William Deering
William Deering in 1899
Born April 25, 1826(1826-04-25)
South Paris, Maine, USA
Died December 9, 1913 (aged 87)
Coconut Grove, Florida, USA
Children Charles & James

William Deering (1826–1913) was an American businessman and philanthropist. He inherited a woolen mill in Maine, but made his fortune in later life with the Deering Harvester Company.


Deering was born April 25, 1826 in South Paris, Maine. Deering moved to Plano, Illinois and Iowa about 1850 and invested in the farmland of the area.[1]

Around 1870, Deering left his business, the Deering, Milliken & Company which was established in 1865,[2] and partnered with Elijah Gammon. Gammon had manufacturing rights to a horse-drawn grain harvester and set up a plant in Plano, Illinois.[1] The company pioneered a harvesting reaper incorporating an automatic twine binder, invented by John Appleby of Beloit, Wisconsin.[3] Deering was also responsible for building a modern twine factory to supply farmers with sufficient length and quality of twine to work with the binders, a move followed by most competitors.[4]

The Deering company and the reorganized Plano Harvester Company, which had moved to Pullman, competed aggressively with each other and the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, but in 1902, under his son's direction, all three companies merged to form the International Harvester Company.[5]

He financially supported several institutions of Chicago, the Northwestern University, the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and the Wesley Hospital among them. He gave Northwestern over $1 million over the years,[3] and served on the university's board for 38 years, including 10 years (1895–1905) as president of the board; he declined an offer to rename the school Deering University.[6]

After Deering retired in 1901 he spent a large part of each year at his winter home in Coconut Grove, Florida. He died on December 9, 1913 in Coconut Grove with his two sons in attendance.[7] He was the father of Charles Deering (1852–1927) and James Deering (1859–1925). The Deering Library at Northwestern is named after the family. An 1899 portrait by Anders Zorn of him hangs in the library.[8]

William Deering scouted territory in Southeast Missouri for timber in the late 1890, purchasing 60,000 acres of land in Pemiscot and Dunklin Counties. The town of Deering is named after him.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Deering, William.". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved on 12 August 2010.
  2. "The History of Milliken & Company". Retrieved on 12 August 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Northwestern Harvest", TIME magazine (February 24, 1936). Retrieved on 2007-07-27. 
  4. ""Shaking Off the Shackles of Manual Toil" - The Story of the Binder", The Furrow (The Friends of Howell Living History Farm) (Autumn 2001/Winter 2002). Retrieved on 2007-07-27. 
  5. "Agricultural Machine Industry". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved on 2007-07-27.
  6. Kent Cubbage (Spring 2001). "Charting the Way", Northwestern Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-07-27. 
  7. "William Deering, born in Maine, 1826, died in Florida 1913". eBook from the library of the University of Illinois (1914). Retrieved on 17 March 2011.
  8. "Art in the Eloise W. Martin Reading Room". Northwestern University Library web site. Retrieved on December 27, 2010.

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