John Deere, born in Rutland, Vermont on February 7, 1804, moved to Grand Detour, Illinois in 1836 in order to escape bankruptcy in Vermont. Having skills as a blacksmith, Deere opened a 1,378-square-foot shop in Grand Detour in 1937. This would allow him to serve as a general repairman in the village.
Deere built a self-scouring steel plow in 1837. Prior to Deere’s steel plow, farmers used iron or wooden plows, which stuck to the rich Midwestern soil and had to be cleaned frequently. The smooth sided steel plow solved the problem.
By 1853, the company was manufacturing a variety of farm equipment products in addition to plows. The new equipment included wagons, corn planters and cultivators.
Increased competition during the early 1900s from the new International Harvester Company led the company to expand its offerings in the implement business. Always one to beat the competition, Deere and Company began to produce gasoline tractors that would come to define Deere and Company’s operation during the twentieth century.
The company continued to prosper, with John’s son Charles taking over the business. Charles began to introduce marketing centers and independent retail dealers to advance the company’s sales nationwide.
In 1912, Deere and Company president William Butterworth took over the firm from Charles Deere. Butterworth was Charles Deere’s son-in-law. Butterworth was an astute businessman, and one aspect of his business ethics was the fact that Deere and Company did not repossess any equipment from the American farmer during the Great Depression.
On the 50th anniversary of the company in 1962, Deere and Company claimed a total workforce of 35,000, of which 9,000 workers were in Illinois. The corporate headquarters is located in Moline, Illinois. It is interesting to note that in 1962, 7,000 employees were working at the John Deere plant in Moline. This represented 16% of the city’s entire population.
In 2014, Deere and Company had a workforce of approximately 67,000 employees worldwide. Half of the employees were located in the United States and Canada, and it is the largest agriculture machinery company in the world.
In August 2014, Deere and Company laid off 600 of its workers in plants in Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas due to the downturn of the economy. Also, the company experienced less of a demand for its products.