Deere & Company began when John Deere, born in Rutland, Vermont, USA on February 7, 1804, moved to Grand Detour, Illinois in 1836 to escape bankruptcy in Vermont. Already an established blacksmith, Deere opened a 1,378-square-foot (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 tools such as pitchforks and shovels.
Tools were just a start; the item that set him apart was the self-scouring steel plow, which was pioneered in 1837 when John Deere fashioned a Scottish steel saw blade into a plow. Prior to Deere’s steel plow, most farmers used iron or wooden plows to which the rich Midwestern soil stuck, so they had to be cleaned frequently. The smooth-sided steel plow solved this problem, and greatly aided migration into the American Great Plains in the 19th and early 20th centuries.