In 1962, a University of Illinois archaeological team unearthed the exact location of the blacksmith shop where John Deere developed the first successful steel plow in 1837. The site is now preserved by an exhibit hall complete with a simulated conversation between John and Demarius Deere talking about their every events on the farm and his development of the self-polishing steel plow that eventually opened the prairie to agriculture.
GO WEST YOUNG MAN
As a young journeyman blacksmith in Middlebury, Vermont, John Deere soon gained fame for his considerable workmanship and ingenuity. It was a golden age of the burgeoning pioneer and John headed west to join the adventure. It took him many weeks by canal boat, lake boat and stagecoach to reach Grand Detour, Illinois – a journey of more than a thousand miles that could easily be accomplished in 16 hours by car today.
The cast iron plows the pioneers used were designed for sandy New England and proved no match for the rich Midwestern soil. So Deere decided to come up with something better, he took an old steel saw blade and made a plow with a properly shaped moldboard and share that scoured itself as it turned the furrow slice, basically it was a self-cleaning plow blade that made the hard work fast.
In his day it was common practice for blacksmiths to build tools as customers ordered them, however seeing the future as it was, Deere decided to start hammering out the new plows without orders. It was an entirely new way of doing business and made John Deere a very popular man.
NOTHING RUNS LIKE A DEER
Ten years after he developed his first plow, Deere was producing a 1000 plows a year. Many years later in 1911, the company purchased the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company and tractors were added to production line. By 1955 they were the leading producer of farm equipment in the world. Today, the company has become globally renowned with net sales exceeding $640 million dollars.
Constant research and development has always been key to the John Deere company, as Deere himself once said, “They haven’t got to take what we make and somebody else will beat us, and we will lose our trade.” To this day, the company spends more on research and development than most other companies in its industry.
February 7, 2004 marked the 200th birthday of John Deere, the man. His one man blacksmith shop in 1836 has spawned one of the most celebrated equipment manufacturing companies in the world.
The famous leaping deer logo has gone through several changes over the years. Deere first registered it for use in 1876, it read “John Deere – Moline, Illinois”. Interestingly, the first deer to appear on the logo was an African deer and not the American white tail used today. Over the years the wording changed and the deer was simplified into line art versus the illustration style of the original. Eventually the deer as the only thing on the logo and it simply read, “John Deere”. The clean cut 1968 version was updated in 200 with the deer leaping up and forward rather than down and forward. The famous green and yellow leaping deer logo has become a hip and modern symbol of John Deere’s and Americans’ ingenuity and integrity.
The John Deere Classic, a charitable golf tournament is played on a course built in the Friendship Farm in Illinois. For many years the farm had been one of the top Arabian horse breeding operations in the United States and the property still maintains a natural beauty to this day. In 2003, $1.5 million dollars was donated to more than 400 charities to benefit children, families and handicapped individuals. This is just one of the many reasons that John Deere was named one of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens for 2002 by Business Ethics magazine.
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