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
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
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
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.