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Cyrus Hall McCormick
1809 - 1884

He Unshackled America from the Drudgery of Food Production

Before a nation can develop and flourish, it must first free its people from the drudgery of food production. Cyrus Hall McCormick did as much as any man to accomplish this. ■ At his birth February 15, 1809, in Rockbridge County, Virginia, nearly 85% of the American people were tied to the land compared with 3% in 1978. In 1831, Robert McCormick tried fruitlessly to invent a mechanical grain reaper. His son Cyrus, 22, watched and decided to build his own machine which cut grain successfully. He continued to experiment, and in 1842, he sold 7 reapers. By 1844, his sales had risen to 50. ■ In 1847, Cyrus McCormick moved to Chicago from Virginia, where his Scottish ancestors had migrated in the 18th century. Chicago was the logical place for him to build his factory because of its central location in the nation's agricultural heartland. He sold 700 reapers the first year. The Civil War created manpower shortages and speeded up the demand for farm machinery. ■ McCormick soon expanded into every other form of farm machinery. By 1884, the output of the Chicago works had grown to 54,841 machines. Millions of Americans were being freed from farming to do other things. American agriculture soon became the envy of the world for its prolific low-cost production. It is no coincidence that America exploded into a dazzling era of innovation, exploration, and new cultural pursuits on the heels of Cyrus McCormick's planters, reapers, and harvesters. After his death on May 13, 1884, steps were taken to merge the McCormick company with other farm equipment manufacturers. The emerging company in 1902 was the world-renowned International Harvester Company of Chicago. McCormick was named by Fortune magazine to the all-time U.S. Business Leader Hall of Fame.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546