A Historic Milestone: The John Deere Steel Plow in 1837

February 16, 2017

Looking back at the John Deere timeline and history of inventions, the first steel plow was certainly an iconic moment. It’s wild to think that, in 1837, John Deere was just another blacksmith working on hayforks, horseshoes, and other prairie essentials.

john-deere-steel-plow-history

Today, John Deere is recognized among the leading manufacturers of agricultural and construction equipment, forestry machinery, diesel engines for heavy equipment, and lawn care equipment.

To celebrate how far John Deere has come from the first steel plow, we thought it was worth jumping back in time to explore how the iconic moment came about.

Clip from the Blacksmith’s Gift: An Epic of 1837

Check out this special clip from the video, The Blacksmith’s Gift, starring Monty Blue as John Deere. In this clip, an epic moment is featured in which John Deere builds his first steel plow in 1837.

How It All Started

Like many entrepreneurs, John Deere thought of his big invention by first realizing a problem. Eliminating this problem would not only make farmers lives easier, but it would also make work more productive.

He knew two key facts that lead him to create his first steel plow:

  1. The Problem: Near his home in Illinois, farmers’ days in the fields were very difficult because they had to regularly pause their work to clear off prairie soil from their cast-iron plows.
  1. The Solution: Soil would easily slide off of a well-polished steel moldboard. Although steel was scarce in the area, it would be fairly simple to create a test moldboard out of second-hand blade.

According to “John Deere’s Company,” a book by Wayne G. Broehl, Jr., the material Deere used wasn’t the only unusual thing about the plows. The moldboard was also shaped differently than others of the day. “It is essentially a parallelogram, curved in a concave fashion. Deere must have given a great deal of thought to the shape, to the special curve of his moldboard, for its exact contours would determine just how well the soil would be turned over after the share had made the cut.”

175 Years Later

The company, which continued to grow from the success of the first steel plow in 1837, now manufactures a variety of advanced machinery to help make farming and other land work easier, faster and more efficient.

Reflecting back on the original steel plow, it could only do a small portion of the work that modern farmers can tackle with tillage equipment today; however, it was groundbreaking at the time.

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