The Butterworth Center presents “John Deere: A Discussion of the History & Future of Farming" -- June 10.

Thursday, June 10, 7 p.m.

Presented by the Butterworth Center

One of the most famous names in Quad Cities history will be brought to life in a fascinating virtual program hosted by Moline's Butterworth Center, with noted author, historian, and storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis, on June 10, delivering his one-man presentation John Deere: A Discussion of the History & Future of Farming under the guise of iconic area inventor John Deere himself.

The blacksmith and manufacturer who founded Deere & Company, one of the largest and leading agricultural and construction equipment manufacturers in the world, Deere was born on February 7, 1804, in Rutland, Vermont. After a brief educational period at Middlebury College, Deere, at age 17, began an apprenticeship with Captain Benjamin Lawrence, a successful Middlebury blacksmith, and entered the trade for himself in 1826. He settled in Grand Detour, Illinois, and soon found that cast-iron plows were not working very well in the tough prairie soil of Illinois. Remembering the needles he had previously polished, in his native Vermont, by running them through sand, Deere came to the conclusion that a plow made out of highly polished steel and a correctly shaped moldboard would be better able to handle Illinois' soil conditions, especially its sticky clay. In 1837, Deere developed and manufactured the first commercially successful cast-steel plow, and by early 1838, the inventor sold one to neighbor and local farmer Lewis Crandall, who quickly spread word of his success. Subsequently, other neighbors placed orders for the agricultural invention, and by 1841, Deere was manufacturing 75–100 plows per year. By 1855, Deere's factory had already sold more than 10,000.

In his virtual program for the Butterworth Center, Ellis invites viewers to be guests at an 1886 board meeting of Deere & Company, where they will witness John's resignation and the transfer of power to son Charles Deere. Ellis' John will expound on the history of his self-scouring plow, share personal struggles, and reveal his vision for farming in the future, offering a 100-year review of agriculture and a running conversation with the audience about their own family roots in agriculture. He’ll also tackle complex issues such as the role of technology in farming, the future of the small family farm, and the many challenges involved in figuratively feeding the world.

An internationally acclaimed author, storyteller, historian, and naturalist, Brian “Fox” Ellis has worked with The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, The Field Museum, and dozens of other museums across the country. Ellis is also a highly sought keynote speaker at regional and international conferences including the International Wetlands Conservation Conference, National Science Teachers Association Conference, and the North American Prairie Conservation Conference, and the list of famed figures he portrays in one-man-show form includes Charles Darwin, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, and Mark Twain.

Ellis' virtual presentation John Deere: A Discussion of the History & Future of Farming will take place at 7 p.m. on June 10, registration is required for the free viewing, and more information is available by calling (309)743-2700 and visiting

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