Agricultural Innovation on an Agricultural Frontier: Wheat in the mid-19th century Rock River Valley

Authors: John Hudson*, Northwestern University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: agriculture innovation, Middle West
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Bourbon Room, Astor, Mezzanine
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The migration of wheat-farming Yankees from New York to northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin in the 1830s led to a massive wheat crop there by the 1840s. Cyrus McCormick invented the reaper in Virginia in the 1830s, but moved to Chicago in 1847 to build the machines. John Henry Manny moved from his native New York to Rockford, Illinois, in 1850 to do the same thing. George Esterly came from New York to Whitewater, Wisconsin in the 1840s where he built a factory to produce the reaper he had invented. Other inventors doing the same included the Marsh brothers from Ontario who manufactured their harvester at DeKalb, Illinois, and John F. Appleby, a New Yorker who invented a twine binder that he manufactured at Beloit, Wisconsin. The business grew more competitive after William Deering, who had come from Maine, purchased the patent for Appleby's twine binder and attached it to the Marsh harvester. Deering's innovation was a resounding success and he moved his business from its original site in Plano, Illinois, to Chicago in 1880 where he built the massive Deering Harvester works along the north branch of the Chicago River. Deering and McCormick, with financial backing from J.P. Morgan, merged their companies to form the giant International Harvester Co. at Chicago in 1902. The wheat crop had left the Rock River Valley by that time and moved to Minnesota and North Dakota, but the farm machinery industry remained in northern Illinois.

Abstract Information

This abstract is already part of a session. View the session here.

To access contact information login