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"McCormick Mill" by T.J. Word is an 18 x 24 acrylic on canvas painting of the McCormick family grist mill where Cyrus Hall McCormick invented the first successful reaper and founded the harvesting machine industry. Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-1884) conceived plans for his reaper, built and tested it, and then remodled it for public trial, all within six weeks time. McCormick worked far into the night to complete the world's first reaper for the harvest of 1831.
McCormick had always been a keen inventor. In 1824, at age 15, Cyrus invented a lightweight cradle for harvesting grain. Cyrus' father, Robert, had worked in the farm's blacksmith shop intermittently since about 1815 on a horse-drawn reaper, but was never successful in perfecting it. He finally abandoned the project at the beginning of the 1831 harvest.
Cyrus picked up where his father had left off and added several key features to his father's design. By the end of the same 1831 harvest, Cyrus had the first successful demonstration of his reaper. Cyrus further refined his reaper, and finally took out a patent in 1834.
McCormick's reaper spread - slowly at first, but then at a pace that quickly outstripped his ability to produce the machines at the Walnut Grove blacksmith shop. In 1847, he moved to Chicago to serve the vast prairie grain fields of the Midwest. Shortly thereafter he sent for his brothers William and Leander, who became partners with Cyrus. By 1856, Cyrus was famous the world over. McCormick's "Virginia Reaper" hastened the westward expansion of the United States, and this expansion produced new markets for the reaper. In 1851, the reaper won the highest award of the day, the Gold Medal at London's Crystal Palace Exhibition, and Cyrus McCormick became a world celebrity.
May 3rd, 2009
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