Wikis For Teachers

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Q: Jo Anderson (a slave) and Cyrus McCormick worked to invent the what?
  • A: The reaper


Reaper Hooking
"Reaping Hook" or Sickle
With the sickle or reaping hook one man could cut from one-half to one acre in a hard day's work. The cut grain was later bound by hand.

The Cradle
The cradle was the most efficient means of cutting grain before McCormick's invention of the reaper. The cradle consisted of a broad scythe with a light frame of four wood fingers attached to it. The advantage of the cradle was that by a turn to the left the operator could throw the grain into a swath, ready to be raked and bound into sheaves. This improvement was introduced in America about 1776, according to Professor Brewer of Yale, and was the common instrument of grain harvesting as late as 1840. For cradling grain, two acres was considered a day's work.

The Scythe
The scythe was the companion tool to the reaping hook or sickle. It was always used for mowing grass but sometimes oats and barley were cut with it. It was not generally used for cutting wheat. With the scythe a man could cut up to three acres a day.

The Worlds First Reaper
The first reaper included these essential elements:
Reciprocal knife
Fingers or guards
Revolving reel
Master wheel
Forward draft
This McCormick reaper of 1831 shows the wide master wheel, which carried most of the weight of the machine and, through ground transaction, supplied power to operate the reel and the reciprocal knife. The world's first reaper incorporated seven basic principles (listed above), which have ever since been found essential in virtually all grain-cutting machines.

While this first machine required only 2 people for operation (a person to ride the horse and a man to rake the cut grain from the platform), it cut as much grain in one day as 4-5 men with cradles or 12-16 men with reaping hooks.

McCormick's Patent Reaping And Mowing Machine
The McCormick Patent Reaping and Mowing Machine was manufactured from 1852-1865, with various improvements being incorporated from time to time. This specific machine includes seats for raker and driver and cut a wider swath than McCormick's reaper of 1831.

The Automatic Self-Rake Reaper
The McCormick Automatic Self-Rake Reaper was originally patented in 1858 and was manufactured and sold in large numbers from 1862 until about 1875 (when it was replaced by a more efficient machine bought out by McCormick). The harvester, known as McCormick's "Old Reliable," was a one-man machine which released yet another person to aid in other harvest jobs. Its automatic rake swept cut grain off the platform; depositing the grain in neat gavels on the ground, ready to be bound into bundles by the hand binders.
Here an "Old Reliable" of 1864 deposits neat gavels of grain on the ground to be bound by a crew of 4-5 men.

An "Old Reliable" of 1867 with its automatic sweep arm removed cut grain from the reaper platform. This arm released one more man for other farm jobs.

McCormick Combination Reaper and Mower
The McCormick "Advance" Combination Reaper and Mower. This machine was manufactured and sold by McCormick from 1869-1879. The "Advance," a combined mower and reaper, had an automatic rake as part of the reel. Platform and reel were removable so that the machine could be used as a straight hay mower. This illustration shows the machine for use as a reaper.

The Marsh Type Harvester
The McCormick Marsh Type Harvester, built from 1875-1883, consisted of the same cutting mechanism as McCormick's earlier reapers, with an elevator and binding platform added. Two men rode on the platform, binding grain by hand as it was delivered to the by the elevator. This machine was patented as early as 1858 but was not put into general use until 1875. With the Marsh type harvester, 2 men bound the grain while earlier harvesters had required 4-5 men for binding.

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