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John Deere, The Man
John Deere’s success in building plows launched a company that grew into a multinational giant, but Deere’s early life was anything but successful.
While a blacksmith in Vermont, he lost two blacksmith shops to fire and a third shop to financial problems, which forced him to flee to Grand Detour, Illinois. Undaunted, Deere rebuilt his business and went on to engineer the self-scouring plow.
This would not be the last hardship Deere would face. The financial panic of 1857 nearly bankrupt his fledging firm. Deere devised a means to save the firm by transferring ownership to his son, Charles.
Prior to that transfer and with little more than a rudimentary education (he never attended college), Deere proved to be a highly savvy entrepreneur (entering into at least five partnerships from 1837 through 1857). Even after passing control to Charles, Deere remained involved in the company, helping to guide its explosive growth until his death in 1886 at age 82.