The story of John Deere, blacksmith and inventor, closely parallels the settlement and development of the Midwestern United States, an area that 19th century homesteaders considered the golden land of promise. Since 1837, the full story of John Deere the company is one of people, places and products that reflect our core values of integrity, quality, commitment and innovation.
1837 John Deere fashions a polished-steel plow in his Grand Detour, Illinois, blacksmith shop that lets pioneer farmers cut clean furrows through sticky Midwest prairie soil.
1838 John Deere, blacksmith, evolves into John Deere, manufacturer. Later he remembers building 10 plows in 1839, 75 in 1841, and 100 in 1842.
1842 John Deere adds retailing to his business, filling orders for the Patent Cary Plow.
1843 Deere and Leonard Andrus become "co-partners in the art and trade of blacksmithing, plow-making, and all things thereto..."
1848 The growing plow business moves to Moline, Illinois, 75 miles southwest of Grand Detour. Moline offers water power and transportation advantages. Deere chooses a new partner, Robert N. Tate, who moves to Moline and raises the rafters on their three-story blacksmith shop by July 28.
1849 A workforce of about 16 builds 2,136 plows.
1852 Deere buys out his partners. For the next 16 years, the company is known variously as John Deere, John Deere & Company, Deere & Company, and Moline Plow Manufactory.
1853 Sixteen-year old Charles, Deere's only living son, joins the firm as a bookkeeper following graduation from a Chicago commercial college.
1858 The business totters during a nationwide financial panic. Maneuverings to avoid bankruptcy shuffle ownership and managerial arrangements. John Deere remains president, but power passes to 21-year-old Charles Deere. He will run the company for the next 49 years.
1863 The company makes the Hawkeye Riding Cultivator, the first Deere implement adapted for riding.
1864 John Deere obtains the company's first actual patent for moulds used in casting steel plows. Another follows in a few months and a third the next year.
1867 Charles Deere sues Candee, Swan & Co., a competitor, for trademark infringement. The case has precedent-setting implications for trademark law. Could Deere preempt the word "Moline," which it has been using in its advertising, so that no similar product could incorporate it? The ultimate answer is no. The Walking Cultivator is patented in August 1867. Although farmers might prefer riding, the lower cost of this unit makes it sell even though the man has to walk in soft ground while straddling a row of corn.
1868 After 31 years as a partnership or single proprietorship, the concern is incorporated under the name Deere & Company. There are four shareholders at first, six within a year. Charles and John Deere control 65 percent of the stock.
1869 Charles Deere and Alvah Mansur establish the first branch house, Deere, Mansur & Co., in Kansas City. A semi-independent distributor of Deere products within a certain geographic area, it is the forerunner of the company's current farm and industrial-equipment sales branches and sales regions.
1873 John Deere is elected mayor of Moline and serves two years.
1874 Despite economic problems among farmers, the Deere business grows. More than 50,000 plows are sold.
1875 Gilpin Moore develops the Gilpin Sulky Plow. It takes the farmer off his feet, puts him on a seat, and becomes one of the company's most successful 19th-century products.
1876 Noting sagging business prospects and skyrocketing bad debts, the company institutes a 10% wage cut. A brief strike ends and employees return to work on the company's terms. The "leaping deer" trademark is registered.
1877 Deere & Mansur Company is formed in Moline to manufacture corn planters. A separate organization from the similarly named Kansas City branch, it will become part of Deere & Company in 1910.
1878 The Gilpin Sulky Plow defeats 50 other plows in a field trial at the Paris Universal Exposition, winning the first place Sevres vase valued at 1,000 francs. Unit sales the following year rise to 5,198, and reach 7,824 in 1883.
1880 Wagons enter the product line early in the decade, soon followed by buggies.
1882 Deere & Mansur Company corn planters, employing an innovative rotary planting mechanism, turn a $48,000 profit.
1883 The five best-selling products between 1879 and 1883 are walking plows, Gilpin sulkies, cultivators, shovel plows, and harrows. Walking plows account for more unit sales (224,062) than the other four combined.
1886 John Deere dies in Moline at age 82.
1888 Steam tractors appear on American farms during the 1880s. Deere makes gang plows that tractors can pull, but not the tractors.
1889 The company's five key branches are in place at Kansas City, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Council Bluffs/Omaha, and San Francisco.
1890 Deere's board recommends selling the company. A British syndicate and other suitors appear, but deals fall through, and the company remains independent.
1892 Charles Deere's daughter Katherine marries William Butterworth, who will succeed Charles as the company's CEO. Charles' daughter Anna marries William D. Wiman. Their son, Charles Deere Wiman, will succeed Butterworth in 1928.
1894 A bicycle craze grips the country. Branch catalogs push the Deere Leader, the Deere Roadster, and the Moline Special. The fad fizzles in a few years. (In the 1970s, the company returns briefly to the bicycle business.)
1895 The Furrow debuts. It grows into one of the world's preeminent farmer's magazines.
1900 In the 1899-1900 fiscal year, aggregate business exceeds $2 million for the first time.
1903 George Mixter, plow-factory superintendent, persuades the company to install extensive environmental controls in the grinding room.
1904 The St. Louis branch territory is split. The Dallas office becomes a full-fledged branch.
1907 Charles Deere dies. William Butterworth, his son-in-law, becomes CEO. The company establishes a non-contributory pension plan for employees with 20 or more years of service who have passed age 65.
1909 With affordable housing for some workers a problem, the company joins with the Deere estate to build 50 homes. By 1920, 315 homes and apartments have been built for employees in Moline and East Moline. Some are sold, and some rented. After WWII, the company builds 111 more houses in Dubuque.
1910 Directors launch a major reorganization. Its goal is a consolidated company controlled by the Deere & Company board. The plan unifies factories and branches, anticipates acquisitions, and centralizes accounting and financial planning.
1911 For the first time, the company issues preferred stock. The shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange the following year.
1912 The modern Deere & Company emerges. It consists of 11 manufacturing entities in the U.S. and one in Canada, and 25 sales organizations—20 in the U.S., including an export department, and five in Canada. The company also operates a sawmill and owns 41,731 acres of timberland in Arkansas and Louisiana. Harvester Works built in East Moline.
1918 After years of investigating tractor production, Deere buys the maker of Waterloo Boy tractors. The tractor will soon become the company's basic product. Though 5,634 Waterloo Boys are sold this year, Ford Motor Company sells more than 34,000 Fordson tractors.
1919 Labor turmoil spreads throughout the country. A bitter three-month strike over union recognition breaks out in Waterloo, the most serious employee relations strife Deere has so far experienced. The strike ends with Deere remaining non-union.
1921 Bad times continue. As business shrinks, extensive layoffs follow. Waterloo Boy tractor sales plummet to 79 from 5,045 the previous year. Wages are cut at least 10%.
1923 Deere launches the Model "D." A success from the start and the first two-cylinder Waterloo-built tractor to bear the John Deere name, it would stay in the product line for 30 years.
1925 Design begins on the "GP" (for General Purpose) Tractor, the Deere answer to the Farmall.
1927 The company produces a combine, the John Deere No. 2. A year later, catalogs advertise the John Deere No. 1, a smaller, more popular machine. By 1929, the No. 1 and No. 2 are replaced by newer, lighter-weight versions.
1928 William Butterworth is elected president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Primary company managerial authority passes to Charles Deere Wiman.
1929 The "GP" Wide-Tread, a row-crop tractor, enters the market. It is the first Deere tractor with a tricycle front to fit between two crop rows, and rear axle wide enough so wheels can straddle two rows.
1930 Consolidations leave only seven full-line farm equipment companies: John Deere, IH, Case, Oliver, Allis-Chalmers, Minneapolis-Moline, and Massey-Harris. Deere and IH dominate most product categories.
1931 A $1.2 million embezzlement at People's Savings Bank in Moline, Illinois — "Deere's bank" — threatens closure and loss of employee savings. The company writes a check to cover the loss. The bank survives.
1932 The Great Depression hardens, forcing massive layoffs, pay and pension cuts, shortened hours, and a temporary end to paid vacations. A 1920s savings innovation, the Thrift Plan, eases the burden for some employees. John Deere continues group insurance for the unemployed, lowers rent in company housing, and starts "make work" projects.
1933 Business is almost at a standstill. Sales plunge to $8.7 million. Though it is losing money, the company decides to carry debtor farmers as long as necessary, greatly strengthening farmer loyalty.
1934 Despite the Depression, the company emphasizes product development. The Model "A" Tractor enters production. A similar but smaller Model "B" follows in 1935. They become the most popular tractors in the company's history, remaining in the product line until 1952.
1937 The company celebrates the 100th anniversary of John Deere's steel plow with special events and a variety of memorabilia.
1938 Industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, working with Deere engineers, streamlines the "A" and "B" Tractors. Concern for attractive design joins traditional utilitarian values as hallmarks of John Deere products.
1939 Model "L" Series Tractors, built from 1936 to 1946 at Wagon Works in Moline, enjoy an enormous boost in sales after Henry Dreyfuss' styling.
1941 The U.S. enters WWII. "Limitation orders" restrict civilian production of farm equipment, repair parts and exports. (By 1944, with the tide of war turning in the Allies' favor, limitations on civilian production end.)
1942 Charles Deere Wiman accepts a commission as an Army colonel. Burton Peek succeeds him as company president. Before returning to Deere in 1944, Wiman briefly directs the farm machinery and equipment division of the War Production Board.
1943 Deere makes military tractors, ammunition, aircraft parts, and cargo and mobile laundry units during the war. About 4,500 employees serve in the military, some in the "John Deere" Battalion, a specialized ordnance group that sees service in Europe.
1945 John Deere factory workers endorse unions. Collective bargaining over wages and working conditions replaces a 105-year-old pattern of dealing with workers individually.
1947 The new John Deere Dubuque Works builds the Model "M" Tractor. Two years later, equipped with a tracked undercarriage, the "M" becomes available as a crawler, called the "MC." This will herald the Worldwide Construction Equipment Division. When a front blade is added, it becomes the "M" bulldozer.
1948 The Deere Des Moines Works, a former ammunition plant acquired from the government, turns out cotton pickers and cultivators. Eventually it will also build plows.
1949 Deere's first diesel-powered unit, the Model "R" Tractor, enters production.
1950 Agreement with the United Auto Workers on a five-year contract ends a long period of postwar labor unrest.
1953 The Model 70 is launched as the largest row-crop tractor to date. Initially available with gasoline, all-fuel, or LP-gas engine, it will become the first diesel row-crop tractor.
1954 Engineers develop a highly successful 2-row corn head. Attached to a new Model 45 Combine, it enables a farmer to pick, shell, and clean up to 20 acres of corn a day in a single operation.
1955 William A. Hewitt is elected president and later CEO following the death of Charles Deere Wiman, his father-in-law. Hewitt is the last representative of the Deere family to direct the company, which he does for the next 27 years.
1956 The company expands its presence around the world when it builds a small-tractor assembly plant in Mexico and buys a majority interest in a German tractor and harvester makers with a small presence in Spain. Soon, it also moves into France, Argentina, and South Africa.
1957 Six-row planters and cultivators, John Deere innovations, reach the market. They provide 50 percent more planting and cultivating capacity for row-crop farmers in corn- and cotton-producing areas.
1958 The John Deere Credit Company, financier of domestic purchases of John Deere equipment, begins operations. A new tractor and implement manufacturing plant is built in Rosario, Argentina.
1959 The company brings out the 8010, a diesel-powered, 215-horsepower, 10-ton Goliath – the largest tractor it has ever built. Only a few are sold. Soviet Premier Khrushchev visits the Des Moines Works.
1960 Four "New Generation of Power" tractor models steal the show at Deere Day in Dallas. Some 6,000 attend the sales meeting, including all U.S. and Canadian dealers.
1961 In Saran, near Orleans, France, construction starts on a new engine factory. In Moline, construction begins on the Deere & Company Administrative Center, later renamed Deere & Company World Headquarters.
1962 John Deere marks its 125th anniversary. Construction begins on a product-engineering center in Dubuque, Iowa. Company buys a majority interest in South African Cultivators, a farm implement firm near Johannesburg.
1963 John Deere surpasses IH to become the world's largest producer and seller of farm and industrial tractors and equipment. The company ventures into the consumer market, deciding to produce and sell lawn and garden tractors plus some attachments such as mowers and snow blowers.
1964 The Deere & Company Administrative Center opens. Designed by Eero Saarinen, whose work includes the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Deere building will win many architectural awards.
1966 A banner year. Total sales surpass $1 billion for the first time. Earnings reach a high of $78.7 million. Farm equipment sales set a record for the fourth straight year. Industrial equipment sales notch their largest ever year-to-year increase. Lawn and garden equipment sales rise 76 percent. Worldwide employment hits a record. John Deere introduces the first commercially available rollover protective structures for farm tractors, and later releases the patent to the industry without charge.
1967 The company's first industrial equipment sales branch opens in Baltimore.
1969 Overall sales level out due primarily to a downturn in farm equipment sales. Overseas operations expand but do not produce profits. The John Deere Insurance Group is created.
1970 Deere reorganizes its management structure to reflect growing diversification. Three operating divisions emerge: Farm Equipment and Consumer Products, U.S. and Canada; Farm Equipment and Consumer Products, Overseas; and Industrial Equipment, which has worldwide responsibilities.
1971 "Nothing Runs Like a Deere" advertises snowmobiles, a new product of the John Deere Horicon Works. The slogan lasts far longer than the snowmobile line, which is sold in 1984.
1972 Four new "Generation II" tractor models with operator enclosures—Sound-Gard bodies—reach the market. Farm equipment sales exceed $1 billion.
1973 John Deere total sales top $2 billion for the first time. Board decides to move toward more independence by appointing the first outside director.
1975 The John Deere Davenport Works, located in Davenport, Iowa, opens and begins manufacturing industrial-equipment components.
1976 Equipment gets bigger, increasing farm productivity. Tractors average 40 percent more horsepower and 44 percent more weight than in 1970. Sales of both farm and industrial equipment triple and consumer-products sales soar fivefold since 1966.
1977 Agreement with Japanese manufacturer Yanmar authorizes sale of small tractors under the John Deere name. An updated Product Engineering Center is established in Waterloo. A stock-purchase plan for salaried employees begins.
1978 The award-winning West Office Building addition to the Administrative Center, designed by Kevin Roche, Eero Saarinen's successor, opens. Also new: Canadian headquarters in Grimsby, Ontario; John Deere Engine Works in Waterloo; and Atlanta sales branch offices.
1979 Employment reaches an all-time high of 65,392. Sales top $5 billion, earnings $310 million, both records.
1980 A 4-row cotton picker, an industry first, is introduced. Field tests indicate it will increase an operator's productivity by 85 to 95 percent.
1981 The John Deere Tractor Works in Waterloo becomes fully operational.
1982 Robert A. Hanson succeeds retiring Chairman William A. Hewitt.
1984 Deere acquires Farm Plan Corporation, an agribusiness financier.
1985 John Deere Health Care, Inc. is formed. Its subsidiary, Heritage National Healthplan, grows by century's end into a health-care provider for more than 700 employers and over 400,000 members in five states.
1986 A 163-day labor strike in the United States severely impacts production. Employment at year's end totals 37,481, down 43 percent from the 1979 high of 65,392. For the remainder of the century, employment will remain below 40,000.
1987 Deere celebrates its 150th anniversary. Continued low farm income and lower Deere sales lead to a net loss of $99 million.
1988 The economy rebounds after six years of recession during which weaker farmers, dealers, and equipment companies go out of business. Deere & Company sales soar 30 percent from 1987. Profit, following two years of losses, exceeds $315 million, a record. A joint venture is formed with Japanese company Hitachi to assemble excavators in the United States.
1989 The dividend, cut in 1982, is restored to its previous level. Funk Manufacturing Company, maker of powertrain components, is acquired.
1990 Hans W. Becherer, president since 1987 and CEO since 1989, is elected chairman upon the retirement of Robert Hanson.
1991 Lawn-and-grounds-care equipment operations in the U.S. and Canada become a separate division. Since 1970 they had been part of the farm-equipment operations. The company acquires SABO, a European maker of lawn mowers.
1992 John Deere launches a program to encourage installation of rollover protective structures and seat belts on older tractors.
1993 New 5000, 6000, and 7000 Series Tractors drive up market shares in North America and Europe. Among 20 contenders in Germany, Deere moves from third to first place in tractor sales. Sales of lawn and garden equipment top $1 billion for the first time.
1994 Deere acquires Homelite, a leading producer of handheld outdoor power equipment. It arranges with Zetor, a Czech company, to provide a simple, small tractor for developing markets. Deere Family Healthplan centers—primary-health-care providers—open in Waterloo and Des Moines, joining one opened in Moline in 1993.
1995 Deere's strong performance "shows that Deere & Company has become a new company in every important sense," according to the Annual Report. Among reasons cited: product technology leadership, strong emphasis on quality, and improved cost structure and asset management.
1996 Four mid-priced lawn tractors and two walk-behind mowers branded "Sabre by John Deere" introduce company products to a broad new market. They're designed to be sold through national retailers and home centers as well as John Deere dealers.
1997 Overseas sales top $3 billion, more than the company's entire sales total prior to the mid-1970s. The company obtains an equity position in a Chinese combine company. The John Deere Pavilion, with equipment exhibits and interactive displays, opens in downtown Moline.
1998 Despite late-year weakness in the farm sector, agricultural-equipment sales hit a record. Company net earnings reach $1 billion for the first time. Cameco Industries, producer of sugarcane-harvesting equipment, is acquired. Work begins on a new tractor-manufacturing facility in Pune, India.
1999 While challenging by financial standards, 1999 is a breakthrough year for John Deere. Not only does the company record a meaningful profit in the face of a major downturn in the farm economy, but the actions of recent years to create a more-resilient world-class enterprise successfully faced their first severe test. Special Technologies Group is formed.
2000 Hans Becherer reaches retirement, and Robert W. Lane is elected CEO. Deere acquires Timberjack, a world-leading producer of forestry equipment. A new tractor plant is opened near Pune, India. Credit offices are established in Argentina and Brazil. Deere is granted banking license in Luxembourg, allowing John Deere Credit ability to finance equipment throughout Europe.
2001 A record number of products are introduced to strengthen Deere's global competitive position. John Deere Landscapes is formed through acquisitions of McGinnis Farms and Century Rain Aid.
2002 Business Ethics magazine names John Deere one of its 100 Best Corporate Citizens for 2002. Crain's Chicago Business announces that John Deere is the most trusted Illinois company, based on a nationwide survey.
2003 Through agreement with The Home Depot, riding mowers are sold in the mass channel for the first time in company history. John Deere-branded Deere's small/diverse supplier programs received a first-ever rating of "highly successful" from the U.S. Department of Defense. Driven by gains in Deere's Commercial & Consumer Equipment and Construction & Forestry Divisions, the company's earnings double for 2003; equipment sales grow 14 percent.
2004 Record full-year earnings of $1.4 billion are more than twice the level of 2003 earnings. Deere & Company announces plans to build a new tractor factory in Montenegro, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. The facility is expected to be in full production by the second half of 2006.
2005 Deere & Company opens a seeding-equipment assembly operation in Orenburg, Russia, and establishes a dealer network. The company additionally announces plans to build a new engineering and information-technology support center near the John Deere joint venture tractor manufacturing facility in Pune, India. John Deere invests in wind energy projects in the rural United States and establishes a new wind energy business unit managed by John Deere Credit.
2006 Growing global market presence helps drive earnings to record $1.7 billion; Chairman & CEO Robert W. Lane named "CEO of the Year" by Industry Week magazine. John Deere Landscapes becomes the number-one wholesale distributor of irrigation, nursery, lighting, and landscape materials in the United States. John Deere Tianjin Works, a new transmission factory in Tianjin, China, opens.
2007 Deere & Company stockholders approve a two-for-one stock split, increasing the number of common shares to 455 million. A new tractor manufacturing facility is acquired in Ningbo, China. Deere & Company completes its acquisition of LESCO, Inc., a leading supplier of lawn care, landscape, golf course, and pest control products. John Deere is chosen by Ethisphere magazine for its list of the World's 100 Most Ethical Companies.
2008 Deere & Company enters into joint ventures with construction equipment manufacturers in China and India. Deere announces plans to build a distribution, replacement parts, and training center in Russia, a European Technology & Innovation Center in Germany, and a marketing office in Kiev, Ukraine. John Deere Water business expands with the company's acquisition of irrigation products manufacturers T-Systems International and Plastro Irrigation Systems.
2009 Samuel R. Allen is named John Deere's ninth chief executive officer. A new global operating model combines the technology, expertise, experience, channels, and investments of the Worldwide Agricultural Equipment Division and Worldwide Commercial & Consumer Equipment Division into a single unit called the Agriculture and Turf Division. A joint venture in India is formed with Ashok Leyland Limited to manufacture backhoes and four-wheel-drive loaders.
2010 Research and development expense tops $1 billion for the first time. The company also opens a technology and innovation center in Germany and expands a research and development center in China. In India, a joint-venture is opened to produce backhoes and wheel-loaders for Asian markets. Deere is the first company to ship construction machines with above 175-horsepower engines certified to meet rigorous U.S. Interim Tier 4 emissions standards.
Deere is listed among the 50 most-admired companies by Fortune magazine and ranked as one of the 100 best global brands by a leading brand-consulting firm. As a sign of the company's emphasis on global growth, sales outside the U.S. and Canada jump by 38%. The company begins work on plants to produce engines, loaders, and ag equipment in China and tractor and combine factories in India. In addition, two factories are planned for Brazil — one for backhoes and wheel loaders, and a joint venture for excavators. John Deere Domodedovo, Russia, begins building forestry skidders and forwarders, and other facilities are expanded in India, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, and the U.S.2012
The company celebrates its 175th anniversary. Net sales and revenues ($36.2 billion) and net income ($3.1 billion) are new records.