John Deere History

Deere During The Depression

Like tales of struggle during the Great Depression, love of John Deere products is passed down from generation to generation. Many farming families will tell you even today, in 2015, that they’ll never own another brand of tractor. That’s because the brand is synonymous with both quality and compassion. 

Here is the story of John Deere’s commitment to its customers in the toughest of times, its dedication to people who worked the earth and who were able to keep their farms alive  by virtue of its kindness. 

Great Depression

John Deere was born into poverty in 1804, and he never forgot what that was like, even at the height of his success. As an adult, due to bankruptcy, Deere was forced in 1836 to leave his family behind in Vermont to seek work in Illinois. It was there that he got the idea for the superior craftsmanship of John Deere plows.

The Great Depression, lasting ten years (1929-1939), threatened the livelihood of most Americans. 

Though Deere had left the running of the business to his son Charles in 1868 in order to go into politics, and died in 1886, his guiding principles were nonetheless influential in the company’s decision not to repossess any equipment from struggling farmers during that time. The effects of this choice were wide-reaching, benefiting not only the farms directly affected, but also the communities that relied upon the farms’ produce to survive.

A crisis at the People’s Bank of Moline in 1931, where both Deere employees and the company itself had money, further illuminated the generosity of Deere management. When it was discovered that a cashier and two other employees had embezzled $1.2 million from the bank, leaving it on the verge of collapse, the reigning head of John Deere, Charles Wiman (great-grandson of John Deere), enrolled the board of directors in a bailout. Wiman is quoted as saying,  "If we do not do this the bank closes ... As I view it, there are approximately $7,000,000 of savings deposits in this bank, largely made by the wage earners of our factories, and the effects upon them of the closing of the bank, and the resulting consequences to this company, are beyond calculation." 

The John Deere Company wrote a check to the bank and the bank survived, preserving the life savings of many Deere employees.


The John Deere company has never wavered from the core values of its founder: integrity, quality, commitment, and innovation. Great emphasis is placed on creating a diverse working environment for employees, meaning that no matter your race, religion, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation, there is a place for you at Deere. 

This commitment to diversity within its ranks encourages the robust growth that catapulted John Deere to $36.1 billion in sales for 2014. Employees that are cared-for, care greatly for their customers. Even in the depths of the Depression, John Deere lived this philosophy. And families that have benefited from the founding values of THE John Deere still bleed green and yellow.