At the age of 32, already an accomplished blacksmith, John Deere moved to Illinois to start over. In 1837 he opened a shop in Grand Detour, Illinois to make tools and plows for nearby farmers. He changed farming history when he fashioned a steel saw blade into a plow. Farmers had been using plows of wood or iron, which needed frequent cleaning of the soil that stuck to the blade. Deere’s smooth-surface steel plows worked much better in midwestern soil, and his reputation grew.
Together with a partner in 1842, Deere built a 2-story factory in Rock River Illinois to produce his plows. In 1848, he moved the business to Moline, Illinois where proximity to the Mississippi River and a railroad could expand his market, With new partners, he built a larger factory, which was producing 200 plows a month by 1849.
In 1853, Deere bought out his partners and welcomed his son Charles into the business, which then went on to manufacture other farming equipment as well as plows.
Over time, the business grew with Charles at the helm. Charles' daughter married William Butterworth, who took over the business after Charles died in 1907. The company experimented with a tractor design without great success, then purchased the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company in 1918, thereby acquiring the Waterloo Boy tractor and the factory that built it in Waterloo, Iowa. In 1923, Deere introduced a new model with the name John Deere Model D, which was soon followed by other models.