Chapter 13 – Section 1
The North’s Economy
Narrator: Cyrus McCormick’s name became forever related to farm machinery when his reaper revolutionized the agriculture business.
Born in Virginia in 1809, McCormick inherited his gift for invention from his father Robert McCormick, who had patented several improvements to farm equipment.
But he struggled to perfect the reaper. At the urging of his wife, he turned the task over to his son.
Cyrus added several new features to his father’s original design. By the end of the 1831 harvest, he had the first successful demonstration of his reaper. After slight changes he took out a patent in 1834.
McCormick moved to Chicago and along with his brothers William and Leander, founded the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in 1847. The factory manufactured 40 reapers daily and shipped them on railroads to distant markets. In doing so, the reaper helped hasten westward expansion.
Not only was McCormick a gifted inventor by he was also an intelligent businessman. He offered his customers no-haggle pricing, credit and financing and money back guarantees.
In 1851 the reaper won the most prestigious award of the day, the Gold Medal at London’s Crystal Palace exhibition. McCormick became an international celebrity.
McCormick dominated the world market for the grain reaper. By greatly increasing the efficiency of harvesting crops, McCormick’s reaper resulted in a global shift of labor from farms to cities.
On October 9, 1871, the great Chicago Fire completely destroyed McCormick’s factory. Undaunted, McCormick rebuilt and continued to update his machinery. When McCormick died in 1884, the company passed to his son, Cyrus Jr. Two years later, the McCormick factories were the location of the labor strikes that led to the infamous Haymarket Riot. In 1902 the company became part of the International Harvester Corporation.