Cyrus McCormick (1809-1884)

Cyrus McCormick was born in Virginia, the son of a prosperous farmer. In the summer of 1831 he successfully produced a horse-drawn, mechanical reaper, perfecting a device his father had struggled to create for many years. In 1834 the younger McCormick secured a patent on his invention. The new reaper proved popular with farmers, and in 1847 McCormick moved his shop to Chicago in order to be nearer to the West's grain-growing regions. In 1851 the reaper won the Gold Medal at London's Crystal Palace Exhibition, and Cyrus McCormick became a household name. His invention revolutionized agriculture by introducing mechanization, dramatically enhanced the productivity of American farmers, and precipitated the western expansion of the United States. McCormick's reaper company became International Harvester Company, which by the time of the Civil War operated a large factory on Chicago's west side.