Friday, June 25, 2010
Cheryl brought me a book EYEWITNESS TO THE AMERICAN WEST BY DAVID COLBERT there are many short essays in this book and being a student of history I am enjoying it. this is the article about John Deere.
The story of John Deere, who developed the world's first commercially successful, self-scouring steel plow, closely parallels the settlement and development of the Midwestern United States, an area that the homesteaders of the 19th century considered the golden land of promise.
John Deere was born in Rutland, Vermont, February 7, 1804. He spent his boyhood and young adulthood in Middlebury, Vermont, where he received a common school education and served a four-year apprenticeship learning the blacksmith's trade.
Gained Fame as a BlacksmithIn 1825, he began his career as a journeyman blacksmith and soon gained considerable fame for his careful workmanship and ingenuity. His highly polished hay forks and shovels especially were in great demand throughout western Vermont. But business conditions in Vermont became depressed in the mid-1830s, and the future looked gloomy for the ambitious young blacksmith. Many natives of Vermont emigrated to the West, and the tales of golden opportunity that filtered back to Vermont so stirred John Deere's enthusiasm that he decided to dispose of his business and join the pioneers.
He left his wife and family, who were to join him later, and set out with a bundle of tools and a small amount of cash. After traveling many weeks by canal boat, lake boat, and stagecoach, he reached the village of Grand Detour, Illinois, which had been settled by Leonard Andrus and others from his native Vermont. The need for a blacksmith was so great that two days after his arrival in 1836 he had built a forge and was busy serving the community.
Cast-Iron Plows Wouldn't Work There was much to be done - shoeing horses and oxen, and repairing the plows and other equipment for the pioneer farmers. From them he learned of the serious problem they encountered in trying to farm the fertile soil of the Midwest. The cast-iron plows they had brought with them from the East were designed for the light, sandy New England soil. The rich Midwestern soil clung to the plow bottoms and every few steps it was necessary to scrape the soil from the plow. Plowing was a slow and laborious task. Many pioneers were discouraged and were considering moving on, or heading back east.
John Deere studied the problem and became convinced that a plow with a highly polished and properly shaped moldboard and share ought to scour itself as it turned the furrow slice. He fashioned such a plow in 1837, using the steel from a broken saw blade, and successfully tested it on the farm of Lewis Crandall near Grand Detour.
Steel Plow Met Prairie NeedsDeere's steel plow proved to be the answer pioneer farmers needed for successful farming in what was then "the West." But his contribution to the growth of American agriculture far exceeded just the development of a successful steel plow.
Deere established his company making plows and was always trying to make a better design a partner ask him why bother, they have to buy what we have and John told him yes, and soon someone will come along and out sell us and we will be out of business. The John Deere company is going strong today nearly 200 years after John Deere made his first plow.