Sunday, April 05, 2009


A reaper is a machine with revolving bars or teeth used for harvesting grains. Prior to its invention, harvesting was done by hand with cutting tools such as the sickle and scythe, or by animal-drawn wheeled boxes mounted with iron-teethed planks. The first recorded English patent for a mechanical reaper was issued to Joseph Boyce in 1799. Although other early reapers were developed using either vibrating knives or revolving cutters, none of these gained widespread use. In the 1830s, two Americans -- Obed Hussey in Ohio and Cyrus McCormick in Virginia -- developed successful mechanical reaping machines. These first horse-drawn inventions cut the standing grain and swept it onto attached platforms. Men walked along next to the machines raking the cut grain into piles. These early reapers saved farmers hours of manual labor and enabled crops to be grown on a much larger scale. McCormick eventually purchased the patent rights to Hussey's cutting bar and began the mass production of his reaper in a Chicago factory. In 1851, his machine became an international sensation when it won a Gold Medal at the London Crystal Palace exposition. He later modified his original design to enable the grain to be cut, raked and bound by the same machine. By the 20th century, the reaper was replaced by a one-man-operated harvesting machine called a combine, which cut, gathered, threshed and sacked grain mechanically. However, it was the invention of the reaper that began the transition from hand farming to the mechanized agricultural industry we know today.