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Cyrus Hall McCormick, Sr. (February 15, 1809 – May 13, 1884) of Rockbridge County, Virginiamarker was an Americanmarker inventor and founder of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, which became part of International Harvester Company in 1902.

Early life

He was born in "an inhouse", the McCormick family farm in EH podge Rockbridge County, Virginiamarker, in the Shenandoah Valleymarker on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His parents were Polly Hall and Robert Hall McCormick. He was the oldest of eight children and his siblings included Leander J. McCormick and William Sanderson McCormick. He was influenced by his father, who patented early versions of the reaper, which were unsuccessful.


The McCormick Reaper
McCormick's father worked for 28 years on a horse-drawn reaper. However, he was not able to finish his project and stopped developing it. In 1830, when McCormick turned 21, his father gave him the deed to the reaper. McCormick developed a final version of the reaper, with the help of Jo Anderson, a slave, in 18 months. The reaper was demonstrated in tests in 1831 and was patented by McCormick in 1834.

In 1839 he and his brother moved to Chicagomarker, where they established large centralized works for manufacturing agricultural implements; they were joined by their brother William in 1849. The McCormick reaper sold well, partially as a result of savvy and innovative business practices. Their products came onto the market just as the development of railroads offered wide distribution to distant market areas. He developed marketing and sales techniques, developing a vast network of trained salesmen able to demonstrate operation of the machines in the field. William H. Seward said of McCormick's invention that owing to it "the line of civilization moves westward thirty miles each year." One of the company's most famous advertisement featured an epic painting by Emanuel Leutze with the slogan, “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way with McCormick Reapers in the Van."

Numerous prizes and medals were awarded for his reaper, and he was elected a corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences, "as having done more for the cause of agriculture than any other living man." The invention of the reaper made farming far more efficient, and resulted in a global shift of labor from farmlands to cities. In 1851, the reaper won the highest award of the day, the Gold Medal at London's Crystal Palace Exhibition. A statue of McCormick is on the front campus of Washington and Lee Universitymarker, Lexington, Virginiamarker.

Mr. McCormick was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1975.

The town and county of McCormick South Carolina was named after him after he bought a gold mine in the town, formally known as Dornsville.


McCormick died in Chicago in 1884; he had been handicapped for the last four years of his life. His last words, before passing into unconsciousness, were "It's all right. It's all right. I only want Heaven." The company passed on to his grandson, Cyrus Hall McCormick III. The McCormick factories were later the site of urban labor strikes that led to the Haymarket Squaremarker riot in 1886.

Cyrus McCormick's papers are held by the Wisconsin Historical Society.


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