Cyrus McCormick

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Cyrus Hall McCormick, Sr. (1809–1884) was an American inventor and founder of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, which became part of International Harvester Company in 1902.[1] He and many members of the McCormick family became prominent Chicagoans.


Early life

He was born February 15, 1809 on the McCormick family farm known as Walnut Grove in Rockbridge County, Virginia,[2] in the Shenandoah Valley on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His parents were Robert McCormick (1780–1846) and Mary Ann Hall McCormick (1780–1853),[3] both of whom were of Scots-Irish descent.[4]:17 He was the oldest of eight children and siblings included Leander J. McCormick and William Sanderson McCormick.[3] He was influenced by his father, who patented early versions of the reaper, although they were commercially unsuccessful.


McCormick's father worked for 28 years on a horse-drawn reaper. However, he was not able to finish his project and stopped developing it. In 1830, when McCormick turned 21, his father gave him the deed to the reaper.[3] McCormick developed a final version of the reaper, with the help of Jo Anderson, a slave, in 18 months.[5] The reaper was demonstrated in tests in 1831 and was patented by McCormick in 1834.[3]

In 1847 he and his brother Leander moved to Chicago, where they established large centralized factories for manufacturing agricultural machines; they were joined by their brother William in 1849. The McCormick reaper sold well, partially as a result of savvy and innovative business practices.[3] Their products came onto the market just as the development of railroads offered wide distribution to distant markets. He developed marketing and sales techniques, developing a vast network of trained salesmen able to demonstrate operation of the machines in the field. William H. Seward said of McCormick's invention that owing to it "the line of civilization moves westward thirty miles each year." One of the company's most famous advertisement featured an epic painting by Emanuel Leutze with the slogan, “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way with McCormick Reapers in the Van."

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