Cyrus Hall McCormick was born on February 15, 1809, in Rockbridge County, Virginia. Although he had little formal education, he was strongly influenced by his father who fruitlessly tried to perfect a mechanical reaper. In 1831, the son succeeded in building such a device.
However, it was only in 1834 that he obtained a patent, when faced with the threat of competing inventors. Understandably, McCormick kept his reaper off the market for several more years, in order to make improvements in the mechanism; and even when he did introduce it to the market, he concentrated production in only one plant in Chicago.
When the patent finally expired in 1848, he was again faced with many rivals. Nevertheless, he managed to improve, and then maintain, his market position.
Traveling around the world, he vigorously promoted and demonstrated his product. A showing at the Crystal Palace exhibition in London (1851) proved to be especially helpful in raising sales.
In addition to his many business interests throughout the country, he was especially active in the Democratic party in Illinois. He also was very interested in the Presbyterian church throughout the rest of his life, and made many contributions to it. McCormick died in Chicago on May 13, 1884.