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´╗┐Title: John Deere's Steel Plow
Author: Kendall, Edward C.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Edward C. Kendall_

    DEERE AND ANDRUS      17

    THE FIRST PLOW        19

    STEEL OR IRON         21

    WHY A STEEL PLOW      23


    IN SUMMARY--          25

_By Edward C. Kendall_


    _John Deere in 1837 invented a plow that could be used
    successfully in the sticky, root-filled soil of the prairie.
    It was called a steel plow. Actually, it appears that only the
    cutting edge, the share, on the first Deere plows was steel.
    The moldboard was smoothly ground wrought iron._

    _Deere's invention succeeded because, as the durable steel
    share of the plow cut through the heavy earth, the sticky soil
    could find no place to cling on its polished surfaces._

Americans moving westward in the beginning of the 19th century soon
encountered the prairie lands of what we now call the Middle West. The
dark fertile soils promised great rewards to the farmers settling in
these regions, but also posed certain problems. First was the breaking
of the tough prairie sod. The naturalist John Muir describes the
conditions facing prairie farmers when he was a boy in the early 1850's
as he tells of the use of the big prairie-breaking plows in the
following words:[1]

    They were used only for the first ploughing, in breaking up
    the wild sod woven into a tough mass, chiefly by the cord-like
    roots of perennial grasses, reinforced by the tap roots of oak
    and hickory bushes, called "grubs," some of which were more
    than a century old and four or five inches in diameter.... If
    in good trim, the plough cut through and turned over these
    grubs as if the century-old wood were soft like the flesh of
    carrots and turnips; but if not in good trim the grubs
    promptly tossed the plough out of the ground.

The second and greater problem was that the richer lands of the prairie
bottoms, after a few years of continuous cultivation, became so sticky
that they clogged the moldboards of the plows. Clogging was such a
factor in prairie plowing that farmers in these regions carried a wooden
paddle solely for cleaning off the moldboard, a task which had to be
repeated so frequently that it seriously interfered with plowing
efficiency. It seems probable that by the 1830's blacksmiths in the
prairie country were beginning to solve the problem of continuous
cultivation of sticky prairie soil by nailing strips of saw steel to the
face of wooden moldboard of the traditional plows. Figure 1 is a
photograph of an 18th century New England plow in the collection of the
U. S. National Museum. This is one type of plow which was brought west
by the settlers. It contributed to the development of the prairie
breaker shown in figure 2. The first plow on record with strips of steel
on the moldboard is attributed to John Lane in Chicago in 1833.[2] Steel
presented a smoother surface which shed the sticky loam better than the
conventional wooden moldboards covered with wrought iron, or the cast
iron moldboards of the newer factory-made plows then coming into use.

It is generally accepted as historical fact that John Deere made his
first steel plow in 1837 at Grand Detour, Illinois. The details of the
construction of this plow have been variously given by different
writers. Ardrey[3] and Davidson[4] describe Deere's original plow as
having a wooden moldboard covered with strips of steel cut from a saw,
in the manner of the John Lane plow.

[Sidebar: THE AUTHOR:

_Edward C. Kendall is curator of agriculture, Museum of History and
Technology, in the Smithsonian Institution's United States National

In recent years the 1837 Deere plow has been pictured quite differently.
This has apparently come about as the result of the discovery of an old
plow identified as one made by John Deere at Grand Detour in 1838 and
sold to Joseph Brierton from whose farm it was obtained in 1901 by the
maker's son, Charles H. Deere. He brought it to the office of Deere &
Company at Moline, Illinois, for preservation and display. This plow is
shown in figures 7 and 9. In 1938 Deere & Company presented it to the U.
S. National Museum, where it is on display. It can be seen that the
moldboard is made of one curved diamond-shaped metal slab. This plow
bottom conforms to the description of the "diamond" plows manufactured
by Deere in the 1840's.[5] The Company states that according to its
records, this was one of three plows made by Deere in 1838 and that it
was probably substantially identical with the first one made in 1837.[6]
It may be difficult to prove that the Museum's specimen was made in
1838, but a comparison of this plow (fig. 7) with the 1847 moldboard
(fig. 5) and the 1855 plow (fig. 6) suggests that the Museum's plow is
the earliest of the three, since there is particularly evident an
evolution of the shape of the moldboard from a simple, almost crude form
to a more sophisticated shape.

[Illustration: Figure 1.--NEW ENGLAND STRONG PLOW, MID-18TH CENTURY.
Colter locked into heavy, broad share; wooden moldboard covered with
iron strips. (_Cat. no. F1091_; _Smithsonian photo 13214_.)]


Writers of the 20th century describing the making of the first John
Deere steel plow have in mind the 1838 plow. One[7] has John Deere
pondering the local plowing problem and getting an idea from the
polished surface of a broken steel mill saw. Another[8] claims that
Leonard Andrus, the founder and leading figure of Grand Detour and part
owner of the sawmill, conceived the design of the plow and employed
Deere, the blacksmith newly arrived from Vermont, to build it. This idea
may have originated with and was certainly promoted by the late Fred A.
Wirt, as advertising manager of the J. I. Case Company. It is difficult,
at this distance, to determine the parts played at the beginning by
Deere and Andrus.

Wheels underneath the beam regulate the depth of plowing; large wheel
runs in the furrow, small wheel on the land. The colter is braced at the
bottom as well as at the top. The share cuts a broad, shallow strip of
sod which the long, gently curving moldboard turns over unbroken.]

The earliest existing partnership agreement involving Andrus and Deere
is dated March 20, 1843.[9] The existing copy is unsigned, but its
conditions are the same as those in the agreements executed during the
next few years. It began by stating that Deere and Andrus had agreed "to
become copartners together in the art and trade of Blacksmithing,
ploughmaking and all things thereto belonging at the said Grand Detour,
and all other business that the said parties may hereafter deem
necessary for their mutual interest and benefit ..." One of the terms
was that the copartnership should continue from the date of the
agreement "under the name and firm of Leonard Andrus."

A second agreement dated October 26, 1844,[10] which brought in a third
partner, Horace Paine, described the business as "the art and trade of
Blacksmithing Plough Making Iron Castings and all things thereto
belonging ..." and stated that the copartnership should be conducted
"under the name and firm of L. Andrus and Co." The third agreement,
dated October 20, 1846, in which another man appeared in place of Paine,
gave the name of the firm as Andrus, Deere, and Lathrop.[11] This
carried an addendum dated June 22, 1847, in which Andrus and Deere
bought out Lathrop's interest in the business and agreed to continue
under the name of Andrus and Deere. This is the only mention of the firm
of Andrus and Deere. It could only have lasted a few months because it
was in 1847 that Deere moved to Moline and established his plow factory

[Illustration: Figure 3.--RECONSTRUCTIONS OF JOHN DEERE'S 1837 PLOW. For
a discussion of the position and attachment of the handles see p. 24.
(_Deere & Company photo_.)]

These agreements suggest that Leonard Andrus was the capitalist of the
young community of Grand Detour, as well as its founder. The dominance
of the name Andrus tends to back up the opinion which holds that Andrus
was the leading figure in the development of the successful prairie
plow. On the other hand, the general tone of the agreements suggests
that two or more people were participating in an enterprise in which
each contributed to the business and shared in the results. Deere
contributed his plow and his blacksmith shop, tools, and outbuildings;
Andrus contributed money and business experience. There is no indication
that they were formally associated prior to the agreement of March 20,
1843. An advertisement (it is quoted later) dated February 3, 1843, and
appearing in the March 10, 1843, issue of the _Rock River Register_,
carries an announcement by John Deere that he is ready to fill orders
for plows, which he then describes. There is no mention of Andrus or of
an Andrus and Deere firm. I am inclined by the evidence to the view that
Deere worked out his plow by himself, began to manufacture it in small
numbers, needed money to enlarge and expand his operations, and went to
the logical source of capital in the community, Leonard Andrus.

In support of this view I quote a statement by Mr. Burton F. Peek[12]
who has spent most of his life in Deere & Company and who may now be the
only person living who knew John Deere:

    Andrus removed to Grand de Tour from some place in New York
    [Rochester, though originally from Vermont]. Some years later
    John Deere came along from Rutland, Vermont leaving his family
    behind him. Whether Deere ever heard of Andrus or Andrus of
    Deere no one knows.

    Having decided to remain in Grand de Tour, Deere sent for his
    family asking my paternal grandfather, William Peek, to bring
    them and also the Peek family out to Grand de Tour. This was
    done via covered wagon the journey occupying some six weeks.
    My father, Henry C. Peek, was then an infant age six weeks and
    Charles Deere, the son of John, an infant of about the same
    age. Of course these infants came along sleeping in the feed
    box of the wagon. My grandfather "took up land" adjacent to
    Grand de Tour and John Deere continued in the manufacturing

    Incidentally, John Deere and William Peek were brothers-in-law
    having married sisters and what I have said, and much more
    that I might say to you, is based upon what I have been told
    by my grandfather, by John Deere and by others who had a part
    in the early history of the company. So far as I know, I am
    the only living person who ever knew or saw John Deere....

    ... I joined the Deere Company on October 1, 1888, at the age
    of 16 and retired on the 28th of April, 1956--nearly 68 years.
    C. H. Deere was my great friend and benefactor. I was educated
    at his expense as a lawyer and practiced for thirteen years.
    During this time I was his personal attorney, I drew his will,
    was made trustee thereunder, and probably was more intimate
    with him than any living person. I have seen and read the
    manuscript of an early history of the company which he wrote,
    but never published and there was nothing in it to indicate
    that Andrus had any part in the manufacture of the first
    successful steel plow and it is my firm belief that he had no
    part other than perhaps a friendly interest in it.


Most writers describe Deere cutting a diamond-shaped piece out of a
broken steel mill saw. There is usually no further identification of the
type of saw beyond the statement that it came from the Andrus sawmill.
Neil Clark, author of a brief biography of John Deere, states that the
diamond-shaped piece was cut out of a circular saw.[13] There is no
evidence given to support this. There are some powerful arguments
against it. The circular saw, especially of the larger size, was
probably not very common in America in the 1830's. Although an English
patent for a circular saw was issued in 1777 the first circular saw in
America is attributed to Benjamin Cummins of Bentonsville, New York,
about 1814.[14]

of his 1838 plow to form the moldboard and landside. Because of the
shape of the moldboard it became known as the diamond plow.]

[Illustration: Figure 5.--MOLDBOARD OF 1847 JOHN DEERE PLOW, showing how
the diamond shape of the original design has been slightly modified.
(_Deere & Company photo 57192-D_.)]

In a small, new, pioneering community it seems unlikely that the local
sawmill would have been equipped with the newer circular saw rather than
the familiar up and down saw which remained in use throughout the 19th
century and, in places, well into the 20th century. The up and down saw
was a broad strip of iron or steel with large teeth in one edge. Driven
by water power it slowly cut large logs into boards. It is doubtful that
the circular saws of that period were large enough for this kind of mill
work. The second argument is the shape of the moldboard itself. The
photograph of the 1838 plow in figure 7 shows that the shape of the
moldboard is unconventional. It is essentially a parallelogram curved to
present a concave surface to the furrow slice and thus to make a simple,
small but workable plow. A parallelogram or diamond would be an easy
shape to cut out of a mill saw with the teeth removed. The moldboard on
the 1838 plow is from .228 to .238 inches thick and its width is 12
inches. These dimensions approximate those given in an 1897 Disston
catalog[15] which describes mulay saws, a type of mill saw, from 10 to
12 inches wide and from 4 to 9 gauge. Gauge number 4 is the thickest and
is .238 inches.

Examination of the 1838 plow suggests that Deere cut the moldboard and
landside as one piece, which was then heated and bent to the desired
form. The pattern of this piece is shown in figure 4. Some additional
metal appears to be forged into the sharp bend at the junction of the
moldboard and the landside apparently to strengthen this part, which may
have begun to open during the bending. If, however, Deere had used a
large circular saw with plenty of room for cutting out a moldboard of
the usual shape and size, it seems likely that he would have made a plow
of more conventional appearance. In any event his moldboard of one
jointless piece of polished metal would scour better than one of wood
covered with strips of steel since the nailheads and the joints between
the strips would provide places for the earth to stick.

[Illustration: Figure 6.--THE SHAPE OF THE MOLDBOARD continued to
evolve, as illustrated by this 1855 John Deere plow. (_Deere & Company
photo 57192-A_.)]

A very great majority of writers describing John Deere and his plow
attribute his fame to his development of a successful steel plow which
made cultivation of rich prairie soil practical. The emphasis is always
on the development of a steel moldboard and the assumption is that from
the 1837 plow onward stretched an unbroken line of steel moldboard
plows. An advertisement for John Deere plows in the March 10, 1843,
issue of the _Rock River Register_, published weekly in Grand Detour,
Illinois, gives a detailed description, here presented in full:

    John Deere respectfully informs his friends and customers, the
    agricultural community, of this and adjoining counties, and
    dealers in Ploughs, that he is now prepared to fill orders for
    the same on presentation.

    The Moldboard of this well, and so favorably known PLOUGH, is
    made of wrought iron, and the share of steel, 5/16 of an inch
    thick, which carries a fine sharp edge. The whole face of the
    moldboard and share is ground smooth, so that it scours
    perfectly bright in any soil, and will not choke in the
    foulest of ground. It will do more work in a day, and do it
    much better and with less labor, to both team and holder, than
    the ordinary ploughs that do not scour, and in consequence of
    the ground being better prepared, the agriculturalist obtains
    a much heavier crop.

    The price of Ploughs, in consequence of hard times, will be
    reduced from last year's prices. Grand Detour, Feb. 3, 1843.

This raised two questions: Why, and for how long, was wrought iron used
for the moldboards of the Deere plows? Of what material is the moldboard
of the 1838 plow made? During the first few years, when production was
very small, there were probably enough worn out mill saws available for
the relatively few plows made. As production increased this source must
have become inadequate. Ardrey gives the following figures for the
production of plows by Deere and Andrus:[16] 1839, 10 plows; 1840, 40
plows; 1841, 75 plows; 1842, 100 plows; 1843, 400 plows. Ardrey states
further that "by this time the difficulty of obtaining steel in the
quantity and quality needed had become a serious obstacle in the way of
further development." The statement, quoted above, that the moldboard
was of wrought iron and the statistics on production of plows during the
1840's and 1850's belie Ardrey's claim that it was a serious obstacle,
nor is there any suggestion in the advertisement that wrought iron was
being substituted for steel.

In 1847 John Deere amicably severed relations with the firm of Andrus &
Deere and moved to Moline, Illinois, to continue plow manufacturing in a
site that had better transportation facilities than Grand Detour. The
new firm produced 700 plows in the first year, 1600 in 1850, and 10,000
in 1857.[17] Swank[18] states that the first slab of cast plow steel
ever rolled in the United States was in 1846 and that it was shipped to
John Deere of Moline, Illinois. A little later he says that it was not
until the early 1860's in this country that several firms succeeded in
making high grade crucible cast steel of uniform quality as a regular

[Illustration: Figure 7.--JOHN DEERE'S 1838 PLOW, RIGHT SIDE, showing
large iron staple used to fasten end of right handle to the standard.
Note remains of wooden pin near rear end of plow beam. (_Cat. no.
F1111_; _Smithsonian photo 42639-A_.)]

Based on a visit to Deere's factory in 1857 the _Country Gentleman_[19]
gave the yearly output as 13,400 plows. It pictured four of seven models
and stated, "these are all made of cast steel, and perfectly polished
before they are sent out, and are kept bright by use, so that no soil
adheres to them." The article then gives the tonnages of iron and steel
used by the Deere factory in a year. They are as follows: 50 tons cast
steel, 40 tons German steel, 100 tons Pittsburgh steel, 75 tons
castings, 200 tons wrought iron, 8 tons malleable castings in clevises,
etc. In addition 100,000 plow bolts and 200,000 feet of oak plank were

These figures do not indicate what the different parts of the plows were
made of but, if approximately correct, they do show that more than half
the metal used was iron rather than steel. Steel accounts for 190 tons;
wrought iron for 200. Although it is conceivable, under this weight
distribution, that the shares and moldboards were made of steel while
the landsides and standards were made of wrought iron, other
distributions are also possible, and it is quite conceivable that at
this period some of the plows had steel moldboards while others had
wrought-iron ones. An analysis of the metal in different parts of an
1855 John Deere plow, now at the factory in Moline, may shed some light
on this, but from these figures and dates it seems likely that most of
John Deere's plows during the 1840's and 1850's had wrought-iron
moldboards with steel shares. (It should be borne in mind that the
poorer grades of steel available at this time were probably no more
satisfactory than cast iron as far as scouring clean in sticky soil was

[Illustration: Figure 8.--RECONSTRUCTION OF DEERE'S 1838 PLOW, right
side, with handles shown in what is believed to be their original
position. (_Smithsonian photo 42647_.)]

The question of the material in the moldboard of the 1838 plow was
answered when a spark-test analysis was made of the metal in the
moldboard and share. In this test the color, shape, and pattern of the
spark bursts produced by a high-speed grinding wheel indicate the type
of iron or steel. Several spots along the edges and back surface of the
moldboard were tested. No carbon bursts were seen in the spark
patterns, indicating that the material was wrought iron. The share
consists of a piece, wedge shaped in cross section, welded on to the
lower, or front, edge of the moldboard. This was tested at several spots
along its sharp edge, all of which gave a pattern and color indicating
that the material was medium high carbon steel. This test was
corroborated by a chemical analysis of filings from the moldboard and
share in a metallurgical laboratory. A small trace of carbon was found
in the moldboard. It may be present as the result of contamination from
several sources, a likely one being the charcoal fire in the forge when
it was heated for bending and shaping.[20]

These tests agree perfectly with the description in the 1843
advertisement. It seems, therefore, that Deere's success in making plows
that worked well in prairie bottom lands depended as much on the smooth
surface he produced by grinding and polishing as on the material used.

The filing of the edge of the moldboard for the metallurgical test
disclosed that the wrought-iron slab consisted of five thin laminations
apparently forged together but with separations visible. The length and
regularity of the lines of separation seem to preclude their being
striations resulting from the fibrous structure of wrought iron. This
calls into question the theory that the moldboard and landside were cut
from a mill saw, since it hardly seems likely that a saw would be made
of laminated material. The possibility exists that the body of the mill
saw might have been made this way, with a tooth-bearing steel edge
welded on, but there seems little reason for making a saw out of thin
laminations. It is also possible that this laminated iron originally had
been intended for some other purpose, such as boiler plate, and may have
been available in rectangular pieces. In making the 1838 plow Deere
followed a pattern (fig. 4), which suggests that he cut it out of such a

[Illustration: Figure 9.--JOHN DEERE'S 1838 PLOW, LEFT SIDE, showing
details of construction and relationship of landside to moldboard.
(_Cat. no. F1111_; _Smithsonian photo 42639_.)]

Since the moldboard of the 1838 plow is of wrought iron, and since this
plow is thought to be essentially identical with the first one Deere
made in 1837, it is highly probable that the 1837 plow also had a
wrought-iron moldboard, a condition which appears to have been the basic
pattern for John Deere plows until the middle 1850's.


In view of the facts and the probabilities based on them, how is the
legend of the John Deere steel plow to be explained? There are several
likely reasons. It is possible that the first plow, in 1837, was made
from a broken steel mill saw. It is also possible that within a few
years puddled iron came to be used for the moldboards because of the
scarcity of suitable steel, either in the form of broken mill saws or as
plates ordered from foundries in America (the high price of steel
imported from England made this an impractical source). However, it
seems more likely that it became known as a steel plow owing to the
importance Deere attached to his plows having steel shares, as shown in
his advertisement in 1843. A steel share, tougher than cast iron, would
hold an edge much better than wrought iron, and John Muir's description
of prairie plowing, quoted earlier, substantiates the importance of a
tough, sharp share.

Deere's plows, probably distinctive by reason of their steel shares, may
have been called "steel" plows, in the regions where they were used, to
distinguish them from the standard wooden plows and from the newer
cast-iron implements. The term "wooden plow" has a similar history. For
well over 2000 years in Europe some plows have been made with iron
shares and the rest of the structure wood. Plows in 18th-century America
were made principally of wood with iron shares, colters, and clevises,
and with strips of iron frequently covering the wooden moldboard. These
implements were called, simply, plows of various regional types. Not
until the development and spread of the factory-made plows with
cast-iron moldboards, landsides, and standards did the term "wooden
plow" come into use to differentiate all these plows from the newer
ones. Subsequently writers have been led to assume that "wooden plow"
meant a plow with no iron parts and consequently to make unwarranted
statements about the primitiveness of the 18th-century implements.

A second reason for use of the term "steel plow" may have developed from
the supposition that the moldboards of the first John Deere plows were
made of diamond-shaped sections cut from old mill saws, which later
writers seem to have assumed were made of steel. (It is probable that
from the late 1850's on Deere plows had steel moldboards.) However, mill
saws of the early 19th century were not necessarily made of steel, which
was then relatively expensive. I have been told of an old mill saw made
of wrought iron on which was welded a steel edge that carried the
teeth.[21] Rees' _Cyclopaedia_[22] describes saws as being made of
either wrought iron or steel, the latter being preferable. Therefore, it
seems most likely that Deere's plows, from his first until the middle
1850's were made with highly polished wrought-iron moldboards and steel


The remains of the 1838 plow are shown in figures 7 and 9. One's
curiosity is aroused as to what the plow looked like in its original
state, complete with handles. Several full-scale 3-dimensional
reconstructions and a number of sketches of the 1837 plow have been
made. The reconstructions all must have been based on the remains of the
1838 plow, since they resemble it closely and it is the only surviving
plow of this type known.

Recently I received a photograph (fig. 3, right) of a plow which has
been boxed and in storage for many years at Deere & Company which may be
an early Deere plow. As it appears in the photograph, the plow looks
unconvincing. The handles are fastened by bolts and nuts, a manner
uncommon in American plow making in the early 19th century. The shape of
the handles is that of stock handles available for small plows and
cultivators in such a catalog as Belknap's. The plow seems very high and
weakly braced. There is no logical reason for curving the end of the
beam down and cutting it off at a slant if the handles are attached in
the manner shown. The edges of the tenon on the upper end of the
standard where it goes through the mortise in the beam have been neatly
beveled in a manner I have never seen before on any other plow. All of
this leads me to think that this is an early reconstruction based on the
remains of the 1838 plow which it only roughly approximates in
proportion and design.

Another of these reconstructions is shown in figure 3, left. Although
superficially like the 1838 plow it varies considerably in its
proportions, in the angular relations of its parts, and in other details
such as the use of iron bolts and nuts in place of wooden pins. All
these reconstructions agree in one thing. They show a plow with handles
fastened to both sides of the plow beam and standard.

During an examination of the 1838 plow it occurred to me that there was
no indication of an attachment of a handle on the landside in the same
manner as on the furrow side. The position and attachment of the handle
in figure 7 is clearly indicated by the remains of a wooden pin in the
side of the plow beam near the rear end and by the large iron staple, in
the side of the standard, which must have held the tapered lower end of
the handle. Figure 8 is a sketch showing this handle in position. The
landside view of this plow in figure 9 shows that the pin did not extend
through the beam nor are there marks on the standard to indicate the
position of a staple like that on the furrow side. The four holes
approximately in line on the standard and beam show where a piece of
sheet metal had been nailed to hold the beam and standard in about the
right position. The outline of the sheet metal can be seen on the side
of the beam. This was removed at the time this examination was made.

How was the landside handle attached? W. E. Bridges of the National
Museum suggests that it might have been attached to the lower side of
the standard and the rear end of the plow beam. This seems, beyond
doubt, to be correct. The wood has deteriorated considerably over the
years and the joints are loose, but, within the limits of the existing
structure, the plow beam can easily be set in such a position that its
sloping rear end lines up with the slope of the underside of the
standard. Furthermore, a long bolt runs from the upper part of the
moldboard through the standard and projects quite far beyond its lower
surface, as can be seen in figure 7. The end of the bolt is threaded
only part way and it has been necessary to put a cylindrical metal
spacer on it in order to draw up the nut snugly. This long bolt must
originally have passed through the lower end of the handle, which, in
turn, was fastened to the end of the plow beam by a tenon on the end of
the beam, now broken off, passing through a mortise in the handle. This
was the common method of fastening the handle to the beam. The square
hole in the plow's iron landside (fig. 7), which at first might seem
meant for another bolt passing through the lower end of the handle at
right angles to the long bolt, seems too close to the other bolt and to
the edges of the handle. It may simply be a first try for the bolt
through the bottom of the standard. In this manner the handle would have
been strongly attached to the plow frame and, at the same time, would
have materially helped to make it rigid by forming one side of a
triangular structure. Figures 8 and 10 show what I believe to be the
correct reconstruction of the 1838 Deere plow along the lines just
described and, therefore, the probable appearance of the 1837 plow.

[Illustration: Figure 10.--RECONSTRUCTION OF DEERE'S 1838 PLOW, left
side, showing how left handle is believed to have been attached.
(_Smithsonian photo 42637_.)]

It should also be noted that it was general practice in making fixed
moldboard plows to have the plow beam, standard, handle, and landside
(or sharebeam, on the old plows) in the same plane. Symmetrical handles
branching from both sides of the beam are found on cultivators, shovel
plows, middle busters, and sidehill plows where the moldboard is turned
alternately to each side.


The existing evidence, I believe, indicates that:

1. The successful prairie plow with a smooth one-piece moldboard and
steel share was basically Deere's idea.

2. The moldboards of practically all of his plows, from 1837 and for
about 15 years, were made of wrought iron rather than steel.

3. The success of his plows in the prairie soils depended on a steel
share which held a sharp edge and a highly polished moldboard to which
the sticky soils could not cling.

4. The importance attached to the steel share led to the plows being
identified as steel plows.

5. The correct reconstruction of the 1838 plow, and, by inference, the
1837 plow, is shown in figures 8 and 10, previous reconstructions being
wrong primarily in the position and attachment of the handles.

6. The Museum's John Deere plow (Cat. No. F1111), shown in figures 7 and
9, is a very early specimen, on the basis of a comparison of it with
Deere moldboards of 1847 and 1855 and its conformity to Deere's
description of his plows in an 1843 advertisement; and the 1838 date
associated with it is plausible.


[1] John Muir (1838-1914), _The story of my boyhood and youth_, Boston,
1913, pp. 227, 228.

[2] R. L. Ardrey, _American agricultural implements_, Chicago, 1894, p.

[3] _Ibid._, p. 16.

[4] J. B. Davidson, "Tillage machinery," in L. H. Bailey's _Cyclopedia
of American agriculture_, New York, 1907, vol. 1, p. 389.

[5] Leo Rogin, _The introduction of farm machinery in its relation to
the productivity of labor in the agriculture of the United States during
the nineteenth century_, Berkeley, 1931, p. 33.

[6] U. S. National Museum records under accession 148904.

[7] Neil M. Clark, _John Deere_, Moline, 1937, pp. 34, 35.

[8] Stewart H. Holbrook, _Machines of plenty_, New York, 1955, pp. 178,
179. To an inquiry by this author, Mr. Holbrook replied that most if not
all of the material about Andrus came from the files of the J. I. Case

[9] Photographic copies of partnership agreements between Andrus, Deere,
and others are in U. S. National Museum records under accession 148904.

[10] _Ibid._

[11] _Ibid._

[12] Letter from Burton F. Peek to M. L. Putnam, December 18, 1957, in
U. S. National Museum records under accession 148904.

[13] Clark, _op. cit._ (footnote 7), p. 34.

[14] E. H. Knight, _American mechanical dictionary_, Boston, 1884, vol.
3, p. 2033.

[15] Henry Disston & Sons, _Price list_, Philadelphia, 1897, p. 28.

[16] Ardrey, _op. cit._ (footnote 2), p. 166.

[17] _Ibid._, p. 166.

[18] James M. Swank, _History of the manufacture of iron in all
ages_..., Philadelphia, 1892, pp. 390, 393.

[19] _Country Gentleman_, 1857, vol. 10, p. 129.

[20] Reports on spark test by E. A. Battison, U. S. National Museum, and
on metallurgical investigation by A. H. Valentine, Metallographic
Laboratory of the Bethlehem Steel Company's Sparrows Point Plant.

[21] For this information I am indebted to Mr. E. A. Battison of the U.
S. National Museum staff.

[22] Abraham Rees, _The cyclopaedia; or universal dictionary of arts,
sciences, and literature_, Philadelphia, 1810-1842, vol. 33, under saw.

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