JOHN DEERE'S STEEL PLOW
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.
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:
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