Iron Age Ads: McCormick Harvesting Machine Co.

McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. ad emphasizes the taming of the once-wild land of the American Buffalo.

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This color lithograph originally appeared on the back cover of the 1889 McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. catalog.

The McCormick Harvesting Machine Co., founded in Chicago 1879, traces its roots through co-founders Cyrus Hall McCormick and his brother, Leander. The two brothers had been in a sometimes rocky partnership with their father, William, and a number of investors. By 1880, six years after Cyrus' death, his widow and son, Cyrus Jr., purchased Leander's share for $3.25 million. Leander, who died 20 years later, never again had anything to do with the manufacture of reapers and farm implements.

Cyrus Hall McCormick was totally committed to "perfecting" the reaper, and spent much of his life at that task. His father's experimentation with reapers on the family's Virginia farm was the likely source of Cyrus' later interest.

By 1889, the company's products included a number of reapers, binders and mowers - some based on technology licensed - or otherwise borrowed - from others.

At the time of the catalog's publication, the "Harvester Wars" were beginning to escalate. It would take the experienced and trusted hand of George W. Perkins of J.P. Morgan Co. in New York City to guide the "Harvester Kings" to an amicable and profitable peace. That peace came with a large and complex merger in 1902, resulting in formation of the International Harvester Co.

Westward expansion leading to near eradication of the American Buffalo, along with the Native Americans, was obviously a symbol of the taming of a wild land. The message in the marketing art is clear: McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. products make the once-wild land productive, even useful.

Farm Collector reproduces some of the most spectacular advertisements used to promote farm equipment and farm products in days gone by. To submit a vintage advertisement for possible publication, send it to: Iron Age Ads, Farm Collector, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609; or submit high-quality digital images by e-mail: editor@farmcollector.com