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The John Deere Company

John Deere Model D, 1925

  • John Deere was born in Rutland, Vermont on February 7, 1804. There he became a blacksmith and was well-known for his good work.
  • Times were tough in Vermont. In 1836 he moved west to find work.
  • He settled in Illinois where his skills as a blacksmith were needed badly.
  • There he shoed horses and repaired plows and other farm equipment like blacksmiths always did.
  • He noticed that the soil in the Midwest was very different from that of the sandy soil of the New England states. The thick black dirt often found in the Midwest stuck to the cast iron plows farmers from the east were used to working with. Every few steps a farmer had to stop and scrape the soil from the plow.
  • In 1837, John Deere invented a plow that would do a better job in the thick black Midwestern soil.
  • He took a broken saw blade and worked it into the shape of a plow. Then he polished it so the soil would not stick to the surface of the plow. His new plow pulled easier than any other plow to that time. It soon became the standard all over America.
  • While John Deere was developing his business in Illinois, pioneer settlers were beginning to move into Iowa. Settlers in Waterloo were building houses, starting mills along the river, and erecting factories to produce goods that could be sold to markets in Iowa as well as other states.
  • The John Deere Company developed the same way that industries in Waterloo grew and expanded. One of these Waterloo companies was the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company.
Waterloo Boy Card. The gasoline engine transformed farm work in many ways.
  • In 1899 George B. Miller purchased the Waterloo Gas Engine Company. One of the company’s most important products was the Waterloo Boy tractor.

The Waterloo Boy tractor was manufactured by the Waterloo Gas Engine Company until 1918 when the company was bought by John Deere

  • By 1915, the Waterloo Gas Engine Company was one of the most important businesses in Waterloo. It employed seven hundred workers.
  • The company consisted of four buildings including a main building, two smaller buildings and a foundry. The plant was equipped with the most up-to-date and efficient equipment for the time. It manufactured gas engines, traction engines, spreaders, cream separators and a number of smaller articles.
  • Like the Waterloo Gas Engine Company, the John Deere Company was producing many different kinds of farm equipment and selling products all over the country as well.
  • In 1918, the John Deere Company purchased the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company. The name was changed to Deere and Company.
  • Tractors became an important part of the John Deere line of products.
  • Deere and Company went on to become one of the largest and most important industries in Waterloo.

John Deere Model D, 1925



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