Tracing the History of John Deere: From Plows to Power

A John Deere Tractor and Wagon.

A Look At John Deere
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The History of John Deere

In 1837, a blacksmith named John Deere forged a revolutionary idea in the small town of Grand Detour, Illinois.

Deere wasn’t just any blacksmith; he was a man who would change the course of agricultural history.

This is the story of John Deere, the company, and its journey from a single plow to a global icon.

Founding and Early Innovations

John Deere’s journey began in 1837 when he created the first steel plow, a marvel of its time that solved a significant problem for farmers.

By 1848, the business had moved to Moline, IL, to harness better power and transportation, marking the start of an era of innovation. In 1863, the Hawkeye Riding Cultivator debuted at the Iowa State Fair, showcasing the company’s commitment to agricultural advancements.

Leadership Changes and Expansion

In 1886, Charles Deere took over and expanded the company to Kansas City. His successor, William Butterworth, from 1907 to 1936, was a visionary who consolidated operations and ventured into new markets, such as combines and tractors.

Subsequent leaders, including Charles Deere Wiman and William Hewitt, steered the company through decades of growth, making it a multinational corporation.

Factory Locations and Development

The company’s growth was paralleled by its expanding physical presence. From its 1848 move to Moline to the opening of new factories for diverse equipment, each step marked a significant milestone in Deere & Company’s history.

Logo Changes and Brand Evolution

The company’s brand evolved with logo changes, from the first patent in 1864 to various modifications until 2000. Each change mirrored the company’s growth and diversification.

Product Innovations and Milestones

John Deere’s legacy is not just about leadership but also about continuous product innovation. Each product represented a leap in agricultural technology, from the introduction of planters and buggies to the revolutionary 7760 Cotton Picker.

John Deere’s Early Life and Career

John Deere, born in 1804 in Vermont, was resilient and innovative. His life, from his apprenticeship as a blacksmith to his move to Illinois in 1836, laid the foundation for his future company.

Foundation and Growth of Deere & Company

The company’s founding in 1837 was marked by Deere’s invention of the self-scouring steel plow. Its move to Moline was strategic, leveraging the Mississippi River for resources. By 1855, the company was a household name in agriculture.

John Deere’s Business Innovations and Leadership

Deere was more than an inventor; he was a visionary business leader. His stockpiling strategy and leadership roles in the community highlighted his multifaceted personality.

Evolution of Deere & Company

From bicycles in the 1890s to tractors in the 20th century, the company’s evolution was a tale of constant adaptation and growth.

Construction and Forestry Equipment Division

In 1956, this division marked the company’s foray into construction, diversifying its portfolio significantly.

Evolution of the John Deere Logo and Branding

The logo’s evolution to a modern design in 2000 symbolized the company’s progressive vision.

Market Presence and Ownership

Deere & company’s dominance in the tractor market and its status as a publicly traded company underscore its significant market presence.

John Deere’s Global Impact

The company’s innovations have substantially improved farming productivity, contributing to global economic well-being.

Early History and Innovation

The company’s early years, from the first steel plow to its incorporation in 1868, were marked by groundbreaking innovations and strategic business moves.

Charles Deere’s Leadership and Expansion

Under Charles Deere’s leadership, the company expanded its product lines and distribution networks, laying the groundwork for future growth.

Growth and Innovation in the Mid-20th Century

This period saw the introduction of innovative farming equipment and the company’s expansion into international markets.

Challenges and Strategies in the 1980s and 1990s

Faced with recessions and changing markets, the company diversified its focus, embracing new technologies and markets.

Corporate Information

As of 1996, Deere & Company had become a formidable entity, with substantial sales and a global workforce, reflecting its journey from a small blacksmith shop to a global powerhouse.

John Deere’s story is not just about tractors or plows. It’s a tale of innovation, leadership, and an undying commitment to transforming the world of agriculture.

From a small forge in Illinois to a global leader, John Deere’s legacy continues to sow seeds of progress worldwide.


Key Points and Facts of John Deere’s History

Founding and Early Innovations

  • 1837: John Deere, a blacksmith, creates the first steel plow in Grand Detour, IL.
  • 1848: Company moves to Moline, IL for better resources.
  • 1863: Hawkeye Riding Cultivator introduced.

Leadership Changes and Expansion

  • 1886-1907: Charles Deere expands the company, establishes a branch in Kansas City.
  • 1907-1936: William Butterworth leads, entering combine harvester and tractor markets.
  • 1928-1955: Charles Deere Wiman introduces Model “A” and “B” tractors.
  • 1955-1982: William Hewitt makes the company multinational, introduces new tractors.
  • 1982-1990: Robert Hanson navigates recessions, enters health care market.
  • 1990-2000: Hans Becherer focuses on innovation and global growth.
  • 2000-2009: Robert W. Lane modernizes factories.

Factory Locations and Development

  • 1848: Relocation to Moline, IL.
  • 1887: Deere & Mansur Company formation.
  • 1913 & 1918: Entry into harvesting and tractor business.
  • 1947 & 1948: New factories for different equipment.

Logo Changes and Brand Evolution

  • 1864: First patent, establishment as a manufacturing force.
  • 1876: First trademark creation.
  • 1912-2000: Various logo changes.

Product Innovations and Milestones

  • 1912: Introduction of various farming equipment.
  • 1918: Entry into tractor production.
  • 1934 & 1947: Launch of Model A tractor and Model M tractor.
  • 1950 & 1957: Introduction of No. 8 Cotton Picker and 14T baler.
  • 1963: Entry into Consumer Equipment market.
  • 1992-1996: First Gator and 7760 Cotton Picker launch.

John Deere’s Early Life and Career

  • 1804: John Deere born in Rutland, Vermont.
  • 1821: Begins blacksmith apprenticeship.
  • 1826: Enters the trade; marries in 1827.
  • 1836: Moves to Illinois due to economic downturn.

Foundation and Growth of Deere & Company

  • 1837: Company founded in Grand Detour, Illinois.
  • 1855: Over 10,000 plows sold.
  • 1868: Incorporation of Deere & Company.

John Deere’s Business Innovations and Leadership

  • 1876: Registration of the first trademark.
  • 1886: John Deere passes away.

Evolution of Deere & Company

  • 1912 & 1918: Expansion into tractor manufacturing.
  • 1956: Formation of Construction and Forestry Equipment Division.

Market Presence and Ownership

  • 2000: Logo updated.
  • Best-Selling Tractor in the USA: Major market share in tractors.

John Deere’s Global Impact

  • Significant contribution to farming productivity and global economic well-being.

Expansion and Innovation

  • 1843 & 1847: Business expansion and move.
  • 1869-1907: Charles Deere and William Butterworth’s leadership.
  • 1911 & 1918: Key acquisitions.
  • 1928-1955: Growth under Charles Deere Wiman.
  • 1960s: Lawn and garden equipment business development.
  • 1982-1990s: Navigating economic challenges.
  • Late 20th Century: Diversification and international expansion.

Corporate Information

  • Employee Count (1996): 33,900.
  • Sales (1996): $9.64 billion.
  • Listed on multiple stock exchanges.


Timeline of John Deere’s History

Founding and Early Years

  • 1804: John Deere is born in Rutland, Vermont.
  • 1821: Begins blacksmith apprenticeship at age 17.
  • 1826: Enters the blacksmith trade.
  • 1827: Marries Demarius Lamb.
  • 1836: Moves to Illinois due to economic downturn in Vermont.
  • 1837: Founds Deere & Company in Grand Detour, Illinois.
  • 1838: Builds a forge and house in Grand Detour.

Growth and Innovation

  • 1843: Orders rolled steel from England.
  • 1847: Moves business to Moline, Illinois.
  • 1848: Company relocates to Moline for better resources.
  • 1850: Production reaches 1,600 plows a year.
  • 1855: Over 10,000 plows sold, nicknamed “The Plow that Broke the Plains.”
  • 1863: Introduction of the Hawkeye Riding Cultivator.
  • 1864: First patent, establishing as a manufacturing force.
  • 1868: Incorporation of Deere & Company.
  • 1873: John Deere becomes Moline’s mayor.
  • 1874: Introduction of the Gilpin Sulky Plow.
  • 1876: First trademark registered.

Expansion and Leadership Changes

  • 1886: Charles Deere takes leadership, establishes branch in Kansas City.
  • 1898: Introduction of Deere Gang Plow.
  • 1907: William Butterworth becomes president, diversifies product line.
  • 1911: Acquisition of Van Brunt Manufacturing Company.
  • 1912: Enters combine harvester market.
  • 1913: New factory for harvesting business.
  • 1918: Entry into tractor business, purchase of Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company.

Mid-20th Century Growth

  • 1927: Introduction of the first combine.
  • 1928: Charles Deere Wiman becomes president.
  • 1934: Model A tractor launched.
  • 1935: Model B tractor introduced.
  • 1947: Model M tractor and Dubuque Works factory opened.
  • 1948: Purchase of Des Moines Ordnance Plant.
  • 1950: Introduction of No. 8 Cotton Picker.
  • 1955: William A. Hewitt leads major growth, focusing on international markets.
  • 1956: Construction and Forestry Equipment Division formed.
  • 1957: Launch of the 14T baler.
  • 1960: Introduction of “New Generation of Power” tractors.

Late 20th Century Developments

  • 1963: Entry into Consumer Equipment market.
  • 1982: Robert Hanson overcomes recessions, enters health care market.
  • 1985: Expansion into health care.
  • 1986: Military contract and labor strikes.
  • 1987: Hans W. Becherer becomes president.
  • 1988: Company recovers from recession.
  • 1992: Introduction of the first Gator, the Gator TH.
  • 1994: Debut of the 8000 Series tractor.
  • 1996: Introduction of the 7760 Cotton Picker.
  • 1997: Opening of the John Deere Pavilion.
  • 2000: Logo updated to a more modern design.

21st Century and Beyond

  • 2000-2009: Robert W. Lane focuses on global growth, modernizes factories.
  • 2017: Focus on electrification and autonomous technologies.
  • 2021: Workers’ strike at 14 plants across several states.


Lessons from the History of John Deere

Embracing Innovation

  • Adapting to Needs: John Deere created the first steel plow in 1837, revolutionizing farming. This teaches us to be observant and responsive to the needs around us.
  • Continual Improvement: Over the years, John Deere introduced innovative products like the Hawkeye Riding Cultivator and the Model “A” tractor. This shows the importance of continually improving and evolving our products.

Strategic Business Decisions

  • Relocation for Growth: In 1848, John Deere moved the company to Moline, IL, for better power and transportation. This highlights the importance of strategic location decisions in business.
  • Expansion and Diversification: Under leaders like Charles Deere and William Butterworth, the company expanded its product line and entered new markets, teaching the value of diversification and expansion in business growth.

Leadership and Vision

  • Effective Leadership: Leaders like Charles Deere Wiman and William Hewitt steered the company through different eras, emphasizing the role of strong and visionary leadership in a company’s success.
  • Global Vision: The transition of Deere & Company to a multinational corporation under William Hewitt shows the importance of having a global vision for local businesses.

Adapting to Challenges

  • Overcoming Economic Challenges: Leaders like Robert Hanson navigated the company through recessions, entering new markets like health care. This teaches resilience and adaptability in the face of economic challenges.
  • Innovation in Difficult Times: Despite challenges in the 1980s and 1990s, the company focused on financial services and diversification, demonstrating the importance of innovating and adapting during difficult times.

Brand Evolution and Market Presence

  • Branding and Evolution: The various changes to the John Deere logo from 1864 to 2000 reflect the company’s growth and diversification, underscoring the importance of evolving a brand alongside the company.
  • Maintaining Market Presence: With a significant market share in the tractor segment and being publicly traded, John Deere shows how consistent quality and innovation can maintain and enhance market presence.


Frequently Asked Questions about John Deere

Who Founded John Deere and When?

  • John Deere, a blacksmith, founded the company in 1837 in Grand Detour, Illinois.

What Was John Deere’s First Major Innovation?

  • The first steel plow was in 1837, an innovation that significantly improved farming practices.

Why Did John Deere Move to Moline, Illinois?

  • In 1848, for better access to power and transportation options along the Mississippi River.

What Are Some Key Products Introduced by John Deere?

  • Hawkeye Riding Cultivator (1863)
  • Model “A” tractor (1934) and Model “B” (1935)
  • First combine (1927)
  • Lawn and garden tractors (1963)

How Has John Deere’s Leadership Changed Over the Years?

  • Charles Deere (1886-1907): Expanded the company’s reach.
  • William Butterworth (1907-1936): Entered new markets like tractors.
  • William Hewitt (1955-1982): Transformed it into a multinational corporation.
  • Robert Hanson (1982-1990): Diversified into health care.
  • Hans Becherer (1990-2000): Emphasized innovation.

What’s Unique About John Deere’s Logo Evolution?

  • The logo, first created in 1876, has undergone various changes reflecting the company’s growth, with the last update in 2000.

What’s John Deere’s Market Impact?

  • It’s the best-selling tractor brand in the USA, holding a significant market share.

Is John Deere a Publicly-Traded Company?

  • Yes, it’s listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

What Is John Deere’s Global Presence?

  • As of 2021, the company has over 100 factories in more than 30 countries.

What Was John Deere’s Response to Economic Downturns?

  • Under Robert Hanson, the company diversified into health care and financial services in the 1980s to navigate farm recessions.

More About John Deere

Next, you’ll find links to valuable search results that can help you stay updated with any new information available about John Deere.


Documentaries offer a comprehensive way to delve into John Deere’s history, providing organized and in-depth information.

Explore streaming platforms, documentary websites, and video-sharing platforms to find related documentaries, or inquire at your local library for available resources.

John Deere Executive Team

A company’s management team is responsible for everything within its jurisdiction. In the case of a century-old company like John Deere, management evolves.

The link offers insights into current and past management teams, their achievements, and the areas where they faced challenges.

Working at John Deere

Evaluating employee reviews provides valuable insights into the management’s treatment of staff.

An abundance of credible negative reviews may signify management issues that require attention and improved communication with employees.

Conversely, a preponderance of positive reviews suggests effective management practices, highlighting their commitment to fostering a positive and supportive work environment.

See the link below to review feedback from employees.

Complaints and Lawsuits

Legitimate complaints and lawsuits can signal management challenges, and larger corporations may face more.

In today’s business landscape, social media enables management teams to track online discussions about their company, helping them identify recurring issues and valid complaints.

This monitoring allows for proactive improvements and addressing concerns, contributing to better management practices.

See the link below to browse through complaints and lawsuits related to John Deere.

Company Profile

A company profile provides a comprehensive overview, including its specialization, mission, products, and services.

To delve into the specifics of John Deere, the provided link offers in-depth information about the company and its operations.

Investment Outlook

The link provides insights into stock data, prices, trends, and expert predictions, aiding informed decision-making by potential investors in John Deere shares.


Books are a valuable resource to delve into John Deere’s history, past leaders, and their impact on the company’s success.


Google News is a reliable source for staying updated on John Deere’s current and archived news stories, providing a comprehensive view of the company’s developments.

See Google’s News search results related to John Deere.


Videos provide valuable insights into John Deere. While watching, pay attention to on-screen content for additional perspectives and information you may have overlooked.

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Featured Video


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Kevin Leighton, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons