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The NASCAR Pontiac Grand Prix that Deere & Co. sponsored (driven by Chad Little) is among the thousands of pieces of Deere history contained in the company's Corporate Archives in East Moline.

Raise your hand if you knew John Deere, the inventor of the steel plow, wore a two-piece wool bathing suit.

The swimwear is one of thousands of relics in a collection that comprises the John Deere Corporate Archives, housed in East Moline.

Quad-City Times columnist Barb Ickes was invited to tour the archives for her occasional series, Off Limits Places. She and Times photo editor Kevin Schmidt were permitted access to the high-tech storage area where thousands of documents are maintained and frequently fetched for reference purposes today.

The archives also has two warehouses, which contain important tractors and other John Deere machinery with stories to tell. One giant row of shelves contains nothing but John Deere Gators, beginning with one of the first ever made.

But about that swimming suit: Neil Dahlstrom, manager of the archives, said Deere would have worn it when traveling to places such as Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he was known to soak in the springs. The suit was donated to the company's keepers of history by William Hewitt, who was the last member of John Deere's family to serve as CEO.

The provenance for the piece is solid, because another family member gave the suit to Hewitt before he passed it down.

Also in the collection is the first or one of the first pieces of licensed merchandise to use the slogan "Nothing Runs Like a Deere." The slogan appears on a snowmobile helmet that is part of the archive, and Dahlstrom says the slogan was created for the snowmobile line, later expanding to other products.

For a rare glimpse inside the archives, see Sunday's Big Story.

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