Deere & Company, usually known by its brand name John Deere, is an American corporation based in Moline, Illinois, and the leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery in the world. In 2010, it was listed as 107th in the Fortune 500 ranking. Deere and Company agricultural products, sold under the John Deere name, include tractors, combine harvesters, cotton harvesters, balers, planters/seeders, sprayers, and UTVs. The company is also a leading manufacturer of construction equipment and forestry equipment, as well as a supplier of diesel engines and drivetrains (axles, transmissions, gearboxes) used in heavy equipment. Additionally, John Deere manufactures equipment used in lawn, grounds, and turf care, such as walk-behind lawn mowers, zero-turn lawn mowers, lawn tractors, and snowthrowers. To support the core businesses, John Deere also provides financial services and other related activities.
The company's slogan is "Nothing Runs Like a Deere" and has a picture of a leaping deer as a logo, a word play pun on "nothing runs like a deer". Carl Westby is known as the person who coined the phrase "Nothing Runs Like a Deere" for a marketing campaign to sell snowmobiles. The company's products are also easily identifiable by its distinct shade of green paint, usually augmented by yellow trim.
Deere & Company began when John Deere, born in Rutland, Vermont, USA on February 7, 1804, moved to Grand Detour, Illinois in 1836 in order to escape bankruptcy in Vermont. Already an established blacksmith, Deere opened a 1,378 square feet (128 m2) shop in Grand Detour in 1837 which allowed him to serve as a general repairman in the village, as well as a manufacturer of small tools such as pitchforks and shovels.
What was more successful than these small tools was Deere's cast-steel plow, which was pioneered in 1837. Prior to Deere's introduction of the steel plow, most farmers used iron or wooden plows which stuck to the rich Midwestern soil and had to be cleaned very frequently. The smooth sided steel plow solved this problem, and would greatly aid migration into the American Great Plains in the 19th and early 20th century.
Deere's production of plows began slowly, but increased greatly when he departed from the traditional business model of making equipment as it was ordered and instead began to manufacture plows before they were ordered and then put them up for sale. This allowed customers to see what they were buying beforehand, and word of the product began to spread quickly.
In 1842, Deere entered a business partnership with Leonard Andrus and purchased land for the construction of a new two-story factory along the Rock River in Illinois. This factory, named the "L. Andrus Plough Manufacturer", produced about 100 plows in 1842 and approximately 400 plows during the next year. Despite the success, Deere's partnership with Andrus ended in 1848, when Deere relocated to Moline, Illinois in order to have access to the railroad and the Mississippi River. In Moline, Deere formed a partnership with Robert Tate and John Gould and quickly built a new 1,440 square feet (134 m2) factory in 1848. Production at the plant rose quickly and, by 1849, the Deere, Tate & Gould Company was producing over 200 plows a month, and a two story addition to the plant was built to allow for further production.
John Deere bought out Tate and Gould's interests in the company in 1853, the same year that he was joined in the business by his son Charles Deere. The business continued to expand until 1857, when the company's production totals reached almost 1,120 implements per month. Then, in 1858 a nationwide financial recession took a toll on the company. In order to prevent bankruptcy, the company was reorganized and Deere sold his interests in the business to his son in law, Christopher Webber, and his son, Charles Deere, who would take on most of his father's managerial roles. The company was reorganized one final time in 1868, when it was incorporated as Deere & Company. The company's original stockholders were Charles Deere, Stephen Velie, George Vinton, and John Deere, who would serve as president of the company until 1886. Despite this, it was Charles who effectively ran the company. In 1869, Charles began to introduce marketing centers and independent retail dealers to advance the company's sales nationwide.
John Deere died in 1886, and the presidency of Deere & Company passed to Charles Deere. By now the company was manufacturing a variety of farm equipment products in addition to plows, including wagons, corn planters, cultivators. The company even expanded into the bicycle business briefly during the 1890s, but the core focus of the company remained on agricultural implements.
Increased competition during the early 1900s from the new International Harvester Company led the company to expand its offerings in the implement business, but it was the production of gasoline tractors which would come to define Deere & Company's operations during the twentieth century.
In 1912, Deere & Company president William Butterworth, who had replaced Charles Deere after his death in 1907, began the company's expansion into the tractor business. Deere & Company briefly experimented with its own tractor models, the most successful of which was the Dain All-Wheel-Drive, but in the end decided to continue its foray into the tractor business by purchasing the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company in 1918, which manufactured the popular Waterloo Boy tractor at its facilities in Waterloo, Iowa. Deere & Company continued to sell tractors under the Waterloo Boy name until 1923, when the John Deere Model D was introduced. The company still manufactures most of its tractors in Waterloo, Iowa.
On an episode of the Travel Channel series "Made in America" that profiled Deere & Company, host John Ratzenberger stated that the company never repossessed any equipment from American farmers during the Great Depression.
In 1956, Deere & Company bought-out the German tractor manufacturer, Heinrich Lanz AG (see Lanz Bulldog).
The Life and Times of John Deere