210 years ago today, on February 7th of 1804, in Rutland, Vermont, a man was born who revolutionized the agricultural world as well know it. Once a man that had little more to his name than a blacksmith business, he went on to become an inventor. In doing this, he forever changed for the better the world of agriculture with the 1837 invention of the first commercially successful steel plow. All it took was a piece of discarded steel and a dream for a man named John Deere.
Despite being the son of a tailor, Deere began his working life as a blacksmith. He served as an apprentice for many years, beginning at the age of 17, to another successful blacksmith by the name of Captain Benjamin Lawrence. Upon reaching the age of 21, Deere set out on his own in the blacksmith trade. He relocated to Grand Detour, Illinois and stayed busy there with plentiful work.
Something was different about Illinois compared to Vermont, and that was the soil. Deere took notice of farmers having issues working cast-iron plows through the soil. This observation got him thinking about a way to solve that problem and better the plow that was currently in use. Since the soil was so tough, Deere felt a change from cast-iron to highly polished steel would be more beneficial in breaking the soil up, especially in the case of clay soils. He set out on a mission to build a better plow out of polished steel and in the process also adapted it to the shape of a moldboard plow, which is designed to bury plant residue in addition to loosening the soil as it works.
As his idea came to fruition, it was clear that he had achieved success with what had become the first commercially successful cast-steel plow in 1837. Having sold the first one to a neighbor in 1838, it was only a matter of time before news of this improved plow spread. The purchasing neighbor went on to speak of the plow to others and two more were sold soon thereafter. By the year 1841, Deere was manufacturing in the neighborhood of 100 plows annually.
Today we celebrate not only the birth of a great man but also the innovation in farming with which he gifted us as a whole. 127 years and some months have passed since his death but John Deere tractors and farm implements are still a popular choice today, with yellow and green machines dotting the horizon in many places. Happy Birthday, Mr. Deere, and thank you for your contributions.