Cyrus McCormick

From Academic Kids


Cyrus Hall McCormick (February 15 1809 - May 13, 1884) of Virginia was an American farmer, inventor, businessman, marketer, and newspaper editor. He became famous as the inventor of the mechanical reaper in 1831. He moved to Chicago, Illinois, and was the founder of McCormick Harvesting Machine Company which became part of International Harvester Corporation in 1902.

He was born at Walnut Grove, his family farm in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The McCormick family farm near Raphine became a test farm for the school known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (better known as "Virginia Tech").

Cyrus McCormick's father invented numerous labor-saving devices for agricultural use, but after repeated efforts, had failed in his attempts to construct a successful grain cutting and binding machine. In 1831, Cyrus took up the problem, and after careful study constructed a machine which was successfully employed in the late harvest of 1831 and patented in 1834.

In 1847 the inventor, and now skilled businessman, moved to Chicago, where he established large centralized works for manufacturing his agricultural implements. The McCormick reaper sold well as a result of savvy and innovative business practices. He offered no-haggle pricing, credit and financing, money back guarantees on performance, and interchangeable replacement parts. His products came onto the market just as the development of railroads offered wide distribution into distant market areas. 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." 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?.

Numerous prizes and medals were awarded for his reaper, and he was elected a corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences, "as having done more for the cause of agriculture than any other living man." The invention of the reaper made farming far more efficient, and resulted in a global shift of labor from farmlands to cities. The McCormick factories were later the site of urban labor strikes that led to the Haymarket Square riots in 1884. McCormick edited the Chicago Times until 1861, when he sold the paper to Wilbur F. Storey. He died in Chicago, with his company passing on to his son, Cyrus McCormick, Jr.. Under the son's leadership, the company, McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, became part of International Harvester Corporation in 1902.

His son Stanley McCormick (-1947) worked for the firm, but developed schizophrenia and retired early in 1906. His wife Katharine, a suffragette, funded research into the birth control pill by Gregory Pincus with part of her share of the McCormick estate. His son Harold Fowler McCormick married Edith Rockefeller, youngest daughter of John D. Rockefeller.


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