Deere & Co.: From Plowshares to Stock Shares
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During the last 25 years of his life, Deere had little involvement in management of the company that bore his name. In his final years, Deere became a gentleman farmer, and raised registered Jersey cattle and Berkshire hogs. He was influential as a community leader – including a term as mayor of Moline – and was generous with both his time and resources in supporting countless area organizations and fledgling business enterprises. He died May 17, 1886, at age 82. “Probably no other funeral in Moline was ever attended by so many people or drew forth the public evidence of mourning,” a local historian wrote.
John Deere is commonly – but mistakenly – credited with creating the first steel plow, also known as the first self-scouring plow. In fact, Deere’s greatest accomplishment might’ve been the way in which he projected his character onto the company he founded, and the way he impressed his values and philosophies onto the men who would lead the company through its first critical period of growth and expansion.
Unlike other important figures in American industrial history, little formal documentation of Deere’s life and business exists. He wrote no biography. Firsthand accounts by peers describe a gruff, strong-willed, short-tempered, undiplomatic, single-minded, independent and controlling man. He was poorly educated by today’s standards and often mistrusted his business partners. Still, intuitive business sense combined with a passion for quality served him and his company well. He operated the company for just 17 years before handing the keys to his son, but by then John Deere had already solidified the company foundation that endures today as an international leader in farm equipment. And it all began with a broken saw blade ... FCFurther reading:– John Deere’s Company: A History of Deere & Company and its Times, by Wayne G. Broehl Jr.– Genuine Value, The John Deere Journey, by John Gerstner, editor.
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