“Virginia Reaper.” (September 29, 1842)


This advertisement for the McCormick Reaper, published September 29, 1842, in the Staunton Spectator and General Advertiser and paid for by Cyrus McCormick, includes testimonies that he solicited from farmers across Virginia. They vouch for its efficacy and their farms’ increased productivity as a result of using it. This is the first instance that the reaper, invented by Robert McCormick and sold by his sons Cyrus and Leander McCormick, was called the “Virginia Reaper.”


The undersigned, from abundant caution, that his “Virginia Reaper” should succeed as represented, as well as from other causes, was not able to get as many of them into use this year as he had expected. Being apprised of the great variety of situations and circumstances in which such a machine must operate, he concluded to await another years’ experience, and additional testimony from different parts of the State, before hazarding a great deal; and he has now the satisfaction of presenting such accounts of the operations of all his Reapers that were in use this year—from some of the most distinguished men and agriculturalists in the State. These it is thought will be satisfactory to the most skeptical, and will show how far his representations of the machine have been realized.

The undersigned deems it only necessary to add, that for some time to come he intends to devote his attention exclusively to introducing his machines into different parts of the country, by establishing agencies, selling rights, (which he now offers for the first time.) or machines, and will continue to have them manufactured in the best manner, on the same terms as heretofore, guaranteeing their proficiency in every respect. If they perform as warranted to do, it will be seen, as stated also by others, that they will clear their price in one year’s use; and, if so, what tolerable Farmer can hesitate to purchase?

As there is likely to be an extensive demand for these Machines, a considerable number having already been engaged, it is desirable that applications for them should be made as soon as may be, that the demand may be supplied. The undersigned expects soon to have a cut and printed description of the Reaper, in detail, which he can forward by mail to persons desiring to know more of it, and which will enable any one to understand its construction properly.

Price of the Reaper $100. It is warranted to cut fifteen Acres per day with ease, without being subject to get out of order. It will cut 50 to 100 Acres without sharpening, and operates well in all sorts of small grain except very short oats, and on any moderately hilly land that is clear of (hard) sprouts, stumps, or large stones, but the latter, if few, may be cut round. It will save a bushel of wheat to the acre that would be lost by ordinary cradling.

Address (post paid) Steele’s Tavern. Augusta county, Va.

C. H. McCormick.

September 29.

From the Southern Planter.

Virginia Reaper.

Big Lick, Roanoke, July 12, 1842.

Messrs Editors—I have been surprised that the “Virginia Reaper,” invented by Cyrus H. McCormick, of Rockbridge, has not received some notice in our agricultural papers. I am satisfied that it is one of the more important implements which has been presented to the agriculturist for many years. I understand it has been patented since 1834, but the patentee, with a most commendable patience and prudence, determined not to hazard the reputation of his invention by supplying the public demand, till he had scrutinized, tested, and perfected it by several years of private experience. After eight or nine years of careful observation, he again appears before the public, prepared to guarantee with confidence the performance of his reaper. I and others embraced the first opportunity of supplying ourselves, and have used them as far as was practicable in our late wheat harvest. So far as I have any knowledge of the opinions of those who purchased them, or of those who have witnessed their performance, there is an unanimous concurrence in the belief that the machine is fully equal to everything said of it in its advertisement.

I have tested it satisfactorily in every grade and condition of wheat; in that which was very light, as well as that which would have yielded, but for the rust, from thirty or forty bushels per acre; in that which was erect and in that was tangled and fallen, and found it to operate, in every instance, with surprising neatness and efficiency, scarcely leaving a head, and but slightly influenced in the number of acres cut in a given time by the condition of the grain. It was found to cut tangled and fallen grain where ever it was not too flat to be reached by the sickle as well as that which was standing. The neatness and completeness with which the crop is saved is scarcely conceivable to one who has not witnessed its work. Those most wedded to the cradle, admit that the reaper will save on an average at least one bushel more to the acre in standing wheat than the best cradling, whilst in tangled grain the saving would be augmented to double, treble, or even quadruple that amount. So that the machine, which costs only an hundred dollars, will pay for itself in cutting an ordinary crop.

The machine too is simple and substantial; of course, not liable to get out of order, and when from casualty deranged or broken, easily rectified or repaired by an ordinary mechanic. It will cut with facility fifteen acres per day, and when pushed, at least twenty. Two hands attend it with ease as rider and raker, relieving each other regularly, and five or six will bind the grain with more ease than they would bind the same quantity of grain after cradlers and rakers, as the machine leaves it straight and in piles large enough for several sheaves. It is fully equal to five choice cradlers, who would require five rakers and five binders to follow them, making fifteen in all. Thus, you see there is a saving of the labor in eight hands in every day’s cutting of the reaper. It performs equally well on rolling and undulating as level land, and by taking steep hills obliquely, so as to graduate the ascent, the difficulty with them will be in a great degree obviated.

I refer you to the advertisement of Mr. McCormick in the Enquirer of October or November 1841, for a minute and satisfactory description of the machine, and would suggest the propriety of your appending it as a note to this letter, for the satisfaction of your readers. I will merely add, in closing this communication, the testimony of a lowland farmer, who has had three of the machines in operation this summer.

Mr. Corbin Braxton, in a transcript with which I have been provided, says, “I have had three of Mr. C. H. McCormick’s Patent Reapers at work this harvest under my immediate observation; one on the farm on which I reside, and two others on farms under my management, and take pleasure in stating, that the operation of all has been fully equal to my expectation; and indeed rather exceeded it, as indeed that of all others who witnessed the operation of the machine. Mr. McCormick’s advertisement is fully sustained. It will certainly cut from fifteen to twenty acres per day, if well attended to, and leaves not a straw that can be brought in contact with the cutter. It has been worked this harvest under every disadvantage which it was possible almost to bring to bear against it, in consequence of the unprecedented weather we have had. It will cut any wheat this is not too low for the reel and teeth to reach it. It does not appear to me to be as liable to get out of order as a common cradle, and I should think it would be very durable. The Reaper has cut all descriptions of wheat, green, ripe, rusted as badly as wheat could have it, lying and standing. And I have no hesitation in saying, that I believe it one of the most important agricultural improvements of the day, and think that every farmer cutting fifty acres of wheat would find it to his advantage to have one. No weather has prevented the Reaper from working, except when the ground was so soft as to mire the wheels.


Corbin Braxton.

Chericoke, June 23, 1842.

I send you this hurried letter in the hope that it will be sufficient to awaken public attention to this important invention of a native citizen, and be the means of introducing speedily an implement which will promote the prosperity of agriculture and at the same time be a source of enrichment to the individual to whose genius and industry we are so much indebted.

Yours, respectfully,

W. M. M. Peyton.

Dear Sir—The Machine you left with me performed to my entire satisfaction. I cut thirty four or five acres of wheat with it, and although it was under the management of my overseer who, as you know, is no mechanic, it never once got out of order. It cuts the grain perfectly clean, leaving scarcely a straw standing. If well attended, it would cut, I think, from fifteen to twenty acres per day. It was seen by many persons whilst it was in operation in my field, and I do not believe that a single individual left the ground who did not think it a valuable agricultural improvement. I am convinced that a farmer who has a large crop to cut, will in one year save the price of a machine in the superior neatness and cleanliness with which the grain is cut.

Respectfull you ob’t. serv’t.

WM. Taylor.

Lexington, July 23, 1842.

Mr. C. H. McCormick:

Sir—I have used the Reaping Machine, I purchased of you, in cutting my crop of grain this year, without any trouble or interruption; and am, therefore, further confirmed in the opinion given in my certificate of its performance last year.

Respectfully yours,

Abraham Smith.

Egypt, Rockingham County,

July 25th, 1842.

Dear Sir—You are aware that each of the subscribers purchased from you this spring, one of your Grain Cutting Machines.

The man who by the efforts of genius or the energy of application, has rendered service to the community, is justly entitled to the distinction which such a result merits. That your name will be associated with those whose mechanical efforts have advanced the interests and promoted the convenience of the agriculturist, we have no doubt. Your Reaper, we have no hesitation in declaring, will redound to your reputation as an inventor of that which will be permanently useful, and (which some would greatly prefer) add much to your pecuniary means. Although we purchased this Reaper rather as an experiment, than from any full assurance we entertained of its capacity to perform what it had been represented as capable of accomplishing, we have been, on a fair trial, fully persuaded, that it will, when well made and properly tried, earn for itself that good opinion, which is not often gained by certificates of recommendation. Your Reaper with six hands to aid, we think, will perform what 4 Cradlers with their eight assistants can accomplish. If this be so, every one can calculate the saving.—But when we remember the inconvenience of obtaining harvest hands, (so many of our laboring class having removed to the West,) your machine is not only a means of saving, but a source of much comfort.—The neat, and clean, and perfect manner, in which the Reaper discharges its duties, and so little does it leave on the field for the four-footed gleaners, that in this respect it excited the admiration of all who saw its wonderful performance. The simple construction of the machine (such as to excite surprise that it had not sooner been discovered.) is not the least of its merits. That your success, with your discovery, may be equal to its merits, is sir the wish of

Yours respectfully,

Robert Gray.

Edward H. Smith.

Harrisonburg, Rockingham County

July 24, 1842

*Perhaps it would be more correct to say, the fair average would be equal to five Cradlers with their assistants.

R. G.

Sept 29

APA Citation:
McCormick, Cyrus. “Virginia Reaper.” (September 29, 1842). (2021, October 28). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
McCormick, Cyrus. "“Virginia Reaper.” (September 29, 1842)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (28 Oct. 2021). Web. 23 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2021, October 28
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