McCormick of Virginia was responsible for liberating farm workers from hours of back-breaking
labor by introducing the farmers to his newly invented mechanical reaper in July,
1831. By 1847, Cyrus McCormick began the mass manufacture of his reaper in a Chicago factory.
Nature Bulletin No. 759 June 6, 1964
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour Simon, President
Roberts Mann, Conservation Editor
The invention of two successful reaping machines - independently
by Obed Hussey in Ohio, who obtained the first patent in 1834, and by Cyrus
Hall McCormick in Virginia - brought about an end to tedious handiwork and
encouraged the invention and manufacture of other labor-saving farm implements
and machinery. The first reapers cut the standing grain and, with a revolving
reel, swept it onto a platform from which it was raked off into piles by
a man walking alongside. It could harvest more grain than five men using
the earlier cradles. The next innovation, patented in 1858, was a self-raking
reaper with an endless canvas belt that delivered the cut grain to two men
who riding on the end of the platform, bundled it. Meanwhile, Cyrus McCormick
had moved to Chicago, built a reaper factory, and founded what eventually
became the International Harvester Company. In 1872 he produced a reaper
which automatically bound the bundles with wire. In 1880, he came out with
a binder which, using a magical knotting device (invented by John F. Appleby
a Wisconsin pastor) bound the handles with twine.
The reaper was eventually replaced by the self-propelled combine, operated
by one man, which cuts gathers, threshes, and sacks the grain mechanically.
The reaper was the first step in a transition from hand labor to the mechanized
farming of today. It brought about an industrial revolution, as well as a
vast change in agriculture.