Deere and the Great Depression


| 1/22/2016 2:26:00 PM


Tags: Looking Back, Sam Moore,

Sam MooreDeere had total sales of $63 million in 1930, a figure that fell to just $8.7 million by 1932. In 1931, employment was cut by 75 percent, from 4,800 workers to 1,270, and these few survivors were working reduced hours, often at “make work” jobs. Wages at the Plow Works were cut from $.57 to $.53 per hour in 1931. Salaried employees pay was cut by 5 to 10%, and by 25% a year later. Minimum pensions were reduced from $30 to $25 per month. Paid vacations were eliminated during the years from 1931 to 1936.

Deere did not, however, cut out everything. Employee savings accounts, upon which the company paid 5% interest, had been established in 1920, and this money was made available to laid-off employees to tide them over. In addition, company-paid group insurance was continued for laid-off workers, and the firm made an effort to help needy employees with cash payments.

Another example of Deere & Company’s concern for the welfare of its employees and the City of Moline was the impending failure of the Peoples Savings Bank of Moline during the early days of the Great Depression.

The roots of the bank went back to 1857, and John Deere had served as president of the then First National Bank of Moline during 1866. In 1891, Charles Deere organized the Peoples Savings Bank of Moline, with Charles himself as president. In 1905, the two banks merged and, when Charles Deere died, William Butterworth became president of both Deere and the bank.

Thus, the Peoples Bank of Moline had always been considered the Deere family’s bank and many Deere employees had their money in the institution. In addition, the Deere Company had consistently kept more than $2 million on deposit in the bank.

Then, during the banking crisis caused by the depression, bank examiners found that the bank’s cashier and two other employees had, over a period of time, embezzled $1.2 million, which they had then lost in real estate investment schemes. The bank’s capital was virtually wiped out and it was in grave danger of having to close, which would have meant the loss of savings for thousands of Deere employees and other Moline residents.

samm
2/4/2016 1:37:43 PM

oldjdco, I suspected that would be the case. Thanks for your response.


oldjdco
2/3/2016 9:51:00 AM

Having been employed at a John Deere dealership for over 40 years, I can assure you that Deere & Co. would not be anywhere that generous today.