Let's Talk Rusty Iron

Must-See Show: Paris Universal Exposition in 1900 was a crucial showplace for agriculture equipment manufacturers

| March 2006

  • The exhibits of the D.M. Osborne Co. and the Johnston Harvester Co.
    The exhibits of the D.M. Osborne Co. and the Johnston Harvester Co.
  • The Deering Retrospective exhibit
    The Deering Retrospective exhibit. This exhibit consisted of more than 100 models, representing such machines as Hussey's reaper, Marsh's harvester and Peck's corn binder, all in glass diaplay cases. The models were "... beautifully finished in natural woods, and metals highly polished and lacquered." The models were set up so "... that visiors may cause any machine to operate by simply grasping a silk cord ..." Wouldn't it be great to find one of these models today?
  • The McCormick building at the Paris Exposition with flags and pennants flying
    The McCormick building at the Paris Exposition with flags and pennants flying. Notice the "horseless carriage" on the street in the foreground.
  • The Deering Harvester Co. exhibit
    The Deering Harvester Co. exhibit. In the large display case at the right end of the display is an elaborate model of the Deering Chicago Works. The description reads, "The (model) is lighted by electricity, the drop forge foundry and malleable works having alternating red lights representing casts. In the foreground trains of cars move hither and thither and boats are in motion on the river at the rear." Just beneath the miniature factory is a model of an American farm, with a tiny team of horses pulling an Ideal mower around a field of grass with "every movement being true to life." Below the farm model is a huge photograph of all 9,000 Deering employees. Said to be the largest group photograph ever taken, the picture was 18 feet long and 20 inches high. On the revolving pedestal at left ceneter can be seen a Deering "automobile mower," while around the base of the pedestal is a round divan of "... fine Russia leather, capable of seating 12 persons comfortably." A Deering Ideal binder, reaper and mower are part of the exhibit, as well as a dump rake and a mower with a dropper attachment. These machines were "bbb beautifully finished in gold, silver and bronze."
  • A view of the Paris Exposition grounds showing the U.S. Agricultural Annex building at the right
    A view of the Paris Exposition grounds showing the U.S. Agricultural Annex building at the right, connected by a bridge to the Palace of Agriculture at the left.

  • The exhibits of the D.M. Osborne Co. and the Johnston Harvester Co.
  • The Deering Retrospective exhibit
  • The McCormick building at the Paris Exposition with flags and pennants flying
  • The Deering Harvester Co. exhibit
  • A view of the Paris Exposition grounds showing the U.S. Agricultural Annex building at the right

The grand opening of the Paris Universal Exposition was April 14, 1900, although very few buildings or exhibits were complete, and scaffolding had to be hurriedly (and temporarily) removed so the President of France could cut the ribbon. Meant to be a glittering showcase of the industrial and technological might of the Western World on the eve of a new century, the exposition drew 76,000 exhibitors from all over the world who did their best to impress more than 50 million visitors. These visitors, also from all over the world, saw such wonders as a moving sidewalk, wireless telegraphy and a moving staircase called an "escalator."

The June 7, 1900, issue of Farm Implement News describes the large American contribution to the extensive agricultural portion of the event, even though all the machinery had to be sent to New York and loaded on ships for the voyage to Le Havre, France, before being transported overland to the Expo site in Paris.

As might be expected, Deering and McCormick, the two titans of the U.S. harvesting machinery business in that era, went all out. The harvester wars were playing havoc with profits at home and both firms hoped to increase their lucrative export trade.

The Deering Harvester Co. set up an elaborate display in the U.S. Agricultural Annex building as pictured in the woodcut illustration shown above. In addition, the French government gave Deering the honor of setting up the "Official Retrospective Exhibit" in the U.S. section of the Palace of Agriculture. This exhibit was "… a review of the methods employed in harvesting grain at various stages of the world's progress, but more particularly during the past century."



Other exhibitors in the Annex included D.M. Osborne Co., Johnson Harvester, Piano Manufacturing, Aultman, Miller Co., Warder, Bushnell & Glessner Co., Adriance, Platt & Co., Walter A. Wood, Oliver Chilled Plow Works, Milwaukee Harvester, Stover Manufacturing, Aermotor, F.E. Meyers and Reliable Incubator & Brooder.

Deere & Co. ran into some bad luck with its exhibit, which was lost at sea during the Atlantic crossing. The Deere machinery was loaded aboard the freight steamer Poyak, which sailed from New York and was due in Le Havre on March 15. The article says, "From the day it passed out of the American port to the present it has never been seen or heard of and no clue to its fate has been found. It is supposed it sank in mid-ocean and all on board were lost." Apparently, a replacement shipment was made, as a John Deere ad from October 1900 claims a gold medal for "Efficiency and Merit" was awarded to the firm's Victor plow at the 1900 Paris Exposition.



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