McCormick, Cyrus

McCormick, Cyrus
b. 1809 Walnut Grove, Virginia, USA
d. 1884 USA
American inventor of the first functionally and commercially successful reaping machine; founder of the McCormick Company, which was to become one of the founding companies of International Harvester.
Cyrus McCormick's father, a farmer, began to experiment unsuccessfully with a harvesting machine between 1809 and 1816. His son took up the challenge and gave his first public demonstration of his machine in 1831. It cut a 4 ft swathe, but, wanting to perfect the machine, he waited until 1834 before patenting it, by which time he felt that his invention was threatened by others of similar design. In the same year he entered an article in the Mechanics Magazine, warning competitors off his design. His main rival was Obed Hussey who contested McCormick's claim to the originality of the idea, having patented his own machine six months before McCormick.
A competition between the two machines was held in 1843, the judges favouring McCormick's, even after additional trials were conducted after objections of unfairness from Hussey. The rivalry continued over a number of years, being avidly reported in the agricultural press. The publicity did no harm to reaper sales, and McCormick sold twenty-nine machines in 1843 and fifty the following year.
As the westward settlement movement progressed, so the demand for McCormick's machine grew. In order to be more central to his markets, McCormick established himself in Chicago. In partnership with C.M.Gray he established a factory to produce 500 harvesters for the 1848 season. By means of advertising and offers of credit terms, as well as production-line assembly, McCormick was able to establish himself as sole owner and also control all production, under the one roof. By the end of the decade he dominated reaper production but other developments were to threaten this position; however, foreign markets were appearing at the same time, not least the opportunities of European sales stimulated by the Great Exhibition in 1851. In the trials arranged by the Royal Agricultural Society of England the McCormick machine significantly outperformed that of Hussey's, and as a result McCormick arranged for 500 to be made under licence in England.
In 1874 McCormick bought a half interest in the patent for a wire binder from Charles Withington, a watchmaker from Janesville, Wisconsin, and by 1885 a total of 50,000 wire binders had been built in Chicago. By 1881 McCormick was producing twine binders using Appleby's twine knotter under a licence agreement, and by 1885 the company was producing only twine binders. The McCormick Company was one of the co-founders of the International Harvester Company in 1901.
1972, The Century of the Reaper, Johnson Reprint (the original is in the New York State Library).
Further Reading
Graeme Quick and Wesley Buchele, 1978, The Grain Harvesters, American Society of Agricultural Engineers (deals in detail with McCormick's developments).
G.H.Wendell, 1981, 150 Years of International Harvester, Crestlink (though more concerned with the machinery produced by International Harvester, it gives an account of its originating companies).
T.W.Hutchinson, 1930, Cyrus Hall McCormick, Seedtime 1809–1856; ——1935, Cyrus Hall McCormick, Harvest 1856–1884 (both attempt to unravel the many claims surrounding the reaper story).
Herbert N.Casson, 1908, The Romance of the Reaper, Doubleday Page (deals with McCormick, Deering and the formation of International Harvester).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • McCormick, Cyrus Hall — born Feb. 15, 1809, Rockbridge county, Va., U.S. died May 13, 1884, Chicago, Ill. U.S. industrialist and inventor. He is generally credited with the development (from 1831) of the mechanical reaper, which revolutionized the harvesting of grain.… …   Universalium

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