John H. Manny's contribution to the development of harvesting machinery, 1848-1856
Borden, Robert H.
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For many centuries grain was harvested by hand, using only the sickle, scythe, or cradle. This was an adequate method as long as each farmer produced only his own subsistence. As cities developed and fewer people lived on farms, it became necessary for farmers to produce more and more grain. Each year it became increasingly difficult to harvest all of the grain which had been raised, and men began searching for a better method. Out of this necessity the reaper was born and continued to be improved. At different times and places, many men developed reapers, and some began producing them to sell to farmers on a large scale. The history of the John H. Manny Company is a story which involves more than just another small reaper company in a relatively unknown town, for the Manny firm was at one time the leading competitor of the McCormick Company. Pells Manny and his son, John H. Manny, first produced a "header" or “stripper" at their shop in Waddams's Grove, Illinois; this machine harvested the heads only and left the stalks standing in the field. As that invention was difficult to market, they changed over to building reapers similar to McCormick's and others which were being produced at that time. In some ways their machine was superior to its competitors, as shown by the many "field trials" it won in competition with its rivals. The most notable of these were held at Geneva, New York, in 1852; at Belvidere, Illinois, in 1854; and at Paris, France, in 1855. Cyrus H. McCormick was concerned about the Manny Company when he noted that it was marketing as many and sometimes more machines each year than his. He sued for patent infringement, and the court trial was held in Cincinnati in 1855. McCormick lost, and he carried his plea to the U. S. Supreme Court, where in 1858 he lost again. In 1856 John H. Manny died, but his work was continued by his partners, Ralph Emerson and Wait Talcott. Through the years the name of the firm changed to Emerson and Talcott, Emerson Manufacturing Co., and finally Emerson-Brantingham Co., and it was one of the largest farm implement concerns in the country. In 1928 it was purchased by J. I. Case, which continues to run the Rockford plant.