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1831 McCormick Reaper


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I have some pictures that I took of a Reaper in a local museum. The sign says "1831" but what I am after is anybody that will have more information on this Reaper. I know the chances of it being a real 1831 are next to impossible so doing some research I found some information on the Wisconsin Historical website about a promotional video McCormick produced in the 1930's about their first reapers. They apparently used replica reaper in the video. Now do you guys think this could be one of the replicas or really an 1800's original? The drive wheel has quite a bit of wear looking like it was actually used and the wood definately looks old but if they made it in the 1930's it would look in tough shape also.

It would be great if a collector out there had more information on this I would be really interested to know more about this piece of history and see if it is original or not.

Also is there any originals out there?


Kent McMakin

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If you do a Google search on McCormick reapers, there is quite a lot of info out there. There have also been several replicas of McCormicks first reaper that have been constructed also. One at Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska and another in a Virginia museum. That one sure does look old though. Pretty neat.


I would think the Wisconsin Historical society to be a reliable source of information. They say that Cyrus McCormick built and demonstrated the reaper in 1831, but didn't get the patent until 1834. I searched Google patents and found it in the link below.

1834 reaper original patent:


1847 patent improvements:


Wisconsin Historical society information on Cyrus McCormick:


If that reaper in the pictures is the original prototype that he made in 1831, it would be a priceless antique and should be in a museum! To get the item verified as "the" original, you would probably need some provenance like documentation from the McCormick family saying that is was the original. Sometimes you can match details in a photo to get provenance on an antique, but Daguerreotypes weren't created until 1837 so no photos of the original demonstrated in 1831 would exist.

Cool pictures! Thanks for sharing!


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Thanks for the info so far. I have done alot of reading and google searching for info on these but have found little really good factual information on the reapers and if there is any confirmed originals of this early style.

Would be really great to find some info on what makes a replica different from originals apart from about 90-100 years. I cant really find a good photo of an original 1830-1850's reaper most likely due to cameras not being available till the late 1830's.

Also it is already in a large museum where anybody can see it during the summer. So it is not going anywhere. I personally think it is probably one of the replica's built in the 1930's but you just never know.
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One Millionth Post
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One thing you need to not overlook is that they probably built them in this configuration probably til the civil war era and it could very possibly be a production unit from that time frame that survived intact. I would think that most all the early company records from that period were lost when the works were destroyed in the great Chicago fire so any real documentation is nonexsitent. One would need to backtrack the past history of this particular unit thru previous owners to try and confirm it's true history if possible, one must also rember that not all museum info cards are necessiarly the whole story. F.J.W.

Bob Ronning

In Memory Of
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I have a model of the 1831 Reaper bulit in 1931 by IHC. my number is 122 how many did they make, and how many are still around?




I believe 250 of these models were made in 1931, the were shipped to
major dealers of IHC all over the world.
I have one myself which I found in France, it is fairly complete but is
missing the text underneath the platform.
Could you help me with the complete orginal text?
I can't read it from the photo.

Thanks for reading.

Louis Beunder
IHC collector
The Netherlands.


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I saw one of these not long ago at the Clark County Museum in Macquokata Iowa. There is a big poster that is a reproduction of a really neat article that was published in Grit newspaper.
I have a copy of the article - I could post it here - I think it was from the 1970s.


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Well, it was almost a year ago I mentioned the IHC Replica of the So-called 1831 McCormick reaper here.
The one I saw was in Maquoketa Iowa.
At the PAMA - Paulson Ag Museum of Argyle - (near Rockford IL) we have what we had called a Manny Reaper.
Some say J.H. Manny invented the reaper.
The one we have is an Emerson Talcott Barnes Economist Reaper, made in Rockford before 1886
It is properly referred to as a self-raking reaper.
I saw a youtube video of someone actually operating a self-raking reaper on facebook a couple days ago.
This is not the Manny reaper, or the Barnes, but a similar device.
It's really interesting to see one of these gadgets in operation.

here's the youtube video of the self-raking reaper:

I was confused about the self-raking reaper, and the various other reapers that came before and after, and wanted to read up on the various steps and various inventors and manufacturers involved.

I am almost finished with the 11th and most informative book of all those I have read.
And, I feel qualified to make a comment about whether the 1931 "replica" Reapers that are presented as authentic copies of the McCormick 1831 reaper, are actually faithful replicas of a reaper that was built and demonstrated by Cyrus McCormick in 1831.

The reapers that were built by IHC in 1931 do not look like the 1831 McCormick reaper because there was no 1831 McCormick reaper.
The assertion that Cyrus McCormick built and demonstrated a successful reaper in 1831 is a fiction.

Cyrus McCormick was one of several people who were BUILDING reapers in the late 1800s, and around the turn of the century the McCormick Deering company started on a huge effort to create the false history that Cyrus McCormick invented the Reaper.
If you Google the question "who invented the reaper" It says Cyrus McCormick but it's not true.
There were about 120 or more people that invented each of the numerous little mechanisms that, together, make up the Reaper.
Cyrus McCormick's dad may have been a contributor.
I think Cyrus McCormick had a brother who was involved at some point.

I think the International Harvester company invested millions in public relations to create the false knowledge that Cyrus was the inventor.

I think Charles Deere did something similar; creating the false knowledge that John Deere single-handedly invented the prairie plow.
Conventional wisdom is that John Deere was the inventor of the plow.
I don't think that's true either.
John Deere was a blacksmith, a manufacturer, and a business owner, and he had an important role in innovating a better plowshare and production methods, but it is at least an over-simplification to give him sole credit for inventing the plow.

At best an over-simplification; at worst an outright prevarication.

They say who-ever wins the war wrights the history.
Some descendants of Confederate veterans feel the history of the Civil War (Or the War of northern aggression) is false.

Similarly, you can't argue this; International and John Deere are the two companies that won the war.
In 1911 - 1916, there were more than 200 companies trying to invent the best tractor.
John Deere and International Harvester were probably the most successful.

So John Deere and IHC wrote the history.
I don't blame them.
It is nice to say "we invented this" if you want to sell a thing.
But as an amateur historian I now feel confident to say it is completely untrue that Cyrus McCormick invented the Reaper in 1831. (Or ever).

I wonder if I'll be erased by Google or YouTube or Microsoft for saying this out loud?
Probably safest to ONLY say this here on Smokstak.

There are other people who know this.
My favorite is a guy named Steward who wrote a book about it in 1931.
A close second is a guy that I have been very fortunate to know, who lives very close to me.
Kent McMakin recommended the Steward book.
It was hard to find but I got a copy.

One of the funny things about Reapers is, I think they were really invented in England in the early 1800s.
But in England they were afraid of technology; it would take jobs away from peasants.
So anyone that tried to invent something like this would get burned at the stake and accused of witchcraft. (not necessarily in that order).

But in the US, especially after slavery was abolished, we KNEW we needed to invent machines to make man's lot in life better.
We had a system in this country that encouraged smart people to work hard to invent gadgets that improved the lives of others.

I fear that system has disappeared.
I hope I am wrong.
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