Before the organization of the International Harvester Co., there were a number of independent companies manufacturing grain binders, mowers, rakes and other farm machinery. Here they are as I remember them from the old days: McCormick Co., Deering Co., Jones (Plano) Co., Walter Wood Co., Milwaukee Co., Osborn Co., Minnesota bu (Minnesota State Prison), Acme Harvester Co. All of the above were absorbed by the I. H. C. except Minnesota and Acme. The I. H. C. continued manufacturing the McCormick and the Deering machines, also the champion for some years. They finally dropped the Champion and then consolidated the McCormick and Deering and that has grown into the present I. H. C. McCormick Deering line of machines. The John Deere Company started making grain binders about 1910 and later on added other farm machines to their line. Originally John Deere manufactured only plows, discs, harrows and wagons. Deere & Weber Co., made buggies and carriages with the slogan 'Light running and durable.'
The Walter A. Wood Company turned out one of the earliest harvesting machines and the machine was made mostly of wood. One canvas carried the grain to a platform where it was bound by wire by hand. My father had one of these machines before I was born, about 1884, and he told me how a neighbor had borrowed it to harvest his grain and he got it on fire and burned it up. My dad and grandfather then had to finish their own with an old time cradle. Another type of harvester is the Sweep Rake. This one was another that cut the grain all right but it had to be bound in bundles by hand. Some of the machines were used for flax harvesting as late as 1906 or later. The Acme Company was the first to put the grain binding attachment on a Header, but they were soon followed by McCormick and later by Deering. These were 12 foot machines and operated by 6 horses. In giving history of machines I give only of the ones used west of the Mississippi River, no doubt they had and used machines back east that I never heard about.
With the consolidation of several machine companies into the Rumley Products Company, and the Emerson Brantingham Company, some of the old harvesters were given a new birth, but I have not kept track of them.
John Bushnell, Chicago, Illinois, is a very famous man in the harvester world. He was president of the Champion Harvester Company, Chicago. He is also (according to Ripley) the father of the only SEXTUPLETS ever born in the U. S. A., a real Champion. There have been no great changes in the modern grain binder from the ones 50 years ago, except improved material in the construction, ball and roller bearings for lighter draft, all steel chains and open elevators for very tall grain straw. A 1900 standard Deering grain binder would do a better job in all kinds of grain than anything built in the past 50 years. Deering started off with the old William Deering and although a good machine in its day it was a heavy clumsy machine with too many heavy cog wheels and a horse killer on the draft. Next Deering came out with a 'Pony' and while this one looked good it was pretty much of a lemon and in a wet field the drive or Bull wheel became a skid. It was just about useless unless the field and grain were in perfect condition. So Deering took the best parts of the Pony and the William and used malleable casting instead of the old heavy stuff.
They used the cutting bar and elevator of the William, and most of binding parts of Pony and called it the Standard and that is what it is in my book. Seventy per cent of the present day binders are copied from the Deering Standard. The Standard had the canvas slatted butter that always made a nearly perfect bundle and none of the moderns can do this.
McCormick is the only company as far as I know who ever built a right hand cut. I have never found out where or how they got this idea unless it was from looking at the engines with the belt wheel on the wrong side of the boiler. McCormick originated the bundle carrier for their binder and it is the best that has ever been produced in that department. It is now used on I.H.C. Company's McCormick-Deering machines. Some of the new models use the McCormick head and some the Deering head which gives the farmer a choice of knotters. Knotters to tie the grain bundle date back over 70 years and the McCormick bundle carrier 65 years or more and few changes have been made.
The tongue trucks to carry the weight of the front of the binder and lessen the weight on the horses necks were brought out in the early 1900's and later these trucks were used on other machines for the same purpose.
The Plano binders had a balance wheel to help make the machine run easier. When horses were stopped for any reason the balance wheel continued to turn and would completely clean all the grain from the machine.
One or more companies put out small gas engines to be attached to binders to run the machines as the horses pulled them through the fields. With the coming of small gas tractors, the balance wheel and gas engines were soon forgotten. The horses were left out of the picture too and the tractors took over. This started about 1914 and was the beginning of the end for horse-drawn machinery. In ten years there were gas tractors of some make or size on two-thirds of the farms west of the Mississippi.
I have given you my knowledge of the grain binder, or harvester of the old days and in digging into past history of farm machines I have helped to make the picture of the 'Through The Years' changeover.