The Deere & Webber Company

| 10/19/2015 9:44:00 AM

Sam MooreAwhile back, someone said they had seen a sleigh with a brass plate saying it had come from the Deere & Webber Company and they were looking for information on the firm.

In 1851, John and Demarius Deere's third child, Ellen Sarah, aged 19, married Christopher Columbus Webber, a 32-year-old business man in Rock Island, Illinois.

After grave financial problems, caused partly by the panic of 1857, and partly by poor management, John Deere turned over leadership of his firm to his 21-year-old son Charles. The younger Deere seems to have brought his brother-in-law, C.C. Webber into the business as a partner. A correspondent for the Mercantile Agency (forerunner of Dun & Bradstreet) wrote at the time: “Webber has some considerable (property), (but) his reputation as a bus. man is decidely (sic) bad, for tho he may be responsible, he is not prompt to pay – but prompt to collect.” Webber died in 1865, leaving Ellen with five small children, including his 6-year-old son, Charles C. Webber.

Young C.C. Webber began as a mail boy at Deere & Company in 1877, and before long became a traveler (salesman) representing the firm. Charles Deere went into partnership in 1880 with a man named Dean to establish a Deere branch house in Minneapolis. A year later, C.C. Webber joined Dean in running the branch house and, about 1883, took over as manager, a position he held for over 60 years. Dean retired in 1893, and the branch house was reincorporated as Deere & Webber Company.

During the last decades of the 19th century, each of the several Deere branch houses was a semi-independent company, usually owned by Charles Deere and the local manager in partnership. The branch houses set their own prices, and often paid the parent company different prices for the same implements. The branch houses could, and did, routinely sell competing products; For example, Alvah Mansur, manager of the St. Louis branch sold the Albion, Coates, Greensburg, New Gleaner, and Tiffin hay rakes, in addition to the Deere sulky rake.

James First, a German immigrant, briefly worked as a blacksmith for John Deere in 1853. Feeling he wasn’t being paid enough, First quit and started his own shop, where he built wagons to order. In 1869, First and a couple of partners formed the Moline Wagon Company. In 1881, the Moline Wagon Co. bought into the Deere branch house in Council Bluffs, Iowa, called Deere, Wells & Co., and began selling their wagons through that branch.


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