German efficiency gets its results by impressing women as cultivators--depressing bent figures that are in themselves a sufficient criticism upon any civilization. America gets its results by using a minimum of human labor and letting machinery do the work. Thus America's methods are superior not only from the standpoint of economics but of social progress. All nations, including Germany, use our machinery, but none to the extent that prevails on the North American Continent.
Perhaps McCormick's greatest achievement is that his machine has banished famine wherever it is extensively used, at least in peace times. Before the reaper appeared existence, even in the United States, was primarily a primitive struggle for bread. The greatest service of the harvester has been that it has freed the world--unless it is a world distracted by disintegrating war--from a constant anxiety concerning its food supply. The hundreds of thousands of binders, active in the fields of every country, have made it certain that humankind shall not want for its daily bread. When McCormick exhibited his harvester at the London Exposition of 1851, the London Times ridiculed it as "a cross between an Astley chariot, a wheel barrow, and a flying machine." Yet this same grotesque object, widely used in Canada, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, and India, becomes an engine that really holds the British Empire together.
For the forty years succeeding the Civil War the manufacture of harvesting machinery was a business in which many engaged, but in which few survived. The wildest competition ruthlessly destroyed all but half a dozen powerful firms. Cyrus McCormick died in 1884, but his sons proved worthy successors; the McCormick factory still headed the list, manufacturing, in 1900, one-third of all the self-binders used in the world. The William Deering Company came next and then D. M. Osborne, J. J. Glessner, and W. H. Jones, established factories that made existence exceedingly uncomfortable for the pioneers. Whatever one may think of the motives which caused so many combinations in the early years of the twentieth century, there is no question that irresistible economic forces compelled these great harvester companies to get together. Quick profits in the shape of watered stock had nothing to do with the formation of the International Harvester Company. All the men who controlled these enterprises were individualists, with a natural loathing for trusts, combinations, and pools. They wished for nothing better than to continue fighting the Spartan battle that had made existence such an exciting pastime for more than half a century. But the simple fact was that these several concerns were destroying one another; it was a question of joining hands, ending the competition that was eating so deeply into their financial resources, or reducing the whole business to chaos. When Mr. George W. Perkins, of J. P. Morgan and Company, first attempted to combine these great companies, the antagonisms which had been accumulated in many years of warfare constantly threatened to defeat his end. He early discovered that the only way to bring these men together was to keep them apart. The usual way of creating such combinations is to collect the representative leaders, place them around a table, and persuade them to talk the thing over. Such an amicable situation, however, was impossible in the present instance. Even when the four big men--McCormick, Deering, Glessner, and Jones--were finally brought for the final treaty of peace to J. P. Morgan's office, Mr. Perkins had to station them in four separate rooms and flit from one to another arranging terms. Had these four men been brought face to face, the Harvester Company would probably never have been formed.
Having once signed their names, however, these once antagonistic interests had little difficulty in forming a strong combination. The company thus brought together manufactured 85 per cent of all the farm machinery used in this country. It owned its own coal-fields and iron mines and its own forests, and it produces most of the implements used by 10,000,000 farmers.