Corporate saga of John Deere; John Deere's Company, by Wayne G. Broehl Jr. New York: Doubleday. 870 pp. $24. 95
You see the familiar yellow and green everywhere in this part of the country, in the Midwest. There are tractors, combine harvesters, snowmobiles, chain saws, lawn mowers, and so much more with that leaping stag embossed somewhere, the signature of John Deere.
John Deere is credited with giving the world the steel plow. This is not exactly true - there were many manufacturers of plows in the mid-19th century - but his farm implement concern is surely the most successful and prominent company in its field,and it's been around a long time.
Born in 1804, John Deere fled not a few debts in Vermont in 1836 to start fresh in blacksmithing in Grand Detour, Ill., (roughly midway between Chicago and the Quad Cities). The rest, as they say, is history.
And what history, as Wayne G. Broehl Jr.'s massive ''John Deere's Company'' makes clear in every imaginable detail. Broehl, working with access to Deere Company files and personnel, has produced as thorough a corporate history as one could expect.
In ''John Deere's Company,'' we learn about: manufacturing techniques, the American economy of which Deere was and is part, endlessly dissolving and reforming partnerships, the late 19th-century revolution in distribution methods , countless instances of patent infringement.
We hear of the unionization of Deere (it began in the late 1930s), the failure of the John Deere bicycle, Deere's numerous ventures into worldwide farm implement manufacturing; we see the Deere trademark evolve (the graphics are good, and mostly black-and-white); and we find that between 1847 and 1982, only five men ran John Deere, all of them family.
There is more, of course, for ''John Deere's Company'' is a nearly 900-page book. And while the prose is not difficult, it is so crowded with detail as to be hard to digest. Yet what Broehl has done is, finally, extraordinary. He has written a company history that everywhere shows cause and effect, because he continually provides the national economic context in which Deere operated and by which Deere was affected.
''John Deere's Company'' also serves as a historical object lesson: It demonstrates how a company can survive, indeed prosper, and how it can earn the loyalty of its employees and customers. Broehl's book is rich in its accumulation, ideal for the reader interested in business and economic history.