University News

Vintage Reaper Donated to Western

February 26, 2007

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MACOMB, IL -- Western Illinois University truly reaps what it sows.

In this case, the WIU agriculture department is reaping the benefits of a 1981 agriculture graduate's connections, in the form of a vintage McCormick International USA reaper. According to William Bailey, department chair, alumnus John Sargeant, who is McCormick International's vice president, worked with his company to donate the 1860-1870-era reaper to Western.

The reaper, which started the agriculture mechanization process, was on display alongside modern farm equipment at the recent WIU Farm Expo. The reaper has been transferred for display at the Western Illinois Museum as part of the permanent ag machinery exhibit.

"The historic farm implement virtually ignited the spark of agricultural mechanization that continues to burn throughout our industry – and our world – today," Sargeant said. "We felt it would be fitting to find a good home, such as a university or a museum, for this truly iconic piece of American history."

According to Sargeant, with the introduction of the McCormick reaper in the 1830s, daily production on farms using the machinery increased six-fold. McCormick acquired the vintage reaper from a collector in 2001 and has showcased the machine at product introductions, farm shows and other ag-related exhibitions.

In 2006, company officials decided the reaper had served its purpose and they initiated a search to find it a home, which led to Western Illinois University, Sargeant added.

"We were thrilled when John contacted us about donating this important piece of agriculture history," Bailey added. "We are pleased to share the reaper and its history with the community."

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Communications & Marketing