John Deere

Caption: John Deere Historic Site, Grand Detour, Illinois

What does it take to be a great innovator, someone who takes an invention and makes it better? Some might say that it takes a lot of money or great brains. Some might say that all it takes is a person who is willing to think things through from another angle. John Deere was like that.

John Deere was born in Vermont in 1804. His father, a tailor, took a ship to England in an attempt to claim an inheritance. He never came home. He was lost at sea.

His mother, a seamstress, worked hard to support herself and six children. They had little money and even less education. Life was very difficult for them.

John didn't let that stop him. He apprenticed himself to a blacksmith to learn the trade. He learned to always do the best job he could do.

Things did not always go well for John. He bought land and built his own blacksmith shop, and it burned down - twice. He was in debt. Work became harder to find. Some of Deere's debts were getting bigger. He was afraid he would be sent to a debtor's prison.

By this time, Deere had a family of his own. He decided that he should go west to Illinois. A good blacksmith should be able to find work there. He could pay his debts.

In 1837, he left his family behind to make a fresh start in Grand Detour, Illinois. He had work there almost as soon as he set up shop.

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