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Who Was James Deering?

James Deering (1859-1925) was born in South Paris, Maine, the son of William Deering and his second wife, Clara Hammond Deering. William Deering became involved in manufacturing farm equipment, establishing the Deering Harvester Company in 1873. Deering's equipment enabled farmers to harvest an acre of grain in an hour—a dramatic increase in productivity that enhanced the profitability of commercial agriculture in the West. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Deerings became one of America's wealthiest families.

James Deering attended Northwestern University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the Deering Harvester Company in 1880. In 1902, the company merged with the McCormick Reaper Company and others to form International Harvester—the largest producer of agricultural machinery in the nation—and James Deering became vice president of the firm. By this time, Deering owned homes on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago and in nearby Evanston, as well as in New York City and at Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris.

Deering appeared in social columns as an active partygoer, traveler, and cultural ambassador, hosting visiting French dignitaries at his homes in New York and Chicago. For his work in promoting agricultural technology in France, he was appointed to the Legion of Honor in 1906. In 1910, his father purchased land and built a home in Coconut Grove, just south of Miami. It was at this time that James Deering began to plan his own home in Miami, later to become known as one of the most celebrated estates in America: Vizcaya.

   

 

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