Letters to the Editor

Readers tag mystery piece as a reaper

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The picture of the "corn binder-clover harvester" (Farm Collector, March 2005, page 4) is actually of a reaper. The reaper was invented by Cyrus McCormick to cut grains or other crops. He had a working model in 1831, and patented his design in 1834. Although farmers were slow to change their methods, by the mid-1840s the reaper caught on. Before that time, grain was cut with a sickle, then a scythe.

We are involved with a threshing show that has a restored reaper on display. Due to the fact that we are located in northern Minnesota and have snow on the ground, we can't get a picture right now. However, the unit shown in the March issue is not complete: There should be a seat for the driver behind the wheel. In our area, the reaper was used to cut white grains, but it could be used to cut clover, flax or whatever. A man still had to walk after the reaper and tie the grain into bundles. When the binder was invented, the reaper was no longer used.

- Melroy and Avis Wiskow
Strathcona, Minn.

On page 4 of the March 2005 issue is a picture of a "fan" reaper. I not only have one of these in my museum but I have personally cut many acres of oats with it. Every farmer in northern New York and New England used them in the late-1800s and up to the 1930s. Grain binders were rarely used on the small hilly fields of the northeast.

- Richard McGuire
Scotch Hill Road
Cambridge, NY 12816
(518) 854-3143

In regards to Howard Olson's rare implement, I'm enclosing a photo (above) of one being used in about 1947. It looks to me as if the man is cutting oats or hay of some kind. My dad, Joseph Klein, is standing on the right. I don't know who the operator is, or where the photo was taken.

- Maynard R. Klein
834 Sherman
Casnovia, MI 49318

The picture and question from a reader (Farm Collector, January 2005, page 4; March 2005, page 4) caught my attention for two reasons. The picture is of a beautifully preserved reaper, while the headline asks for information on corn binders. Subsequent letters have identified the machine as a clover harvester. Although reapers were not widely used after the invention and perfection of the binder, they continued to be manufactured and sold at least until 1938 (a Deering reaper was offered until that time). Much of the later use of reapers was for specialty crops that did not lend themselves readily to the use of a binder (clover seed would probably be a good example).

The second reason I especially noticed this item was the manufacturer. The name "Wyckoff & Tuttle" was familiar to me, but I have not been able to remember why. However, a little investigation has revealed that by 1899, the (presumably) same firm was known as the Wyckoff Harvester Co., and was located in Jamestown, N.Y. The product line at that time included Wyckoff mowers and binders, and Perry Royce reapers. By 1901, the firm seems to have disappeared, probably a casualty of the "Harvester Wars."

During the last half of the 19th century, there were dozens, if not hundreds, of manufacturers of reapers and binders. Most of them disappeared in the last part of the century, during the period of the "Harvester Wars." These wars cost the larger manufacturers huge sums of money, and destroyed most of the smaller companies.

- Bill Reedy
Brandon, Iowa