Invention of the Steel Plow in 1837: History & John Deere

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  • 0:00 History of the Plow in America
  • 0:33 The Steel Plow
  • 1:55 John Deere
  • 2:44 Deere's Legacy
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tamara Dean
Have you ever heard of the 'grasshopper' plow? It wasn't until the steel plow was introduced in 1837, that Western farmers were able to cultivate their crops more efficiently. . . thanks to John Deere.

History of the Plow in America

The first cast iron plows in America were introduced by early European settlers who settled along the Eastern coast. These iron plows worked particularly well because the soil tended to be sandy in nature. As farmers began moving westward towards the Great Plains, they discovered that the soil was much tougher to plow through and found themselves having to clean the plows frequently because of the sticky nature of the soil. This made growing crops very difficult for farmers with the traditional iron plow.

The Steel Plow

John Deere saves the day with a new invention! In 1837, Deere figured out a way to make things easier for western farmers by constructing a plow that was made of polished steel. Deere designed his first steel plow by taking an old steel saw blade and polishing it up. Why did he have to take an old steel saw blade? Well, during that time, steel was hard to find in the United States. Deere took his new invention to another farmer buddy who lived not too far from him and had him test it out. It turns out that Deere was right. Numerous tests showed that the soil indeed would not stick to the highly polished steel. This new invention proved to be better for farmers. By 1842, Deere had sold 100 plows and by 1843, he had sold 400. Deere's plows were nicknamed grasshopper plows because they were able to cut through the tough soil and grass, just like a grasshopper.

Deere's plow business didn't take off right away because many farmers were still unsure about Deere's plow and whether it could really be durable and long-lasting. But, it turns out that Deere was also a great publicist. In order to get his product into the hands of more people, Deere advertised his plow to be better than the rest. By 1849, 1,200 plows had been ordered, and eventually, Deere's company sold over 10,000 plows a year.

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