The Plow That Started it All
In 1837 our founder, John Deere, was a typical blacksmith turning out hayforks, horseshoes, and other essentials for life on the prairie.
Then one day, a broken steel sawmill blade gave him an opportunity. He knew farmers near his home in Grand Detour, Illinois, had to interrupt their work to clean the sticky prairie soil off of their cast-iron plows. He also knew that the soil would slide easily off of a highly polished steel moldboard. Steel was scarce in the area, so Deere fashioned a moldboard out of the second-hand blade.
While the original plow could only do a fraction of the work farmers can tackle with modern tillage equipment, it was high-tech at the time. According to "John Deere's Company," a book by Wayne G. Broehl, Jr., the material Deere used wasn't the only unusual thing about the plows. The moldboard was also shaped differently than others of the day. "It is essentially a parallelogram, curved in a concave fashion. Deere must have given a great deal of thought to the shape, to the special curve of his moldboard, for its exact contours would determine just how well the soil would be turned over after the share had made the cut."
Deere constantly tested his products and changed his designs based on suggestions from customers. His research paid off and by 1849 his business was booming – he produced 2,000 plows that year.