John Deere

The Story of a Growing Legend: John Deere

Moline, Illinois had everything a budding industrialist like John Deere could ask for when he built his plow factory here in 1848 - steamboats to bring in steel and other raw materials, roads tracing old Indian trails, and waterwheel driven power thanks to the Mississippi River. Plus, as a community of hard-working pioneer families, it offered a ready source of labor.

John Deere

John Deere was born on February 7, 1804, in Vermont, where he learned the blacksmith trade. In the 1830s, he listened to the tales of great opportunity to the west - a place where a man could succeed on his own, a place with prairie untouched by the plow. Deere, with a few tools and very little money, struck out on his own, promising his wife, Demarius, and their children that he would return to them after he made a good start. It didn't take long. Grand Detour in Illinois was in need of a blacksmith and John Deere was just the man they needed.

Shortly after arriving in Grand Detour, John Deere learned that the commonly used cast-iron plows of the day performed poorly in the sticky soil of the Midwest. Soil clung to the plow bottoms and had to be removed by hand.

Convinced that a plow with a highly polished surface should clean, or scour itself as it moved through the field, John Deere fashioned just such an implement in 1837, using steel from a broken saw blade. Legend has it that hundreds of people gathered at the farm of Lewis Crandall, near Grand Detour, for the successful debut. A published account noted the plow would "cleave without carrying the rich alluvial earth." Soon manufacturing plows became the main focus of John Deere's business.

In 1848, john Deere moved his operation 70 miles south, to Moline, to take advantage of the waterpower and transportation offered by the Mississippi River. The river proved instrumental in bringing raw materials such as steel to the factory and for moving finished plows to market.

Soon, 1,000 plows a year were being produced as John Deere laid down principles of doing business that are being followed to this day. Among them was his insistence on high standards of quality. "I will never put my name on a plow that does not have in it the best that is in me," John Deere vowed, in his best-remembered statement. In 1868, Deere's business was incorporated under the name Deere & Company, becoming what is today the largest agricultural equipment manufacturer in the world.

To learn more about John Deere and the company, visit the John Deere Pavilion in the newly renovated and restored riverfront area of downtown Moline named John Deere Commons. Learn about the history of John Deere, farming and the future of farming at the largest agricultural exhibit in the world. Interactive computer displays, and combines towering two-stories high add to this exciting experience. Located next door to the John Deere pavilion is the John Deere Store where collectibles and souvenirs are available to take home as a remembrance of the visit to this one-of-a-kind exhibit. Step back in time at the John Deere Collectors Center just a short walk away. Experience the heritage of agriculture represented by a working 1950's era John Deere dealership. Visitors will see vintage John Deere equipment and memorabilia as well as interactive exhibits.

Take a quick trip up the hill from downtown Moline and tour the gardens and homes of the John Deere family at the Deere-Wiman House and Butterworth Center. These beautiful mansions feature outstanding gardens and magnificent interiors that tell the story of how the Deere family lived and grew up in the Quad Cities. The gardens are open year-round and the homes are open for tours during special events and by appointment.

Don't miss the international headquarters of Deere and Company. Designed by the famous architect, Eero Saarinen, designer of the St. Louis Arch, this magnificent building with its expansive glass windows and heavy, weathered steel beams, is set in a park-like setting. Featured instead the headquarters is another exhibit on the history of the company and the equipment that has made Deere & Company a name known around the world.

John Deere Commons

John Deere Commons lies near the site of the first John Deere factory that made Deere's revolutionary sod-busting plows. Deere used the water from the Mississippi to generate power for his factory. Anchored by John Deere Pavilion, the Commons includes a variety of activities. Located along the Mississippi River east of the I-74 Bridge in Moline, IL 309.277.1332.

John Deere Store

Unique and fun memorabilia, from John Deere fishing reels to commissioned artwork. Monday-Friday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm; March-December: Monday-Friday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm; Saturday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm; Sunday Noon - 4:00 pm. Free admission. 309.765.1007. 1300 River Drive, Suite 100, Moline, IL.