Thursday, February 26, 2009

Westward the course of empire...

The statue of Cyrus McCormick at Washington and Lee faces southeast, actually.

McCormick invented the first mechanical reaper in 1831 - when he wasn't much over 20 - and patented it in 1834. He was born in 1809 not far from Lexington, in northern Rockbridge County. (The family farm is worth a visit.) His father is reported to have worked for many years on a horse-drawn reaper, without success, and then passed his work down to his son.

McCormick left this area in 1839 for Chicago (where he founded a forerunner of International Harvester), but maintained ties here, including to Washington and Lee, to which he was a generous benefactor.

The W&L timeline states that when this statue of McCormick was unveiled in 1931, thousands of spectators turned out for the occasion.

(In the background you see the Lee-Jackson House - left - and Morris House - right - on the W&L campus. At far left is a portion of General Robert E. Lee's house, built for him when he arrived in Lexington after the Civil War. Stay tuned tomorrow for a photo.)

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