IHC History: Part 1
The history of IHC starts in the wheat fields of Virginia during the 1830s on the farm of Robert McCormick. Farming at that time was hard work using only the power and sweat of the farm workers aided by horses. One of the most backbreaking and important jobs was reaping the standing grain, a job done in the hottest part of the year. A mechanized reaper was the dream of many a farmer and many experiments were underway both in the US and Europe.
The farmer working as a reaper used a scythe with a cradle to cut the wheat and lay it in bundles. A binder followed the reaper and tied the bundles into shocks with twists of wheat. A good scythe-man could cut 2-3 acres per day.
Between 1810 and 1830 Robert McCormick experimented with mechanical harvesting of wheat and demonstrated a working version in 1831. Cyrus McCormick (b.1809) continued his father's experiments and eventually developed a working model of a practical reaper. The mechanical reaper had several important components.
Straight reciprocating knife to cut the standing wheat.
Fingers to guide the wheat stalk to the knife.
Reel to pull the wheat stalk against the knife.
Platform to catch the falling wheat.
Single main power wheel.
Cutting to one side of the draft.
Divider bar to separate cut and standing grain.
In 1931 a reproduction of the first reaper was built by the International Harvester Company to celebrate the century of the reaper. One is on display at the Ardenwood Farms Museum is occasionally loaned to other tractor shows. If you have a chance to see this remarkable machine, do so.
It took a while for the mechanical reaper to be accepted by farmers of the day and the first machines were not sold until 1840 and full production started in 1846. Meanwhile other inventors were working on the mechanical reaper and many public trials were held between competing designs. One inventor in particular was Obed Hussey whose machines faced off the McCormick machines in several field trials. Both machines had strengths and weaknesses and both introduced refinements to the design of reapers. For many years the origins of the reaper were in dispute and countless hours of court testimony has done little to clear the air.
In the late 1840s, Cyrus moved his reaper company to Chicago to be near the center of US farming then moving into the plains of Illinois and Iowa. Chicago also provided ready access to ship transportation to support a growing export business. With Cyrus running the business and his brother Leander directing manufacturing operations, the company continued to grow.
Eventually in 1879 the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company was formed to manufacture and sell agriculture machinery. Over the years many improvements were added to the reaper and other types of agricultural machinery were added to the company line as mechanical farming gained popularity. By the turn of the century man and horse power were aided by mechanical farm implements from plowing to harvesting. Grain harvesting became completely mechanized.
As the McCormick company grew so did its needs for capital and as mechanical farming grew, the marketplace became ever more competitive. One of the biggest competitors was Deering Harvester company. Deering manufactured much of the same equipment as McCormick and beat McCormick to many improvements. In 1902 under the direction of J.P. Morgan & Company the two companies merged with several others to form the International Harvester Company.
IHC History Part 2
To contact us:
PO BOX 1471
Folsom, CA 95630