"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13Cyrus Hall McCormick Sr., (February 15, 1809 – May 13, 1884) was a believer in Christ who made his greatest contribution to society in the workplace. He was born in 1809 on the McCormick farm in Woodridge, Virginia on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley. Mary Ann Hall and Robert Hall McCormick had three siblings: Leander J. McCormick, William Sanderson McCormick, and Cyrus.
A speaker in a little church in Virginia proclaimed, “I want everyone who is on Christ's side to stand up.” Cyrus McCormick did not stand as his neighbors and members of the congregation stood to their feet. After the meeting, he went home and went to bed. His father entered his room and spoke these words to Cyrus: “Son, don't you know that by being quiet you are rejecting Christ?” Cyrus hadn't considered that possibility when examining his decision not to stand. He went to the home of his close friend Billy McClung. It was well known throughout the community that Bill was a Christian.
“Billy, how can I know Jesus?” he asked his friend. Billy told him to confess his sins to Christ and ask his forgiveness, right the wrongs which he may have done to other people and make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ. On the following Sunday service, Cyrus McCormick stood up in church declaring before the congregation that he had given his life to Jesus.
His father, Robert Hall McCormick valiantly sought to invent a mechanical device through which he could harvest wheat. He worked for sixteen years on a horse-drawn reaper but was unsuccessful. Although his father's attempts to create a reaper failed, his son Cyrus invented a mechanical reaper which succeeded in his endeavor.
"Turn the hogs loose in the grain, Son. Ain't no way we're going to save it now. Might as well at least fatten them on it."This would be the tragic response of his disheartened father as the grain began to spoil.
Reaping wheat was hard tiresome work and he helped his father during the harvest season. Even though the entire family helped with the harvest; the wheat began to turn and go bad. Young Cyrus new that farmers needed machinery equipment which could reap the wheat quickly before it would turn bad.
Throughout the year he investigated the necessary steps to solve the problems which arose experimented with solutions. Cyrus McCormick was twenty-two when he invented the McCormick Reaper. Cyrus 'carried the torch' of his father's project and developed a mechanical reaper in two months.
He first designed a reaper which horses would pull beside it so as not to trample the grain. The McCormick Reaper had a paddle wheel would press the wheat against a cutting knife. Even though the stalks may have fallen, the wheel would lift them up for cutting. The cutting blade of the reaper had teeth like those of a saw blade that would slide in a side to side motion. The blade of his reaper moved in a set of 'fingers' that held the stalks in place as they were cut. He constructed a platform for the cut stalks so that the heads of grain would align in the same direction. The platform would keep its relative position by swinging even in a bumpy wheat field. Field hands would walk beside the reaper to rake off the stalks in order to tie them in bundles. The stalks that were being cut were separated by a flat board from the grain which was left standing. A heavy wheel carried the machine and powered all the movable parts at a constant speed. A smaller wheel supported the cutting knife.
It was successfully demonstrated during tests in 1831 and the McCormick Reaper was patented on June 21, 1834. Although he was issued a patent; it merely give him standing in court. Several people stole his ideas and he fought legal battles concerning his invention throughout his life. He rightly assumed the best course of action was to manufacture a better product at an inexpensive price which was more competitive than other reapers. Cyrus McCormick became an important influential businessman through the development factories and franchises.
A biographer declared that it was impossible to separate Cyrus McCormick's religious life from his business practice for his Christian principles
His favorite passage found in the Bible was the eighth chapter of Romans which promises that nothing can separate Christians from the love of God. What Cyrus McCormick believed and what he did were related; “He was a man of faith and works” and “felt that he was born into the world with certain things to do.”
The thing which Cyrus McCormick sought to do was to combat hunger. Hutchinson, his biographer declared that McCormick “believed that religion was a remedy for all the ill of life.” Cyrus McCormick 'contributed generously to the Church and was instrumental in increasing its influence and membership.”
Cyrus and Leander moved to Chicago and established a large centralized facility to manufacture agricultural farm implements in 1847. In 1849, the two brothers were joined by their third brother William. Savvy innovative business practices resulted in increased sales and as railroads were developed they experienced a wider distribution of their products to more distant markets.
The brothers trained a network of salesmen who were able to demonstrate proficiently the operation of the Reaper in the field.
William H. Seward spoke of the McCormick reaper owning to it “the line of civilization moves westward thirty miles each year.”
Among the most famous advertisements for the company was an epic painting created by Emanuel Leutze.
The slogan was “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way with the McCormick Reapers in the Van.”
He overcame the misfortune of losing his patent fourteen years after inventing the reaper. The loss of his patent opened up competition. He became the inventor and founder of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company which eventually became International Harvester Company in 1902.
When the “Panic of 1837” occurred, he went bankrupt through the failure of banks. He sought to expand his market in 1851 by selling his machine to farmers in Europe.
He received several honors which compensated for the lack of recognition and praise from fellow Americans. In 1856, his factory produced more than four thousand reapers a year and he became world famous. McCormick was elected a corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences for 'having done more for the cause of agriculture than ay other living man.' McCormick helped to introduce mechanization to the agricultural industry. His invention was responsible for harvesting more food to feed a multitude of people throughout the world. There were thirty-six countries throughout the world which produced wheat by using his Reaper. The McCormick Reaper has been described as "the liberator of the land-serf in twenty countries, and the bread-machine of one half of the human race.”
It freed workers for employment in the fledgling Industrial Revolution in America. Unfortunately, it freed men to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. The invention of the McCormick Reaper made farming much more efficient and resulted in a global shift from farm labor to factory work in the metropolitan areas of the world. The McCormick Reaper won the Grand Medal at the Paris exhibition in 1855.
Nancy Fowler McCormick was nicknamed Nettie. Nettie was born on February 8, 1835 in Brownsville, New York. Her father, a merchant who owned a store in town was killed in an accident seven month's after Nettie was born. He was tragically killed in an accident involving a skittish horse. After his unfortunate death, her mother continued to operate the store until she died in 1842 when Nettie was seven years old. Nettie's grandmother Maria Fowler of Clayton, New York raise the little girl and her brother Eldridge.
Nettie was twenty-one years old when she became acquainted with Cyrus McCormick in 1856 while she was visiting some relatives in Chicago, Illinois. Cyrus realized that Nettie was the woman whom he wanted to marry and cherish her throughout his life. There were twenty-five years difference between Nettie and Cyrus but forty-five year old Cyrus was certain that Nettie was the one special woman in his life.
Cyrus worked hard throughout his life and made his fortune through the invention of his reaper. He was forthright with Nettie and declared to his beloved Nettie:
“I do not think there is a man in the world who would strive more to please you than I should do--no one whose disposition and manner would be more under your control and influence than mine as your husband."
Cyrus McCormick married Nancy Maria Fowler (1846-1912) on January 26, 1858. She was twenty-three years old when she chose to marry Cyrus. She gave Cyrus these children:
Cyrus Hall McCormick II (1859-1932) was born in Morristown, New Jersey.
Cyrus Hall McCormick III (1889-1970) was Nettie's grandson through Cyrus Hall McCormick II and would become Chairman of the company.
Mary Virginia McCormick (1861-1941)
Robert McCormick (1863-1910)
Anita McCormick (1866-1954) who married Emmons Blaine (1857-1892).
Alice McCormick (1870-1945)
Harold Fowler McCormick (1872–1941), married Edith Rockefeller. She was the youngest daughter of John D. Rockefeller. Their son, Harold Fowler McCormick, Jr. (1898-1973) was the great uncle of Robert R. McCormick.
Stanley F. McCormick (1874-1947) worked for the company but retired in 1906 at an early age after developing schizophrenia. Katherine, his wife was a suffragette who funded Gregory Pincus's research to develop the first birth control pill.
When her third child Robert died in 1865; Nettie blamed herself and mistakenly felt that God was punishing her for her sin of slothfulness and procrastination. Nettie struggled with feelings that God was dealing harshly with her for she had two more miscarriages and a daughter died in infancy. Two of her remaining five children became afflicted with mental illness.
Nettie earnestly sought to be a good wife and promised that she would “always sympathize with my dear husband. I will support him. I will be his guardian angel. Do as he wishes.”
Nettie was often lonely for Cyrus' business responsibilities took him away from home. She sincerely believed that duty was more honorable than enjoyment and confidentially wrote in her journal “It sounds very easy, but it is not easy to be really good--and always put forth the best effort--to study wise words, to say the right thing in the right place. This is not easy.”
Nettie was a very serious even as a child. She kept a journal of introspection, self examination and soul searching. She wondered if she too would die at a young age having lost both of her parents as a child. She was determined to make her life count for something for life was too short. She was reminded of Jesus Christ's parable of the talents which was a daily reminder to her; “to whom much is given, much will be required.”
As a child, Nettie chose to live her life in the service of God and her the people whom He brought into her life. She didn't believe that the primary goal of her life was pursuing personal happiness.
She wasn't interested in the frivolities of youth and chose to dedicate her life to daily serve her God. Her youth would not be spent not in idleness but in preparing for the business of life. This is an entry in Nettie's diary: "How my bark [boat] hurries down the dark stream of time!"
Nettie enjoyed singing in her church choir and played the melodeon. She became very active in the church thanking God for the opportunity to be in Sunday school which she attended regularly. Nettie felt the suffering which others who were less fortunate than herself experienced. At seventeen years of age, she attended the Troy Female Seminary and wrote to her brother:
"It has been very, very cold here today--Oh my heart bleeds for those who are turned out of house and home this stinging cold night."Nettie had a deep longing to accomplish something wonderful in the service of humanity and thence scorned the fashionable pleasures enjoyed by other women in society.
"Usefulness is the great thing in life--to do something for others leaves a sweeter odor than a life of pleasure."
Nettie McCormick realized the importance of the roles of parenting in the development of a child's life. Since she had been orphaned at the age of seven; she was keen to realize the importance of these roles. She tried to be a good mother to her children and realized they would watch her learning from her example.
She and Cyrus would need to love the Christian lives for their children to see and emulate. As parents, their words and actions would shape the lives of their children.
"Now the clay is soft and the vessel may be molded for honor or dishonor."
Nettie and Cyrus McCormick required obedience from their children believing that disobedience was a flower of evil seed that lies in fallen human nature.
Cyrus McCormick was a staunch believer in Christ committed to fulfill his Lord's Great Commission. He helped D. L. Moody in 1869 by generously providing $10,000 to assist Moody in creating the Chicago Young Men's Christian Association [YMCA].
Tragically, the Chicago factory burned on October 23,1871 in the Great Fire that swept through Chicago.
It was Nettie who insisted that Cyrus rebuild the factory although he considered retiring. She became the inspiration and power behind the man who encouraged Cyrus to maintain supremacy in the manufacture of Reapers. Nettie selected the necessary building materials, consulting with architects and oversaw the construction of the new manufacturing facility. The new factory opened its doors on February 3, 1873 and as Cyrus' health declined; she assumed control over business affairs and their mutual philanthropic ventures.
McCormick donated $100,000 to finance the transfer Hanover Seminary to Chicago. In Chicago, the seminary was renamed McCormick Theological Seminary. His wife Nettie would fund the construction of buildings, furnishings and maintain the necessary repairs of the seminary as well as provide scholarships. Nettie McCormick felt that investing in young men who would preach the gospel was of utmost importance. Nettie and her sons would establish an endowment in 1905 through which the president of the seminary would receive a salary. The McCormick family generously gave a contribution of more than four million dollars to the seminary. Tusculum College of Tennessee was a southern school in the mountains which Cyrus funded. Nettie developed an interest in which she encouraged the development of curriculum to teach domestic science and manual training in schools throughout the south. Furthermore, she assisted in the establishment of Christian churches as well as Sunday schools in the south. Her desire to assist in the training of young people became the door through which she chose to support the work of John Mott as he traveled throughout the world for the Student Volunteer Movement. It was John Mott who proclaimed that Nettie was 'Christianity in action.'
This generous Christian philanthropist gifted with ability in science and technology to innovate utilized his skill to serve his fellow man. He was guided by his Calvinist faith and possessed the character traits of self-denial, sobriety, thriftiness, efficiency, and morality. His talent for high production while maintaining low consumption of resources created a surplus of wealth which he invested for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. At a very early age in his life Cyrus McCormick held the conviction that fighting hunger was a noble task of a Christian.
Cyrus McCormick owned the Herald and Times newspapers of Chicago, Illinois. He wrote numerous editorials in which he called for the North and South to reconcile with each other. He would attempt to explain the viewpoints of both side fairly and objectively. When the Civil War began he visited both sides seeking to be a peace-maker trying to “bring the severed nation back together.' McCormick proposed a peace-plan in which would be established a Board of Arbitration between the two conflicting regions of the country which would examine the causes of the conflict and identify 'a just basis on which both sides could agree to disband their armies and reestablish peace.”
Casson declared that “He actually believed that he could establish peace.” Furthermore, he was a staunch supporter of Church Unity through which he believed would strengthen those persons who worked toward peace in which he called for “mutual forbearance and the pursuit of those things which tend to peace.”
Cyrus McCormick was a pioneer in the concept of an international means by which the production and distribution of food could be controlled in an orderly manner to benefit the hungry and needy.
Cyrus McCormick sought to pass on his faith in Christ to his son before his death in 1884. His son, Cyrus Jr. became the first chairman of Moody Bible Institute. When he died Nettie realized her large fortune was a trust to be used for the Lord's work.
Nettie McCormick's generous philanthropy reached various project and interests. She financially supported an ailing wife of an Italian immigrant pastor. Furthermore, she provided funds for the dental work of a son of a director of college projects. Money was sent to the director of an orphanage in Tennessee enabling him to 'lay down' his work 'for a while and go away from home.”
Nettie generously gave generous financial gifts to educational institutions such as Moody Bible Institute and Princeton. A gift of $25,000 was given to construct the first building of Alborz College in Teheran, Iran. She send a financial gift for a hospital in Siam and for theological education in Korea. Between 1890 and 1923, Nettie McCormick donated $8 million dollars (over $160 million by today's equivalency) to hospitals, disaster and relief agencies, churches, youth activities and educational institutions. Through her gracious generosity, Nettie became the leading benefactress of the Presbyterian Church in America.
"The Glory of My Master" Nettie declared to a close confidant and friend, "Yes, money is power, as you have said, but I have always tried not to trust in it, but rather use it for the glory of my Master."
Nettie McCormick's simple faith in Jesus Christ was her strength and she became the great woman she aspired to become as a young girl.
"We plan--and God steps in with another plan for us, and He is all wise and the most loving friend we have always helping us."Cyrus McCormick died in Chicago in 1884. Tragically, he had been an invalid during the remaining three to four months of his life. His grandson, Cyrus Hall McCormick III inherited the mantle of industrial responsibility.
Tragically the McCormick factories became the site of urban labor strikes which led to the infamous Haymarket Square Riots which occurred in 1886 two years after Cyrus' death. It has been said that the reason for the strike was that the workers were earning only $9 a week.
Eventually, Cyrus McCormick III met J. Pierpoint Morgan and became president of International Harvester Corporation.
The invention of the McCormick reaper had a profound impact upon the world economy. In Cyrus' lifetime, his Reaper was utilized in 36 wheat producing nations with a result of increasing their productivity and in contrast decreasing world hunger. The McCormick Reaper has been described as "the liberator of the land-serf in twenty countries, and the bread machine of one half of the human race.” The positive result of utilizing the McCormick Reaper was a substantial decrease in the cost of bread which enabled more people to purchase basic food stuff.
The introduction of the McCormick Reaper became the introduction of the mechanization of agriculture. He perfected a mechanical farm instrument and established a corporation from the marketing and sale of his machines.
Cyrus McCormick hated hunger and eliminating hunger became his life's work.
“He picked up the task of feeding the hungry masses – the Christly task that had lain unfulfilled for eighteen centuries, and led the way in organizing it into a system of international reciprocity.”
Cyrus McCormick and Abraham Lincoln were both born in 1809 and on farms in the south. They struggled through the youth in adversity and both came to prominence in Illinois. Both Cyrus McCormick and Abraham Lincoln sought to preserve the Union. It was the McCormick Reaper which enabled Abraham Lincoln to feed his army throughout the Civil War. McCormick and Lincoln were both emancipators: one freed us from famine and hunger while the other freed men from slavery. McCormick and Lincoln are both buried in Illinois. These two men would bear heavy tasked and both worked diligently for the common good of mankind.