MCCORMICK REAPER MANUFACTORY II
Life Span: 1872-1962
Location: Western and Blue Island avenues
Architect: T. V. Wadskier
Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1872
Scarcely any other name stood out so prominently in the list of losers by the fire as that of McCormick; and scarcely any is so extensively identified with its restoration. The McCormick losses were not far short of $2,000,000; their expenditures in rebuilding will be even greater than this amount.
The McCormicks are best known in conjunction with their celebrated reaper, which is now in use in almost every country of the civilized world. Their immense factory, on the north bank of the river, near Rush street, was a mechanical marvel in itself, as its products were wonder of the agricultural world, and the rapidity of their growth was almost as astonishing as their extent. The McCormick factory was established in 1846, and 100 machines were turned out that year. In 1847 the initial production was doubled. In 1848 they manufactured 500, and the last number was trebled in 1849. The next twelve years that product was increased ten fold, the enormous number of `15,000 machines having been placed on the market for 1871, some 700 workers being engaged in their production. The next year’s work would have been greater than this, but for the fact that buildings, machinery, patters, and, in fact every vestige of the establishment except energy and muscle, was resolved into its original elements a year ago. Arrangements were at once made to manufacture machines in temporary quarters, to supply the more urgent demands, and about half as many have been produced as in the year previous. They have now, however, in process of construction, a new factory, or rather a new set of factories, which will enable them manufacture 25,000 machines per annum, more easily than they could turn out 1,500 only thirteen years ago.
McCormick Reaper Works
The new works are located in the new southwest manufacturing district, on 155 acres of ground purchased from S. J. Walker, Esq., and lying on the north bank of the new South Branch of the river, having a dock frontage of 1,320 feet near the intersection of Western and Blue Island avenues, and adjacent to the bridge. The works cover an area of 21 acres, and the buildings will contain six acres of floor-room.
The buildings have a northern frontage if 360 feet, four stories high, and three parallel wings extend back from this to the river. The woodworking department will occupy nine rooms, each 60 by 100 feet. The blacksmith shop is 90 by 100 feet, and 28 feet high. The foundry buildings are 90 by 216 feet, with furnaces and an engine house adjoining. The central building of the factory, 40 by 217 feet, and two stories high, with deep basement, will be used for storing, cleaning castings, grinding cutters, and preparing different parts of the reaper. The engines will be of 300-horse-power, low pressure, built by the Ouyahoga Engine Works, of Cleveland, Ohio, and both boiler and engine house will be strictly fire-proof. Indeed, the utmost care has been taken, in the arrangement of the works, to guard against damage by fire, the whole building being constructed in sections, with interior walls, and double iron doors connecting the departments, while an ample supply of water and steam can be turned on and part in case of emergency. The buildings are well drained, will be lighted with gas made on the premises, and heated by steam apparatus made by the Crane Brothers’ Manufacturing Company. The architects are F. and E. Bauman. The total cost will be about half a million dollars.
The firm has also contracted for the erection of a three-story boarding-house, with thirty rooms and upwards of fifty cottages for their workmen, furnishing pleasant homes, at a cheap rate, to those employed in the works, without long journeys morning and evening.
A large number of first-class buildings are also being erected in or near the business centre of the city by these enterprising men. Among them we may mention the Reaper Block on the site of the old Larmon Block, and the McCormick Building on the site at the corner of Randolph and Dearborn streets, by C. H. McCormick; and a magnificent block at the northwest corner of Lake street and Wabash avenue, by Mr. L. J. McCormick and the heirs of the late W. S. McCormick.
That the preparations made for a largely increased production of the celebrated McCormick reaper are justified, finds sample proof in the past. It has been awarded the first prize at all the great international exhibitions, from the World’s Fair, in London, in 1851, to the Paris Exposition, in 1868; and the last named the grand gold medal was awarded, and an extraordinary distinction conferred on Cyrus H. McCormick, in his nomination, by the Emperor, as Knight of the Legion of Honor. These awards led to their adoption on thousands of farms in England, France, Russia, and other countries, as well as in the United States, where it is universally regarded as the farmer’s friend.
The Land Owner, October, 1872
There are men in every community whose strong will, irresistible and aggressive ability and determined push, carry along hundreds and thousands of their neighbors in the wake of their operations. Every city has such men, and where they are found, the place is prosperous. They are foremost in all public improvements, in the advance guard of science and art, first in politics, church and school. They are never tardy, never quiet. They are looked up to as benefactors, and the mass of the people, with less individuality, content themselves following in their lead. We have many such leading men in Chicago, but among the foremost everybody will place Cyrus H. McCormick, known to the world as the inventor of the Reaper, and himself and brothers (William S. and L.J.) as manufacturers and improvers of the same—and also known since the fire as the largest builders in the city. On many squares of our rebuilt city stand beautiful blocks bearing their names, and the names also of the heirs of the late W. S. McCormick, one of the three McCormick brothers. Many of these buildings were commenced immediately after the fire, and have been carried rapidly to completion. Their massive facades loom along Lake, State, Dearborn, Clark, Kinzie and Washington streets, and Wabash avenue. Cyrus H. McCormick has erected six buildings since the fire, several of them the largest and finest blocks in the city, and will build a number more during the coming year; L. J. McCormick has erected six, and the McCormick heirs have erected four. Twelve of these noble structures are shown in our illustration, besides the Reaper Works, which have been erected by the reaper firm of C. H. McCormick, Brother & Nephews. These facts will strike our readers with wonder, as showing the largest building operation ever carried on by individuals, when the advanced cost of material and the scarcity of work men that have characterized the present season are taken into account. These large operations resemble somewhat those of Hausmann in Paris, but are individual where his were national.
REBUILT CHICAGO—Buildings erected since the fire by Hon. Cyrus H. McCormick, Leander J. McCormick, and the heirs of the W. S. McCormick, now being constructed in the new southwest manufacturing district.1
THE GREAT REAPER WORKS.
The central portion of our illustration shows a birdseye view of the Reaper works, now being erected in the new south, west manufacturing district, on twenty-one acres of land, being a portion of the one hundred and fifty-five acres purchased of S. J. Walker, Esq. These works, when completed, will be enormous in extent and capacity for turning out the Reaper, which has made the name McCormick known throughout the world. The works cover an area of twenty-one acres on the south branch of the Chicago river, near the intersection of Blue Island and Western avenues, the latter thoroughfare having a bridge across the river near the grounds. An idea of their extent will be had from the fact there are six acres of floor room.
The grounds have a river frontage of 1,320 feet, and a dock, costing upwards of $20,000 has been constructed along the entire length. The group of buildings, as seen in the engraving, has a northern frontage of 360 feet, with three parallel wings extending back 300 feet in length, towards the river, from the shipping in which the supply of raw material is furnished and easily handled.
These acres of buildings have been designed with great care, and when completed will be perfectly adapted in every part to the manufacturing of the McCormick Reaper and Mower. The wood working department will occupy nine rooms, each 60×100 feet. The blacksmith shops, will be in the northeast corner of the group of buildings, 90×100 feet, 28 feet high to the ceiling, above which are two stories, the floors of which are even in height with the third and fourth floors of the machine shop. South of the blacksmith shops will be the foundry buildings, 90×216 feet, with furnaces and an engine house adjoining. The central building of the factory, 40×217 feet, two stories high, with deep basement, will be used for storing, cleaning castings, grinding cutters, and preparing the different parts of the reaper. The main engine house can be seen in the picture with its stack reaching 150 feet into the air. The engine placed here will be 300 horse power, low pressure, furnished by the Cuyahoga Engine Works, of Cleveland, O. Both boiler and engine house will be strictly fire-proof, and fitted with all late improvements. The water supply will be ample. The utmost care has been taken to guard against fire. To this end a 12-inch pipe has been laid from the river to a well under the floor of the engine room, while an artesian well will be bored for grinding purposes, etc., in addition to which a four-inch pipe is being connected with the city main to obtain a further supply from the tunnel works. There will be six different upright water pipes, reaching through all stories, with perfect facilities for attaching hose. A fire pump with 10-inch cylinders will be placed in the engine room, which will throw water from the well beneath through these pipes and connecting hose to every part of the building. This feature of the factory has received the closest attention of Leander J. McCormick, who has charge of the building operations of the firm. The entire building is constructed in sections, with interior walls, so that fire can be arrested and controlled within separate compartments. No engineer in building fortifications ever defended his different points more carefully than these have been. Water has not been relied upon. Running parallel to the pipes mentioned above are steam pipes, by means of which every room can be almost instantly filled with steam in the event of fire. With the heavy walls, and double iron doors dividing the departments, it seems impossible for this establishment to ever suffer materially from fire.
A most perfect system of sewerage has been provided, independent in itself, draining the grounds, cellars and water closets most perfectly. Gas pipes and burners are placed throughout the buildings, and it is intended to erect near the river, either for these works alone, or in co-operation with the others manufacturers, a gas house for their exclusive use. The buildings are all to be leased by The Crane Bros. Manufacturing Co. The plans for these grand works are by Messrs. F. & E. Baumann, who, together, with the Messrs. McCormick, have worked out a most perfect design in every minute detail. When completed, the cost will be about half a million dollars.
The McCormicks do not stop when their workshops, forges and furnaces are done, and their huge engines put in place. They watch with zealous care the welfare of their workmen. In this instance they have erected a three-story building house on their grounds, with thirty rooms, two story cottages for mechanics and one-story cottages for workmen, with other tenements, upwards of fifty in number, each comfortable and pleasant for homes.
THE McCORMICK REAPER AND MOWER.
Having thus spoken of these works, it will be of interest to say something of the machine itself, which has won such golden opinions, and made the fortunes of its manufacturers.
In 1846 100 of these machines were made in Chicago, 200 in 1847, 500 in 1848, 1,500 in 1849. This number gradually increased each year, until the capacity of the old works was over-taxed in meeting the demand—15,000 having been put into the market of 1871. The Chicago fire, however, swept away every vestige of the works, machinery and patterns; but by almost superhuman efforts enough machines were made in temporary quarters to hold their trade, and now these enterprising gentlemen enter its new quarters, described above, with a capacity to make 25,000 machines more easily than they made 1,500 some years since.
THE McCORMICK BUILDINGS.
Our space will not admit of a detailed description of the several buildings erected by the McCormicks since the fire, twelve of which, besides the Reaper Works, are shown in the engraving. Suffice to say that the McCormicks never put up anything but first-class and elegant structures. The Reaper block, an office building, being erected on the site of the old Larmon block, at the northeast corner of Clark and Washington streets, and the McCormick building at the southeast corner of Randolph and Dearborn streets, by Cyrus H. McCormick, are two of the most magnificent edifices in the city, as is the also the block, at the northwest corner of Lake street and Wabash avenue, erected by L. J. McCormick, and the heirs of W. S. McCormick. Where men build so largely and so uniformly well as the McCormicks do, the public can look upon their movements but with interest, and feel glad that we have such men among us.
McCormick Reaper Works of Today (1897)
Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1902
Since its invention the importance of the reaping machine, has been recognized by the world. During the years of the early development of the reaper, ,the Honorable William H. Seward said “It moved the line of civilization westward thirty miles every year.”
In every grain and grass growing country Chicago is known as the home of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co.,.whose plant, an illustration of which, is presented herewith, is the largest in the world devoted to the manufacture of harvesting machines and binder twine. The works comprise a large number of buildings, varying in length up to 1,400 feet, and in height-up to six stories. The buildings, together with the yards and sheds, embrace an area of 150 acres of great industrial activity. Some idea of the magnitude of this immense plant can be gathered from the fact that upward of 130,000 tons, or 260,000,000 pounds, of pig iron and steel are consumed yearly in the construction of McCormick machines. To assemble the machines 80,000,000 bolts are required for a years output, and six hundred miles of canvas are used annually in the manufacture of machines for harvesting small grain. In manufacturing sickles and knives for the binders and mowers 28,000,000 sections are used annually. The foundry for casting gray iron Is the largest in existence, and a good idea of its immense capacity may be had when it is stated that 400 tons of gray iron castings have been turned out in one day. In the construction of machines 35,000,000 feet of lumber is used each year, while 20,000,000 feet. is required for crating purposes alone.
Several thousand men are employed by the company, but while a great amount of manual labor is required, many of the shops are equipped with machines that make machines, or parts of machines, and so marvelous is their accuracy and manner of action that they almost seem to possess human instinct. The output in finished product amounts to three machines a minute. Such Is the marvelous rapidity with which McCormick machines are now manufactured to meet the demand of the agriculturiSts of the world.
It is no unusual occurrence for 100 cars to be required in handling the outgoing freight during a day, the average weight or car load or machines being 27,220 pounds. To facilitate the handling or this freight seven locomotives, three steam, two electric, and two air, are required in and about the works. To drive the machinery or this enormous plant requires engines of many thousand horse power, consuming thousands of tons of coal annually.
The output of the McCormick works includes binders, reapers, headers, header-binders, rice binders, mowers, corn binders, corn shockers, huskers, and shredders, hay rakes, knife grinders and binder twine, including the manufacture of duplicate parts of all machines sufficient to keep the company’s large number of foreign and domestic branch houses well stocked with repairs, so that the farmer may be accommodated in obtaining extras when they are needed.
An interesting branch of the McCormick works is the mills devoted to the manufacture of binder twine. With the recent additions the number of spindles has been increased to by the company, it is needless to say that every machine manufactured is made of the best materials procurable and by the most skillful workmen, after patterns designed to produce the highest possible efficiency.
Still further evidence of the world wide range of the McCormick business is furnished by the fact that more than 2,000,000 catalogues, translated into every modern tongue, are distributed each year, and that a large force of salaried salesmen represent the company in the markets of the world. The number of selling agents in America alone is 15,000, while upward of 1,500 represent the company in various foreign countries.
The growth of the company’s business is by no means confined to the United States, for McCormick machines may be seen in every civilized country. Heavy shipments have recently been made to foreign ports, the steamer Othello, which sailed from Philadelphia, alone carrying more than 10,000 tons of freight, and of this vast cargo 9,000 tons was made up of McCormick machines. This was the largest single shipment of harvesting machines that has ever been forwarded from this counttry to a foreign port by one firm. Following the Othello additional large shipments were made by the steamers Alecto, Castello, Seriphos, Cecilia, Georgia and Minos.
The pre-eminence of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. in the implement and machine industry is due to long and practical experience, coupled with the ambition to create and manufacture the most modern and most perfect harvesting machines; and the phenomenal growth of the company has not been surprising to those familiar with the great agricultural development of the world during the last half of the nineteenth century.
At every international exposition, beginning with the first held in London in 1851, McCormick machines have been exhibited and awarded the highest honors, thus emphasizing the popular indorsement given the McCormick by the world’s agriculturists.
This great industry, the largest of its kind, was established in 1831 when Cyrus H. McCormick designed and invented the first successful reaper in a small blacksmith shop at Steel’s Tavern, Virginia. This first machine as used in the harvest of that year. A few years later, with the aid of his father and brothers, Leander J. and William S. McCormick, he began the manufacture of machines at Walnut Grove, Virginia. fifty machines being made in the year 1842-3. The first consignment to the west was made in 1844 by team and canal to Richmond, Va., via steamer to New Orleans and river boat to Cincinnati. In 1847 the plant was removed to Chicago, and while the early development of the reaping machine met with great discouragement. the results of persistent effort for improvement are clearly seen in the great manufacturing establishment of this company and in the world wide popularity of McCormick machines.
The business of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co., which was established in 1831 and moved to Chicago in 1847, was incorporated in 1879.
The present officers of the company are:
CYRUS H. McCORMICK, President.
HAROLD F. McCORMICK, Vice President.
sons of the late Cyrus H. McCormick.
Chicago Tribune, August 14, 1902
Details of the formation, operating plans, scope, and purposes of the International Harvester company were made public yesterday and include the immediate absorption of five of the largest harvesting machine and agricultural concerns in the country, including the two great enterprises in Chicago. When the merger of these huge manufacturing plants is completed it is anticipated that the combination will reach out after the smaller concerns and ultimately invade Canada.
The headquarters of the combined company will be in Chicago.
As announced with the filing of the articles of incorporation at Trenton, N.J., on Tuesday, the capitalization of the corporation is $120,000,000 common stock in shares of $100 each. The company is said to be capitalized upon an exceptionally conservative basis. Of its assets $80,000,000 are in cash working capital. The company will require no financing and there will be no offer of its stock to the public, all the cash required having been provided by its stockholders.
Companies Involved in Merger.
The International company is a merger of the following agricultural implement companies:
- McCormick Harvesting Machine company.
Deering Harvester company.
Plano Harvesting company.
Warder, Bushnell & Glessner company (Champion).
Milwaukee Harvesting company.
The officers of the company are:
- President—Cyrus H. McCormick.
Chairman of executive committee—Charles Deering.
Chairman of Finance committee—George W. Perkins.
Vice presidents—Harold F. McCormick, James Deering, William H. Jones, and John J. Glessner.
Secretary and treasurer—Richard F. Howe.
The directorate comprise the following financiers an business men: Cyrus Bentley, Paul D. Cravath, William Deering, Charles Deering, James Deering, E. H. gary, John J. Glessner, Richard F. Howe, Abram M. Hyatt, William H. Jones, Cyrus H. McCormick, Harold F. McCormick, Stanlet McCormick, Eldridge M. Fowler, George W. Perkins, Norman B. Ream, Charles Steele, and Leslie D. Ward.
Four Who Are “Outsiders.”
The four largest companies not included in the consolidation are D. M. Osbourne & Co. of Auburn, N.Y.; Johnstone Harvester company of Batavia, N.Y.; Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine company of Hoosick Falls, N. Y.; and Adriance, Platt & Co. of Pougkeepsie, N. Y.
According to the articles of incorporation of the new company if two-thirds of the stockholders vote an increase of stock such increase shall be common stock, and the original stock will at once become 6 per cent cumulative preferred. This provision was made to prevent additional stock being put ahead of the original stock.
Make 700,000 Machines a Year.
The annual output of the five plants in the combine approximates over 700,000 machines. They employ fully 20,000 men. The annual output of the McCormick company exceeds 300,000 machines, the Deering company places in the market annually 250,000, the Champion company over 75,000, the Plano company 50,000 and the Milwaukee Harvesting company 40,000. One of the first of the outside concerns which it is declared will be taken into the combine is the Aultman-Miller company of Aakron, O., manufacturers of the Buckeye mower and reaper.
Five Dominant Harvester Market.
Although the merger includes at present only five companies its capitalization is nearly to the capital of the total number of agricultural machinery and implement manufacturing companies in the United States. There are in all 715 companies in the United States with a total capitalization of $157,707,951, but all but a few of these are small, local concerns. The McCormick Harvester Machinery company was founded in 1847 by Cyrus H. McCormick, father of the president if the combine. The plant covers seventy-five acres of ground. The Plano company was established in 1893 by Marsh, Steward & Co. for the manufacture of the Marsh harvester. In 1870 the company became the Gammon & Deering Co., which continued until 1879, when William Deering left the company , and coming to Chicago, founded the Deering company. The Deering company is located on the north branch of the Chicago river.
McCormick’s Harvesting Machine Company
Robinson Fire Map
1876 & 1880 McCormick Catalog Covers.
1882 & 1887 McCormick Catalog Covers.
1904 McCormick Division Catalog
International Harvester Company of America
Chicago Tribune, April 19, 1959
International Harvester company will discontinue production of farm implements at its McCormick works at Blue Island and Western avenues over the next three years, Mark V. Keeler, vice president of the company’s farm equipment group, announced Friday.
A number of trends in agriculture and the farm equipment market, plus the age and condition of the plant buildings, prompted the decision, Keeler said.
Work to Be Shifted.
Production of most of the items made at the plant will be transferred to other Harvester factories at Canton and East Moline, Ill., and Memphis, starting this summer. Production of malleable iron castings will be shifted to Waukesha, Wis.
Under present plans, however, he said, some foundry operations will go on after farm implement production stops and will require about 500 employes.
Currently there are 3,800 persons employed at the works.
The company said that 470 employes who qualify by reason of age will be retired on pensions and the remaining eligible employes will receive weekly supplemental unemployment benefits and separation pay totaling more than 4 million dollars.
Not affected by the McCormick works cutback, said a spokesman, is the company’s crawler tractor works.
To Raze 43 Buildings.
Forty-three of the 53 buildings on the 104 acre site will be torn down eventually, said Keeler. Ten with a combined floor area of 412,612 will be retained. Seventy-six acres of the 104 will be offered for sale.2
Implements made at the works include corn and cotton planters, seeder, fertilizer distributors, field harvesters, harrows of various types, potato planters, and rotary hoes.
Keeler said the decreasing number of American farms has resulted in Harvester Having more implement capacity than is needed now or in the future. At the same time the average size of farms has grown, creating a need for larger implements. Buildings at the McCormick works are not suited to production of these bigger units, he said.
Left With No Choice.
“We regret the necessity for taking this action, but the changing nature of the farm implement business and the physical problems of McCormick works leave us no choice,: he said.
Construction of the McCormick works began in 1872 after the great Chicago fire of 1871 destroyed the company’s first plant just south of where Tribune Tower now stands.
1 The illustration pictured was scanned from a fragile copy of the October, 1872 issue of The Land Owner held at the Newberry Library. The page had folds and missing parts when it was encased in a archival binder.
2 The last of the McCormick Works buildings began being torn down on October 26, 1961, to make way for new industrial sites. These last buildings were made of concrete and work finished around April, 1962.