THE STORY OF THE REAPER - Part II

Rig threshing with Case engine

Haugen Brothers rig threshing with Case engine-a few miles east of Spring Grove, Minnesota, during September 1925. Courtesy of Rudy Clemmensen, 833 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, Minn. 55105.

Rudy Clemmensen

Content Tools

Route 4, Huntington, Indiana 46750.

From the period after 1831, when reapers were either invented or discovered there was a great change in agriculture implements. Up to this time plows were the crudest things, not being manufactured by any companies, but by local blacksmiths, and mostly cast iron. These would scour in the gravelly soils of the east. When they went to break up the loose prairie soils of the west, these eastern plows would not scour, and the plow industry had to take a new look. It is rather a coincidence that Cyrus H. McCormick's problems would be no greater than those of the plowmans in the new country, in what is now called the corn belt, and that they both spanned the same years.

The first steel plow was built by John Lane of Lockport, Ill., in 1833. John Deere a native of Vermont made his first plow in 1837 in Grand Detour, Ill. Oliver started in 1853 in South Bend, Indiana. William Parlin came from the east to Canton, Ill. in 1840, and was joined by William Orendorff and their plow became known as the P & 0. In 1866 Orendorff bought the rights for a corn lister from a blacksmith in Missouri.

In 1837 Hiram Pitts from Buffalo, N. Y. made the first crude grain thresher. By 1840 a number of small threshers were made and powered by tread mills on which horses or oxen walked. However these machines did not become popular until after the Civil War.

McCormick lost his reaper factory in the great fire that swept Chicago in 1871. He went over on the south side of the river and built a large new factory which he equipped with all the latest machinery that could be had. He never spared money when it came to buying labor saving equipment of any kind.

The period from 1870 to 1900 was the great day of the Harvesting World. The west was opening up and the demand for binders was great, and along with it came problems unforeseen at that time. It seemingly never occurred to any of the companies that there might ever be any overproduction, or surplus.

Competition was fierce. The companies were out for all they could get. Probably at no time is the history of our country at this time had any industry put on such a show of advertising, price cutting, and such a show of easy credit as the farm industry put on at this time. It is not surprising that this nearly caused the downfall of some of them.

McCormick and the International Harv. Co. were always in trouble, and in the courts. It started first between McCormick and Hussey, then with Manny, and then with Champion, and while McCormick and Deering didn't feud so much among themselves, they had plenty with the Federal courts from 1914 to 1919. They usually came out on the short end, if what I've been told is true. The war with John H. Manny was lost. Manny's attorneys were Edwin M. Stan-ton and Abraham L. Lincoln. It has been said this was Lincoln's greatest victory and the first that he had received a $1000 fee.

At this time nine companies were making binders and mowers, etc. The companies in business were McCormick, Deering, Milwaukee, Piano, Champion, Johnson, Woods Bros., Osborne, and Acme. For some time there had been attempts towards consolidation in order to cut down on overhead and overlapping, but nothing seemed to be accomplished. Finally in 1902 after a lot of bargaining The International Harv. Co. was formed out of the consolidation of McCormick, Deering, Milwaukee, Piano, and Champion. It took nearly ten years to get all the bugs worked out and get the factories changed for less duplication.

McCormick and Deering were the two strong ones, and were the ones in strongest competition. McCormick was the oldest, the strongest, and had the best sales organization. Deering was a powerful business man, with long foresight. He had acquired a roller mill, blast furnace, owned iron mines on the Mesaba Range, and owned coal mines in Kentucky.

After the consolidation they started in by buying some allied lines, diversifying their business, and expanding their foreign trade.

Also the new tractor and truck business started to pick up, and was a life saver in the early twenties. In 1903 I. H. C. took over The Keystone Co. of Rock Falls, Ill. which specialized in hay tools and general farm tools. Then came The Webber Wagon Works of Chicago, makers of wagons. Also The Kemp Manure Spreader rounded out this line. The Parlin & Orendorff Plow Co. came in 1919, along with The Chattanooga Plow Co. Also they began building Trucks in Fort Wayne, Ind. in 1920. Sometime before this they had bought the Aultman Miller Co. at Akron, Ohio and it was there they made their Auto buggy or truck, which ever you please. The Milwaukee Harvester plant was moved to the Chicago plant and the Milwaukee plant was used to make gasoline engines, cream separators, etc. Piano was moved into the Deering plant, and the old Piano was used to make Webber wagons and Kemp manure spreaders, which later came out under such names as Cloverleaf and several others.

In 1905 or 1906 they shipped Famous gas engines in sizes, 12, 15, and 20 horse power to The Ohio Tractor Co. at Upper Sandusky, 0. where that company mounted them on their own chassis and put the IHC name on them. In 1909 they moved the machinery to Milwaukee and Chicago where in 1910 they started making the Titan in Milwaukee and the Mogul in Chicago.

The Minnie Harvester plant in St. Paul was bought to make binder twine out of the local flax straw. This did not turn out as expected because the grasshoppers had an appetite for the flax twine and that practice had to be discontinued. It was a shame because flax was widely grown in the Northwest at that time and it would have helped their market. They later bought or built a plant in Canada and imported their fiber. Corn Binders were being made by 1895 or before.

For some twenty years, there had been some exporting of farm machinery to foreign countries. After I. H. C. came into being it was pushed. In 1905 they started plants and distributorships in England and Sweden. In 1909 they moved to France, Germany and Russia. In 1914 they made a Harvester Thresher (combine) for the west coast trade. 1917 saw a new one row corn husker made in both McCormick and Deering models.

I. H. C. claimed they made 3000 tractors of all sizes in 1912. They were represented every year at the Winnipeg contests. In 1918 they claimed they cranked up a Titan every four and a half minutes.

Cyrus Hall McCormick died in 1884, and his wife who was much younger died in 1923.  His passing did not phase the management as it was continued on for four or more generations by his family.  The same can be said for the Deering family.