John Deere was born on February 7, 1804 in Rutland, Vermont. His family lived in the city of Middlebury for his entire youth and it was there that he attended school. After finishing school, he became a blacksmith's apprentice, working for four years to learn the art.
In 1825, he became a journeyman blacksmith and was given more freedom in his work. Most of his products were farming implements, including pitch forks and shovels and he quickly developed a reputation for quality metal working. He continued working in Middlebury until the mid-1830s, when people began moving west in search of more opportunity.
In 1835, Deere decided to join the pioneers and move west, settling in Grand Detour, Illinois. There, he set up his blacksmith business again and was able to make a good deal of money due to the high demand. He also began to notice that a large number of people were bringing in broken plows. The plows were traditionally made from cast iron, but the soil in the midwest was different from the sandy soil in the east and clung to the plows. This made it necessary for farmers to scrape the soil off of the plow blade quite frequently.
Deere believed that a different design would solve the farmers' problem and designed a prototype that used highly polished steel. The different metal wasn't the only difference, however, since he made the plow clean itself of soil while it was moving. He tested it in 1837 and immediately started producing models to sell the farmers. Interest was so great that he started manufacturing large quantities of plows and traveling the countryside to sell them to the locals.
Deere soon began to run into steel supply problems and wasn't able to locate enough steel to continue production. In 1843, he arranged for a large shipment of rolled steel to be delivered from England and continued using this supplier until 1846, when a Pittsburgh company opened and began supplying him with rolled steel.
In 1848, he opened a factory in Moline, Illinois to handle increasing demand. By this time, his company was producing over one thousand plows a year. By 1855, he was making ten thousand plows a year.
In 1868, his company was incorporated with the name Deere and Company. He eventually handed over the company's primary operations to his son, Charles Deere, and began working more with the community. He was elected President of the National Bank of Moline and also served as the city's mayor for a two year term. On May 17, 1886, John Deere died, leaving his company to his son. The company, now known as John Deere Inc., continues to make farming equipment and is the most prestigious name in the industry.
"I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me." - John Deere