Abstract

During the 1880s and 1890s the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company created a brand based upon Cyrus H. McCormick's supposed invention of the mechanized reaper in 1831. The company's “prestige of priority” functioned to break the industry price-slashing deadlock of the “reaper wars” while assuaging populist criticismdirected at their company as a parasiticmonopoly. Its interpretation of the past reimagined McCormick as a heroic producer-inventor from the farm, who freed successive generations of agrarians from toil and enabled their rise to civilized affluence. This brand modified the producer-populist “labor theory of value” to create a “technological surplus value ideology,” which framed invention as productive labor. The firm's initiative to mold McCormick heritage into recognized national history through advertising, sales agents, exhibitions, and ultimately a campaign to have McCormick Senior's image printed on federal currency, left the brand susceptible to competing claims on the past from the company's competitors.

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NOTES

1. S. C. P. Miller,
“Reminiscences of Cyrus H. McCormick,” “In Memoriam—Cyrus Hall McCormick,”
p.
108
, box 396, subgroup Mss 1e, McCormick-International Harvester Company Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisc. (hereafter MCC).
2. Gail Bederman,
Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880–1917
(
Chicago
:
University of Chicago Press
,
1995
),
31
41
.
3. E. F. Baker to McCormick Harvesting Machine Company (hereafter McCormick HMC), May 12, 1893, reel 267, subgroup Mss 2x, MCC; Mona Domosh,
“A ‘Civilized’ Commerce: Gender, ‘Race,’ and Empire at the 1893 Chicago Exposition,”
Cultural Geographies
9
(
Apr.
2002
):
181
201
.
4. R. B. Swift to Culver and Tracey, June 1, 1893, reel 336; Daily to J. B. Heywood, June 16, 1893, reel 336; McCormick II to W. Pretyman, June 27, 1893, reel 337, subgroup Mss 1x, MCC.
5. James B. Campbell,
World's Columbian Exposition Illustrated: Devoted to the Interests of the Columbian Exposition, Art and Literature
,
3
vols. (
Chicago
:
World's Columbian Exposition
,
1893
), pp.
156
57
, transcription, box 2, subgroup Mss 6x, MCC.
6. R. B. Swift to Culver and Tracey, June 1, 1893; Campbell,
World's Columbian Exposition Illustrated
,
156
57
, MCC.
7. Campbell,
World's Columbian Exposition Illustrated
,
156
57
, MCC;
Wisconsin Historical Society
,
“McCormick Display at Columbian Exposition,”
WHi-60572, http://preview.wisconsinhistory.org/Content.aspx?dsNav=Ny:True,Ro:0,Nrc:id-4294966726,N:4294963828-4294955414& dsNavOnly=Ny:True,N:4294966724&dsRecordDetails=R:IM60572&dsDimensionSearch=D:60572,Dxm:All,Dxp:3& dsCompoundDimensionSearch=D:60572,Dxm:All,Dxp:3 (accessed Sept. 23, 2013).
8. Campbell,
World's Columbian Exposition Illustrated
,
156
57
, MCC.
9. Ibid.
10. “Established 1831—Sixty-second Annual Catalogue—McCormick Machines, 1893,” box 3, subgroup Mss 5x, MCC.
11. Robert Ardrey,
American Agricultural Implements: A Review of Invention and Development in the Agricultural Implement Industry of the United States
(
1894
; repr.,
New York
:
Arno
,
1972
).
12. Gordon M. Winder,
The American Reaper: Harvesting Networks and Technology, 1830–1910
(
Burlington, Vt.
:
Ashgate
,
2012
),
105
44
.
13. Clark Lane to Aultman, Miller & Co., Feb. 10, 1897; Clark Lane,
“The First Reaper: BE IT KNOWN and DISTINCTLY UNDERSTOOD THAT McCORMICK DID NOT MAKE the FIRST REAPING MACHINE,”
Oct.
9
,
1893
; Russell Parsons to Steward, Dec. 30, 1896, box 1, John F. Steward Papers, subgroup Mss Bj; McCormick II to Nettie F. McCormick, May 8, 1893, reel 3, Mss 3c, MCC.
14. The “harmony of interests” ideology is described by Anthony Wallace as a Christian industrialist response to radical producerism, justifying the economic order. Wallace,
Rockdale: The Growth of an American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution
(
New York
:
W. W. Norton
,
1978
),
350
. Robert McMath and Matthew Hild outline the producer unity amongst Populist farmers and laborers. Robert C. McMath Jr.,
American Populism: A Social History, 1877–1898
(
New York
:
Hill and Wang
,
1993
),
50
82
; Hild,
Greenbackers, Knights of Labor, & Populists: Farmer-Labor Insurgency in the Late-Nineteenth-Century South
(
Athens
:
University of Georgia Press
,
2007
).
15. Wallace,
Rockdale
,
243
46
,
293
95
,
394
97
; Sean Wilentz,
Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788–1850
(
New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
1984
); David Montgomery,
The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, The State, and American Labor Activism, 1865–1925
(
New York
:
Cambridge University Press
,
1987
).
16. Robert Ozanne,
A Century of Labor-Management Relations at McCormick and International Harvester
(
Madison
:
University of Wisconsin Press
,
1967
),
3
28
; McCormick II to Day, Mar. 10, 1886; McCormick II, “About the Committee,” Feb. 1886, box 11, subgroup Mss 8c, MCC.
17. “Will Control Their Own Business,” 1886, box 3, subgroup Mss 5x, MCC.
18. Ozanne,
Century
,
3
28
. During the 1894 Pullman Strike, McCormick Junior wrote about his worries that “our men” might be “drawn into crowds and mobs.” McCormick II to N. F. McCormick, July 9, 11, 1894; McCormick II to Butler, July 13, 1894, reel 4, subgroup Mss 3c, MCC.
19. Arthur H. Hirsch,
“Efforts of the Grange in the Middle West to Control the Price of Farm Machinery, 1870–1880,”
Mississippi Valley Historical Review
15
(
Mar.
1929
):
473
96
. The company's response to the Grangers, as well as the Farmers' Alliance cooperative price initiatives, was to quote slightly reduced prices for bulk purchases that did not include shipping. They then had their regional agents target the leaders of local alliances offering a still lower price for that individual. In that way they systematically broke resistance by “drawing them away from the Alliances one by one.” R. B. Swift to J. S. Wogan, May 20, 1890; Butler to M. D. Coffeen, Apr. 25, 1891, reel 297, subgroup Mss 1x, MCC.
20. Martin Ridge,
Ignatius Donnelly: The Portrait of a Politician
(
Chicago
:
University of Chicago Press
,
1962
),
247
; Charles Postel,
The Populist Vision
(
New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
2007
),
126
33
; Fred Carstensen and Diane Roazen,
“Foreign Markets, Domestic Initiative, and the Emergence of a Monocrop Economy: The Yucatecan Experience, 1825–1903,”
Hispanic American Historical Review
72
(
Nov.
1992
):
555
92
; Sterling Evans,
Bound in Twine: The History and Ecology of the Henequen-Wheat Complex for Mexico and the American and Canadian Plains, 1880–1950
(
College Station
:
Texas A&M University Press
,
2007
),
121
26
.
21. Ridge,
Ignatius Donnelly
,
288
; Ignatius Donnelly et al.,
Cyrus H. McCormick and Leander J. McCormick, Partners as C. H. & L. J. McCormick, Appellants, vs. Ignatius Donnelly, Respondent …
(
Hastings, Minn.
:
H. M. Hall
,
1884
),
65
.
22. Butler to W. H. Town, May 31, 1890; Butler to N. B. Fulmer, June 28, 1890, reel 297; Butler to Chas. F. Adams, June 16, 1893, reel 327, subgroup Mss 1x, MCC.
23.
“Omaha Platform, July, 1892,”
Appendix F, in Johns D. Hicks,
The Populist Revolt: A History of the Farmers' Alliance and the People's Party
(
Minneapolis
:
University of Minnesota Press
,
1931
),
439
44
.
24. Michael O'Malley,
Face Value: The Entwined Histories of Money & Race in America
(
Chicago
:
University of Chicago Press
,
2012
),
124
61
.
25. W. H. Mallock,
Labour and the Popular Welfare
(
London
:
Adam and Charles Black
,
1895
);
“Labor and Ability,”
Chicago Daily Tribune
,
Nov.
11
,
1894
,
28
; National Association of Agricultural ImplementManufacturers,
Farm Implement News Daily: Official Report of the Annual Convention …
(
Chicago
:
National Association of Agricultural Implement Manufacturers
,
1894
),
113
.
26. Lee Grady,
“McCormick's Reaper at 100: Marketing the Machines that Revolutionized World Agriculture,”
Wisconsin Magazine of History
84
(Spring
2001
):
13
.
27. Winder,
American Reaper
,
120
21
.
28. “Established 1831—Fifty-Fourth Annual Catalogue: McCormick Machines—1885”; “Established 1831—Fifty-Sixth Annual Catalogue: McCormick Machines—1887”; “—Bindlochine,” 1892, box 3, subgroup Mss 5x, MCC.
29. “Annual Catalogue:McCormick Machines—1887”; “Established 1831—Fifty-Seventh Annual Catalogue: McCormick Machines—1888,” box 3, subgroup Mss 5x, MCC.
30. Butler to S. B. Town, May 2, 1890, reel 297, subgroup Mss 1x; “Annual Catalogue: McCormickMachines—1887,” box 3, subgroupMss 5x;A.Mayer to S. B. Town, June 10, 1893, reel 337; Butler to S. W. Park, Apr. 1, 1889; May 13, 1890, reel 297, subgroup Mss 1x, MCC.
31. “Annual Catalogue: McCormick Machines—1885”; “Annual Catalogue: McCormick Machines—1893”; “Established 1831—Fifty-Ninth Year—The McCormick Annual Catalogue—1890,” box 3, subgroup Mss 5x, MCC.
32. Butler to S. W. Park, May 13, 1890, reel 297, subgroup Mss 1x, MCC.
33. McCormick HMC, “The Farmers Grange Movement,” 1889, box 3, subgroup Mss 5x, MCC.
34. The firm annually sent out prefabricated advertisement copy to their agents to post in local newspapers. In 1893 it sent out four sets of copy for agents to rotate in weekly readers. “McCormick Advertisements,” Apr. 20, 1893, box 3, subgroup Mss 5x, MCC.
35.
“The Man for the Time,”
Easter's Implement World
,
Feb.
28
,
1893
;
“Farming in America,”
Greater Chicago
,
Aug.
4
,
1898
, box 134, Cyrus H. McCormick II Subject Files, subgroup Mss 2c, MCC.
36. “Sixty-third Annual Catalogue—McCormick Machines, 1894,” box 3, subgroup Mss 5x, MCC.
37. Ibid.,
5
,
13
.
38. Ibid.,
37
.
39. John W. Bookwalter,
If Not Silver, What?
(
Springfield, Ohio
:
John W. Bookwalter
,
1896
),
21
24
.
40. Lincoln Freie Presse to McCormick II, July 4, 1896; McCormick II to Lincoln Freie Presse, July 8, 1896, box 11, subgroup Mss 8c, MCC;
“M'Cormick Denounces Popocracy: He Looks Upon Free Silver as a National Calamity,”
Chicago Daily Tribune
,
Sept.
2
,
1896
,
3
.
41. Butler to sales agents, Aug. 17, 1896, box 11, subgroup Mss 8c, MCC;
“What Bryan's Election Would Mean,”
Chicago Daily Tribune
,
Sept.
2
,
1896
,
6
.
42.
“Factory Men Hear Him: M'Kinley Speaks to Clubs from Springfield, O.,”
Chicago Daily Tribune,
Oct.
2
,
1896
,
3
.
43.
“New Silver Certificates: Beautiful Designs of the Bill Shortly to be Issued, How This Change Has Taken Place,”
New York Times
,
Mar.
1
,
1896
,
25
; the “education” series one, two, and five dollar bills were briefly in circulation. Pictures and discussion of the “education” series artwork are in Gene Hessler,
US Essay, Proof, and Specimen Notes
(
Portage, Ohio
:
BNR
,
1979
),
98
133
. The treasury department's decision to print new silver certificates in 1896 seems odd, considering bimetal currency exchange had been prohibited since 1893. Prior to that, the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchasing Act allowed silver specie to be exchanged for gold at a ratio of sixteen to one. Many people thought that such a rate of exchange favored the inherent value of gold and so attempted to secure gold for silver certificates, resulting in a serious drain on the Treasury gold reserves—partially accounting for the Panic of 1893. The decision to prohibit bimetal exchange soon thereafter reduced the credible money supply because only the federal government was forced to accept silver as currency on par with gold-backed money. The intrinsically “lesser” silver certificates became a currency for those considered to be “lesser” people. With so little credible money in circulation, prices deflated, and farmers, among others, began to crusade for the legally enforced free-silver exchange to secure better prices for their crops and repay their debts with cheaper currency. O'Malley,
Face Value
,
124
61
.
44. McCormick II to Louis Dent, Aug. 14, 1893, reel 7, subgroup Mss 3c, MCC.
45.
“New $10 Silver Certifications: Will Bear Vignettes of C. H. McCormick and Eli Whitney,”
Chicago Daily Tribune
,
Dec.
25
,
1896
,
8
.
46. J. F. Steward to Walter A. Wood Mowing & Reaping Machine Co., Jan. 13, 1897, box 1, subgroup Mss Bj; “Established 1831—Sixty-first Annual Catalogue—McCormick Machines, 1892,” p. 5; “Annual Catalog: McCormick Machines—1892,” p. 4, box 3, subgroup Mss 5x, MCC; McCormick HMC, “Which Side are You On?” 1888, Advertising Card, WHi-86304, WisconsinHistorical Images,Wisconsin Historical Society, http://www.wisconsinhistory.org /whi/fullRecord.asp?id=86304&qstring=http%3A%2F %2Fwww.wisconsinhistory.org%2Fwhi%2Fresults.asp%3Fpageno%3D4%26keyword1%3Dmccormick%26keyword2%3Dmccormick%26keyword3 %3D%26search_field1%3Dcollection%255Fname%26search_field2%3Dcreator%26search_field3 %3D%26boolean_type1%3Dand%26boolean_type2%3Dand%26subject_broad_id%3D11%26subject_broad %3D%26subject_narrow_id%3D155%26subject_narrow%3DAdvertising%26decade%3D%26genre%3D%26genre_text%3D%26wi_county_code %3D%26wi_county_text%3D%26added_within%3D%26sort_by%3Ddate%26search_type%3Dadvanced%26results_relevancy%3D (accessed Sept. 6, 2013).
47. J. F. Steward to Ginn & Co., Jan. 15, 1898; Harvester Co. to John Russell Parsons, Dec. 31, 1896, box 1, subgroup Mss Bj, MCC.
48. Charles Deering et al. to John G. Carlisle, Dec. 29, 1896, box 1, subgroup Mss Bj, MCC.
49. Steward and Wood, “Advertisements on United States Bank Notes,” box 1, subgroup Mss Bj, MCC.
50. McCormick II to John Carlisle, Jan. 6, 1897, reel 8, subgroup Mss 3c, MCC.
51. Steward toDeering, Jan. 11, 1897; J.G. Carlisle to C.M. Johnson, Jan. 14, 1897, box 1, subgroupMss Bj,MCC;
“Gossips in a Flutter: Wife of Secretary Francis Breaks a Precedent,”
Chicago Daily Tribune
,
Jan.
8
,
1897
,
8
.
52. Farm Machinery, Jan. 13, 1897, box 1, subgroup Mss Bj, MCC.
53. E. K. Reifsnider to Deering Harvester Co., Jan. 18, 1897, box 1, subgroup Mss Bj, MCC.
54. John Steward et al., eds.,
Overlooked Pages of Reaper History
(
Chicago
:
J. R. Parsons, L. Miller, J. F. Steward
,
1897
); Steward to Deering, Jan. 13, 1897, box 1, subgroup Mss Bj, MCC; R. B. Swift,
“Who Invented the Reaper,”
Apr.
15
,
1897
,
Implement Age
;
“Review of Recent Additions to Reaper History,”
Apr.
29
,
1897
,
Implement Age
, box 134, subgroup Mss 2c, MCC.
55. Winder,
American Reaper
,
18
19
; McCormick Jr.,
“Memorandum on the Creation of International Harvester,”
Aug.
13
,
1902
, box 30, Mss 2c; John D. Rockefeller Jr. to Harold McCormick, June 23, 1902, box 605; Edith Rockefeller McCormick to Anita McCormick Blaine, July 1903, box 453, subgroup Mss 1e, MCC.