In 1831 Cyrus Hall McCormick, the son of a farmer, demonstrated a reaper he had devised to a sceptical gathering of his father's friends near Steele's Tavern, Virginia. It was to prove to be the first practical reaper in the world, and the beginning of mechanised farming methods. No longer would it be necessary to employ nineteen men on a farm to feed one man in town, and the significance of the invention was recognised in Britain when, in 1851, McCormick took his reaper to the Crystal Palace Exhibition where it won the Council Gold Medal, the show's highest award.
Within five years, the larger organisation's foreign business doubled and, in 1906, the year International Harvester announced its first internal-combustion .tractor, a subsidiary was incorporated in Britain. In 1909, International Harvester was producing one third of all American tractors, and trading had been established with particular effect in Western and Central Europe, Russia, South America and Australia.
International Harvester's Farmall
Development and expansion continued through 1912 and with the outbreak of World War 1; tractor production more than doubled. Of greater significance, however, was International Harvester's development of tractors, influenced by car design, and suited to small-farm use. The first major product from International Harvester was the Titan 10-20 and 15-30 tractor, but the first really successful all-purpose tractor was International Harvester's Farmall, which appeared in 1922 and revolutionised ideas on what a farm tractor should be -narrow front wheels to run between row crops, high rear-wheel drive for good clearance under the back axle, and implement mountings front and rear.
Although the detail design and sophistication have changed over the years, the Farmall established the basic design of the small farm tractor which has never really changed. It represented, too, the final demise of the horse for general farm work. About this time, International Harvester also pioneered the power take-off to eliminate the need for ground-wheel drive. By 1934, power take-off was being built into just about every tractor on the market, and farm machinery was being redesigned to make use of this important development.
International Harvester introduced the first one-plough Farmall tractor, the F-12, in 1933, and smaller and less expensive versions appeared in the years just before and after World War 2. While playing a leading role in farm equipment development, International Harvester had not neglected more general transport and, recognising the farmer's, need for transportation, had commenced truck production in 1907 of the Auto Buggy, a high wheeled chassis designed to look as much like a horse-drawn buggy as possible, and powered by a twin-cylinder air-cooled engine.
The International Harvester Auto Buggy
The Auto Buggy was produced at the Akron Works, where, in 1910 and 1911, the company made a brief excursion into car manufacture. About 1500 roadsters and touring cars, both equipped with four-cylinder engines-and the first overhead chain-driven camshafts in automotive history were produced before it was decided to revert to truck production as being more in keeping with International Harvester's total farm-orientated function.
The design of the International truck gradually moved away from the high-wheeled concept with conventional lines, and found themselves meeting a stronger demand from urban users than from farmers. Demand soon outstripped the capacity of the Akron Works, and by 1925 International Harvester had become America's largest manufacturer of a complete range of trucks with a modern new factory at Fort Wayne, Indiana. From that time, International Harvester departed from the idea of producing cars and concentrated mainly on trucks, although retaining a profitable farming division.
In automotive terms, International Harvesteris best remembered as a maker of relativelysuccessful and innovative “light” lineof vehicles, competing directly against theBig 3. The most common were pickup trucks, the “Scout” models. The Scout started outas a small “Jeep” style 2 door SUV, then in 1972 came the Scout II, and from1974 onward “Dana 44” axles, power steering and power disk brakes became standard. The Scout Traveler and Terra were released in 1975, they being longer than a standard Scout II. International Harvester would abandon sales of passenger vehicles in 1980 to concentrate on commercial trucks and school buses.