CEO and President. The employ 67,000 people and in 2013 had revenues of nearly $38 billion with net income of $3.5 billion. Their company slogan is “Nothing Runs Like a Deere” with a picture of leaping deer. They use different logo colors for agricultural and construction products. The former are painted a distinctive shade of green with a yellow logo.
I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me. – John Deere
Mark, I’ve been thinking about that question about what city people can do. The main thing is to realize that country people can’t invent a better agriculture by ourselves. Industrial agriculture wasn’t invented by us, and we can’t uninvent it. We’ll need some help with that. – Wendell Berry
Advances in medicine and agriculture have saved vastly more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history. – Carl Sagan
You should, without hesitation, pound your typewriter into a plowshare, your paper into fertilizer, and enter agriculture – Business Professor
Also on this day: “And They’re Off” – In 1875, the first Kentucky Derby was run.
That was Quick – In 1963, a fight ended after 48 seconds.
Computational Device – In 1902 the Antikythera mechanism was discovered.
Buy Low; Sell High – In 1792, the New York Stock Exchange was formed.
Separate is Unequal – In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education was decided.