The steel plow was invented in 1837 by American John Deere (1804–1886). A blacksmith's apprentice for many years, Deere opened his own shop in Grand Decatur, Illinois, in 1836. Customers complained that their wood or iron plows proved ineffective in turning the prairie sod, which stuck to the implement's surface. Deere began tinkering with a smooth steel surface to make a plow that could successfully do the job. Using the steel from an old circular saw, he fashioned the first steel plow the next year. It worked as expected; the prairie grass fell away from the plow's smooth surface. The invention was a success and it proved to be a boon to corn farmers in the region. By the mid-1840s Deere and a business partner were manufacturing one thousand steel plows each year.
After the American Civil War (1861–1865) many farmers moved westward, encouraged by the land grants provided by the Homestead Act of 1862. Settling the Great Plains, these homesteaders created a growing demand for Deere's steel plow, the only implement capable of turning the prairie sod of the plains. By this time Deere had improved the quality of the steel he used and he had gone into business for himself, setting up John Deere and Company in 1868. The business he founded continues to manufacture steel plows and other agricultural machines, including tractors.
See also: Agricultural Equipment Industry, John Deere, Homestead Act