The reaper solved only half the problem of large-scale farming on the stubborn prairies of the Midwest and West. John Deere (1804-1886) was a young man who left his native Rutland, Vermont, for Grand Detour, Illinois, in 1837 to set up as a blacksmith. While McCormick was perfecting his reaper, Deere hammered out a new kind of plow. Made of stout steel, the plow was beautifully shaped, calling to mind the prow of a graceful clipper ship. And it was sturdy, much stronger than a conventional plow. The combination of shiplike design and stout strength made the plow ideal for breaking and turning the tough prairie soil.
The McCormick reaper and John Deere plow came in the nick of time to open the West to agriculture. Each year, more and more emigrants pushed the frontier farther west.