The King of the Riding Plows


| 3/20/2012 11:15:58 AM


Tags: looking back, gilpin sulky plow, riding plows, Deere & Co.,

Somewhere in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a baby boy named Gilpin was born on October 27, 1831, to blacksmith Hibbard Moore and his wife Jane. The boy went to school in Pennsylvania until he was fourteen years old, although Hibbard Moore had removed to Rock Island, Illinois, when little Gilpin was seven and it's unclear whether both the boy and his mother remained behind or if Gilpin stayed with relatives. In any event, the boy joined his father in Rock Island in 1845 and, until he was eighteen, worked in his father's blacksmith shop while also attending school.

Gilpin Moore had by this time demonstrated that he had exceptional mechanical ability and determined to learn the mechanician, or machinist's trade. To that end, he apprenticed himself to a large machine shop in Rock Island. At the end of the apprenticeship, Moore had so excelled that he was appointed superintendent of the entire shop and became well known as a meticulous and resourceful workman and an inventor of uncommon ability.

In March of 1853, Moore married a Miss Ludica Crisswell and they had four children, two boys and two girls. In 1864, Moore went to work for Deere & Company in nearby Moline and four years later became superintendent of Deere's iron works and a partner with a 6% interest in the company. During much of the latter part of the 19th century, of the five principle managers of Deere & Company, Charles Deere, CEO; Stephen Velie, secretary; Moore, head of the iron works; Charles Nason, head of the wood and paint shops; and George Vinton, general sales agent; only Moore wasn't a member of the Deere family.

From the time of his hiring until he retired in 1890, Moore was issued thirty-one patents in his own name, along with four others jointly held with a Deere & Company partner. Few of these were for little piddling improvements to existing products — most were for new implements that, when produced, added significantly to Deere's bottom line.

One of the most important of these inventions was a sulky plow that soon became known as the "Gilpin Sulky" and inspired a famous painting of Old John Deere himself, dressed in plug hat, overcoat, tie and cane and with his adoring dog looking on, watching a young man on a Gilpin Sulky turning a perfect furrow behind three spirited steeds.

Gilpin Moore's sulky plow