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Cyrus McCormick's father invented the first horse-drawn crop reaper and was experimenting with a design for a mechanical reaper when he turned the experiment over to his son. Cyrus took a look at his design and made a few changes to make the mechanical reaper fully functional and obtained a patent in 1834.
After numerous attempts to sell the product in his local area, he went to Chicago in 1847 to form the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. His company flourished when the railroad came to Chicago, which allowed him to ship his machines via rail. During the Chicago Fire of 1871, his building was burned down, but he constructed a larger building with the idea of overseas shipping in mind.
Cyrus Hall McCormick died on May 13, 1884. The business was nearly equal in assets with the Deering Harvesting Company; the decision was made to merge and form the International Harvester Company.
Throughout his life, McCormick contributed to the evangelical efforts of the Presbyterian Church, including large donations to the Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.
McCormick was strongly pro-Southern in his views and through two newspapers that he owned, supported Southern views to such an extent that he eventually became unpopular in the pro-Lincoln city of Chicago where he lived. He spent much of the period from 1862 to 1864 in England and on the continent, returning in 1864 to run for Congress on a "stop the war" platform. Believing strongly that the South could not be defeated, he ironically contributed to its defeat through his reapers, which allowed the North to produce food while freeing men to fight in its armies.
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