John Deere

John Deere - An Illinois Blacksmith and Manufacturer

John Deere machine line up
 Jon Nelson / Flickr

John Deere was an Illinois blacksmith and manufacturer. Early in his career, Deere and an associate designed a series of farm plows. In 1837, on his own, John Deere designed the first cast steel plow that greatly assisted the Great Plains farmers. The large plows made for cutting the tough prairie ground were called "grasshopper plows." The plow was made of wrought iron and had a steel share that could cut through sticky soil without clogging. By 1855, John Deere's factory was selling over 10,000 steel plows a year.

In 1868, John Deere's business was incorporated as Deere & Company, which is still in existence today.

John Deere became a millionaire selling his steel plows.

History of Plows

The first real inventor of a practicable plow was Charles Newbold, of Burlington County, New Jersey, to whom a patent for a cast-iron plow was issued in June 1797. But the farmers would have none of it. They said it "poisoned the soil" and fostered the growth of weeds. One David Peacock received a patent in 1807, and two others later. Newbold sued Peacock for infringement and recovered damages. Pieces of Newbold's original plow are in the museum of the New York Agricultural Society at Albany.

Another inventor of plows was Jethro Wood, a blacksmith of Scipio, New York, who received two patents, one in 1814 and the other in 1819. His plow was of cast iron, but in three parts, so that a broken part might be renewed without purchasing an entire plow. This principle of standardization marked a great advance. The farmers by this time were forgetting their former prejudices, and many plows were sold. Though Wood's original patent was extended, infringements were frequent, and he is said to have spent his entire property in prosecuting them.

Another skilled blacksmith, William Parlin, at Canton, Illinois, began in about 1842 making plows that he loaded upon a wagon and peddled through the country. Later his establishment grew large. Another John Lane, a son of the first, patented in 1868 a "soft-center" steel plow. The hard but brittle surface was backed by softer and more tenacious metal, to reduce the breakage. The same year James Oliver, a Scotch immigrant who had settled at South Bend, Indiana, received a patent for the "chilled plough." By an ingenious method, the wearing surfaces of the casting were cooled more quickly than the back. The surfaces which came in contact with the soil had a hard, glassy surface, while the body of the plow was of tough iron. From small beginnings, Oliver's establishment grew great, and the Oliver Chilled Plow Works at South Bend is today [1921] one of the largest and most favorably known privately owned.

From the single plowit was only a step to two or more plows fastened together, doing more work with approximately the same manpower. The sulky plow, on which the plowman rode, made his work easier, and gave him great control. Such plows were certainly in use as early as 1844, perhaps earlier. The next step forward was to substitute for horses a traction engine.

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Bellis, Mary. "John Deere." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Bellis, Mary. (2021, February 16). John Deere. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "John Deere." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 8, 2023).