Page images

incorporates, in buildings and machinery, a full million of dollars, and gives employment to from six to eight hundred men inside the main building, and to numerous hands outside--which dispenses daily, in wages alone, from one thousand to fifteen hundred dollars; and manufactures, year by year, from seventy-five to one hundred thousand arms.

The result is the fruit of a market for arms, not confined to the United States, but extending over both the Americas--more or less to the Indias, East and West-to Egypt-even to distant Australia---to remote Asiatic tribes assembled at the great Fairs of Novgorood, and over Europe generally, but especially to England. Here the arms of Colonel Colt, first introduced in splendid style through the World's Fair, were warmly welcomed, and led to the speedy establishment in London of an extensive årmory for their manufacture, and to their rapid adoption into the British army and naval service,

“In whatever aspect the different observers viewed the American repeat ers,” says an account of the impression they made at the Crystal Palace, " all agreed that perfection had been reached in the art of destruction. None were more astonished than the English, to find themselves so far surpassed in an art which they had studied and practiced for centuries, by a nation whose existence was within the memory of man, and whose greatest triumphs had been in the paths of peaceful industry. Lord Wellington was found often in the American department, pointing out the great advantage of these repeaters to other officers and his friends, and the different scientific as well as popular journals of the country united in one common tribute of praise to the ingenuity and genius of Colonel Colt. The Institute of Civil Engineers, one of the most highly scientific and practical Boards of its kind in the world, invited Colonel Colt to read a paper before its members upon the subject of these arms, and two of its meetings were occupied in hearing him, and in discussing the merits of his invention.” He was the first American inventor who was ever thus complimented by this celebrated Institute, and he received at its hands, for his highly able and interesting paper, the award of a gold medal and a life membership.

In addition to his presence before the Institute, Colonel Colt--in high compliment to his experience and skill, appeared, also, upon special invitation, before a Select Committee on Small Arms of the British Parliamentand there gave testimony which was gladly received, and deemed of superior practical value. His own statements were amply corroborated at the time, before the same committee, by British officers, and others, who had visited his armory in America, and especially by J. Nasmith, the inventor of the celebrated steam hammer--who, in reply to the inquiry what effect his visit to Colt's manufactory had upon his mind, answered—“It produced a very impressive effect, such as I shall never forget. The first impression was to humble me very considerably. I was in a manner introduced to such a skillful extension of what I knew to be correct principles, but extended in so masterly and wholesale a manner, as made me feel that we were very far behind in carrying out what we know to be good principles. What struck me at Colonel Colt's was, that the acquaintance with correct principles had been carried out in a bold, ingenious way, and they had been

[ocr errors]

pushed to their full extent; and the result was the attainment of perfection and economy such as I had never met with before.

All tests and examinations to which the repeating arms were subjected in England were highly in their favor. Emphatically they spoke for themselves. The enormous power, nay, the invincibility of British troops armed with them, was demonstrated. “The revolver manufactured by Colonel Colt,” said the Dover Telegraph, a public journal, expressing the best and almost universal opinion of England upon the arm, “is a weapon that cannot be improved upon. It will, we unhesitatingly predict, prove a panacea for the ills we have so unhappily encountered in the Southern hemisphere. The Caffre hordes will bitterly "rue the day on which the first terrific discharge is poured upon their sable masses. And so--å panacea--the revolver did prove, both with the Caffrè hordes, and with the Scandinavian, upon the bloody plains of the Crimea. The marvelous extension of its use within a few years, in Europe, and over parts of Asia--the establishment by the British Government of an armory of its own; at Enfield, for its manuture-the establishment of another by the Russian Government at Tula for the same manufacture—the call upon Colonel Colt, aided in part by some other American establishments, to provide all the important machinery for these new armories--these fạcts, and hosts of testimonials from all parts of the world, and from the high'est sources, attest the unrivaled excellence of the repeating arms of Colonel Colt, and ránk him among the most remarkable inventors of the world.

But it is not only in the department of arms that Colonel Colts mechanical genius has displayed itself

. He also invented an apparatus for blowing up vessels, and for coast and harbor: defense; which, in his own hands signally successful, and for a time experimented upon under the patronage and at the expense of the American General Government, will yet, we cannot but believe, be adopted as a system, and, to a great extent, take the place of forts and bastions, and Paixhay guns, for maritime defense. Aside from this, to him, belongs the rare honor of first suċeeeding in transmitting telegraphic communications under water, bị an insulated wire, as spoken of more fully in the preceding sketch of Professor Morse.

CYRUS H. M'CORMICK, THE INVENTOR OF THE REA:PING MACHINE. Inventive talent, as applied to the first great want of nian, the production of food, is as yet in its early infancy. In no department of human industry are the triumphs of inventors to be more signally displayed than in this; and although the decree that man bý the sweat of his brow shall earn his bread, will never be removed ; : yet the benefits which he is to derive through the aid of machinery, in the plantin 26 crops, and in the application of science to the processes of agriculture, are to effect a revolution of the magnitude of which we can now have no conception. The day is fast waning in which the success of the farmer is considered as guaranteed simply by the exercise of plodding industry. Agri. culture is rapidly taking its true position as the noblest of all vocatiors, requiring for its successful prosecution the highest faculties of the intellect, and yielding, too, the best of all rewards, vigorous health, independence, and the absence of those temptations which are the curse of the competi

tive avocations of a city life. All honor, then, to those laborers in science and invention, who are doing so much to elevate the condition of the agriculturist, and to cause the earth to yield more abundantly the riches of nature, for the sustenance and comfort of man.

Among the inventions of our countrymen, in aid of agriculture, the reaper of Cyrus H. M'Cormick stands at the head of the list, as a labor-saving machine, and as having brought honor to the American name, by the ingenuity displayed in its construction. The inventor is a Virginian by birth a native of the county of Rockbridge, which is in the heart of the State, and in that part known as the Valley of Virginia, long famous for the generous crops which bless the labors of the husbandman. He commenced his career as an inventor about the year 1830, his mind having been given that bent at an early age by his father, Robert M'Cormick, a highly respectable farmer, of excellent mechanical genius, who had himself patented several machines, and experimented upon a reaping machine as early as 1816, and again in 1831. The trial of this machine of the elder M'Cormick in 1831, which was measurably successful in strait, untangled grain, satisfied him that it would not answer any valuable purpose for ordinary harvest operations, and he accordingly abandoned it.

His son Cyrus, however, had even then been employing his mind upon the subject; for during this same harvest, he had actually succeeded in inventing and putting in operation 'a machine containing most of the leading features in his present reaper,' but wholly different from the plan of that invented by the elder M'Cormick. It operated quite well in cutting a portion of a late crop of oats on the farm of Mr. John Steele, which adjoined that of his father. The circumstances of this trial, and a description of the machine, were published in the spring of 1834, in the Mechanic's Magazine, of E. K. Minor, of New York.

Aside from this, Mr. M'Cormick was at that period occupied with the invention of two plows, one of which, called a " hill-side plow," was patented in June, 1831, and the other, designated as a “self-sharpening, hori. zontal plow,” was patented in November, 1833. These were both designed for horizontal plowing, and were ingeniously arranged ; and the last named, is said to be the most simple and effective of its kind. It has not been extensively introduced, for the reason that the reaper became of so much greater importance, as to conşume the time and attention of the inventor, to the neglect of the other; and on the expiration of the patent, he failed in obtaining a renewal by congress. Mr. M'Cormick's first patent for his reaper, was obtained in June, 1834. Several years elapsed before he had it sufficiently perfected to be fully satisfied to offer it to the public extensively upon his own responsibility, which he deemed the proper way to introduce it. This lapse of time was owing to the very limited period given in each year-the harvest season--for experimenting upon it, ar.d making the improvements which experience suggested.

In the year 1841, he first advertised his reaper in the public prints of Virginia, on a full guarantee of its performance. In this original advertisement, he says that, “ Having satisfied himself that, after several years of labor and attention in improving and completing his invention, he had triumphantly succeeded in effecting his object with as much perfection as

the principle admits of, or is now desirable; performing all that would be expected, viz: the cutting of all kinds of small grain, in almost all the various situations in which it may be found, whether on level or moderately-hilly lands, whether long or short, heavy or light, straight, tangled, or leaning, in the best possible manner, by a machine operated by horsepower, with little friction or strain upon any of its parts, and without complication, and, therefore not subject to get out of order, but strong and durable—that operates with great saving of labor and grain.

Soon after the advertisement of Mr. M'Cormick, and subsequent to the harvest of 1842, numerous testimonials, to the great value of the invention, were published in the papers of the State. One of these, from Mr. W. M. Peyton, an eminent agriculturist, we insert for its full description of its advantages as a labor-saving machine.

“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 to forty bushels per acre; in that which was erect, and in that which 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, wherever 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 more bushel to the acre in standing wheat than the best cradling, while in tangled grain the saving would be augmented double, treble, or even quadruple that; amount. So that the machine, which costs only a hundred dollars, will pay for itself in cutting an ordinary crop.

“ The machine, too, is simple and substantial; of course, not liable 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 strait, 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 of eight hands in every day's cutting of the reaper. It performs equally well on rolling and undulating as on level land, and by taking steep hills obliquely, so as to graduate the ascent, the difficulty with them will in a great degree be obviated."

Another prominent Virginia farmer, General Corbin Braxton, also testified: " It has been worked this harvest under almost every disadvantage which it was possible to bring to bear against it, in consequence of the unprecedented weather we have had. It will cut any wheat that 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 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."

From this time the reaper went into public use, gaining favor regularly as it became more widely known, until the year 1845, when a second patent was granted for improvements in the cutting apparatus, and in the method of dividing and separating the grain to be cut, from that to be left on the field for the next swath. In 1847, Mr. M'Cormick obtained a third patent, for the improvement of so arranging his machine as to be able to carry the man upon it, whose duty. it was to discharge the cut grain from the platform of the machine on the ground, out of the track of the horses, in passing the next time.

With these patented improvements, together with such others as suggested themselves from year to year in perfecting the details, “M’Cormick’s Reaper?? has been steadily winning its way into favor, and holding its position of superiority over all others. Its first trial with a competitor, was with Hussey's Reaper, at Richmond, Virginia, in the harvest of 1943, when there was no other machine of the kind known in the world. It was a signal triumph for: M'Cormick’s Reaper. But the event which more than anything else served to give it a wide reputation, was the honor it won at the “World's Fair,” in London, in 1851. When first seen at the exhibition of the Crystal Palace, it was the great butt of ridicule of the English press. The London Timės sneered at it as a curious affair, resembling "a cross between an Astley chariot, a tread-mill, and a flying-machine." When the English people had an opportunity of witnessing its working powers in a field of grain; their sneers were changed to cheers, and there appeared almost no bounds to the enthusiasm with which they alluded to it. The London Times said it was the most valuable article on exhibition from any country, and was of sufficient value to compensate for the whole expense of the World's Fair. In fact its triumph was the first and most important event of the exhibition in retrieving the reputation of our country, from the ridicule which the meagerness of our contributions had called forth, compared with the rich, elegant, and large display of fine goods and gew-gaws of other countries. Its success on this occasion resulted in the award to Mr. M'Cormick of "The Great Council Medal,” which was the highest class premium granted, and which was given to no other single agricultural implement at the exhibition.

No less signal was the triumph of M'Cormick’s Reaper at the Great Industrial Exhibition of all Nations, at Paris, in 1855. It was there brought in competition with the American machines of Hussey and Manny--that of Bell's, of Scotland, with one or two others of French production. To it, then, as a combined reaper and mower, upon the most thorough test of its powers made in the field, in cutting wheat, oats, and grass, was awarded the only “Grand Medal of Honor” given to any single agricultural implement on exhibition. The Hon. Wm. Elliott, Commissioner of the State of South Carolina, who was present, in his report to the governor of that State, says: " I had the pleasure of witnessing the trial of M'Cormick's machine, and second triumph in the field of Trappes, where model implements, selected

« PreviousContinue »