Saturday, August 9, 2008


John Deere was an Illinois blacksmith and manufacturer. Early in his career, Deere and an associate designed a series of farm plows. In 1837, on his own, John Deere designed the first cast steel plow that greatly assisted the Great Plains farmers. The large plows made for cutting the tough prairie ground were called "grasshopper plows." The plow was made of wrought iron and had a steel share that could cut through sticky soil without clogging. By 1855, John Deere's factory was selling over 10,000 steel plows a year.
In 1868, John Deere's business was incorporated as Deere & Company, which is still in existence today.
John Deere became a millionaire selling his steel plows.
History of Plows - PloughsExtracts from The Age of Invention by Holland Thompson - Chapter 5: The Agricultural Revolution
The first real inventor of a practicable plow was Charles Newbold, of Burlington County, New Jersey, to whom a patent for a cast-iron plow was issued in June, 1797. But the farmers would have none of it. They said it "poisoned the soil" and fostered the growth of weeds. One David Peacock received a patent in 1807, and two others later. Newbold sued Peacock for infringement and recovered damages. Pieces of Newbold's original plow are in the museum of the New York Agricultural Society at Albany.
Another inventor of ploughs was Jethro Wood, a blacksmith of Scipio, New York, who received two patents, one in 1814 and the other in 1819. His plow was of cast iron, but in three parts, so that a broken part might be renewed without purchasing an entire plow. This principle of standardization marked a great advance. The farmers by this time were forgetting their former prejudices, and many plow were sold. Though Wood's original patent was extended, infringements were frequent, and he is said to have spent his entire property in prosecuting them.
Another skilled blacksmith, William Parlin, at Canton, Illinois, began making plows about 1842, which he loaded upon a wagon and peddled through the country. Later his establishment grew large. Another John Lane, a son of the first, patented in 1868 a "soft-center" steel plow. The hard but brittle surface was backed by softer and more tenacious metal, to reduce the breakage. The same year James Oliver, a Scotch immigrant who had settled at South Bend, Indiana, received a patent for the "chilled plough." By an ingenious method the wearing surfaces of the casting were cooled more quickly than the back. The surfaces which came in contact with the soil had a hard, glassy surface, while the body of the plough was of tough iron. From small beginnings Oliver's establishment grew great, and the Oliver Chilled Plow Works at South Bend is today [1921] one of the largest and most favorably known privately owned
From the single plough it was only a step to two or more plows fastened together, doing more work with approximately the same man power. The sulky plow, on which the plowman rode, made his work easier, and gave him great control. Such plows were certainly in use as early as 1844, perhaps earlier. The next step forward was to substitute for horses a traction engine.


alcarreau said...

Hello Ms. Brenda,
First let me extend my compliments to you on your entire body of work. The sheer volume of your work is stunning. You are awesome and I almost refrained from contacting you. However, I have summoned my courage, and shall 'blunder on' hoping for a resolution of my question. I am not an expert, and am not challenging your expertise. I submit these thoughts as a point of information only, not as challenge.
Respectfully, I would like to direct your attention to the following:

The indication, here, is that the steel plow was invented, in England, circa 1790. The author's citations are not specific, but appear to be authoritative. Your depiction of the invention of the plow (American spelling) in the USA, appears to be fairly accurate for the steel plow. The exception might be that John Deere improved the steel plough, but did not invent it.
I have one more thought (speculation, really) on the inventor of the plough. The plough (the earlier, wooden variety) was invented by someone, probably in pre-history, whose name we can never know, at a time that we probably can never know.
Please use or reject these comments as you see fit.
Thank you for your consideration and please accept my regards to you and your family.
Al C. (

redneck said...

I was wandering if you had any information about a John Deere "442" walking single bottom breaking plow? I i have seen a few without wheels but was wandering if you have ever heard of or have seen one with wheels? My father currently has one and says they are very rare but am wandering if it is not a walking plow that has just been modified. Any info wold be awesome. Can contact me at any time with info at

Dale Burke said...

Where in all this is the Mrazek plow? I think some history was missed.