Obed Hussey - Who, of All Inventors, Made Bread Cheap
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Being a true record of his life and struggles to introduce his greatest invention, the reaper, and its success, as gathered from pamphlets published heretofore by some of his friends and associates, and reprinted in this volume, together with some additional facts and testimonials from other sources.





Every step in the progress of modern achievement has been met with strong resistance and hostile contest. There is in business an actual firing line where continuous conflict wages, and so fierce does the struggle become that it requires a certain class of men possessing qualities, not only of energy and perseverance, but of tenacity and combativeness, aggressive and determined to fight to the last ditch for commercial supremacy. Such men do not always rely upon the merits of their cause, nor do they stop to question the justice or injustice of their methods. They have but one goal, commercial supremacy, and every effort is bent and every man and method utilized to attain that end.

Men of inventive genius are rarely of that type. They are more often unassuming and averse to anything like a personal combat. Such a man was Obed Hussey, inventor of the reaper. Honest and conscientious, enured to hard and unremitting toil, with the inspiration of a new idea for the benefit of mankind burning in his brain, he applied himself in the face of immense difficulties to the production and perfection of the great gift which he gave to the world. He was a man at once so humble and so broad in his kindness, so loyal to his Quaker ideals of righteousness and justice, that he offered no protests, or arguments against his rivals and opponents other than the superiority of his own machine. Only his great genius which produced the superior machine (a fact which no one could possibly contradict) could have saved him from the fierce opposition of his more powerful rivals. One has only to read from some of his own letters reproduced in this narrative, to witness the fairness of his attitude, or to gain a knowledge of his scruples.

Yet it was just this which has operated to deprive Obed Hussey of his well deserved fame as inventor of the reaper. Moreover, a great industry, fostered by his opponents in the patent controversy, has grown up, the basis and life of which is Obed Hussey's invention of the reaper. It would seem that the vast fortunes made from this industry should be ample reward for those who are receiving the benefits of a man's life work without whose genius it would never have been.

In 1897 there was published in Chicago a booklet entitled "A Brief Narrative of the Invention of Reaping Machines," a large part of which is reproduced in this book. The pamphlets of which the narrative was a republication were from the pen of Edward Stabler, an able man and a mechanic of great skill and ability, a close friend of Mr. Hussey and one familiar with his reaper and with all the facts which he set forth in these articles. Such other facts and information as are published herein were furnished by Martha Hussey, daughter of Mr. Hussey, now living and by my uncle, Hon. Alexander B. Lamberton, who married Mr. Hussey's widow. Mr. Lamberton is a man of high standing, having for many years taken an active part in the affairs of Rochester. He was President of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, 1901-1904 (three successive terms), and has been President of the Rochester Park Board for the past eleven years. He also won national fame as a hunter and naturalist and was President of the National Association for the Protection of Fish and Game. His relation to the Hussey family has made him conversant with the whole history of the invention of the reaper and of Mr. Hussey's early struggles.

The facts as set forth in this volume are well known to the reaper men of the United States, men high up in the industry. Had Mr. Hussey lived, he would have been able to establish his claim to the invention of the reaper beyond the shadow of a doubt. This humble man, who, against tremendous odds and powerful opposition, proved his contentions before Congress and the United States Patent Office could certainly have won deserved fame with the public.

His tragic death, which came just at the time when his Congressional victory was certain and the future of his reaper seemed bright with promise, occurred while he was en route from Boston to Portland, Maine, on August 4, 1860. In those days there was often no water in the cars. The train had stopped at a station when a little child asked for a drink of water and Mr. Hussey stepped out to get it for her. On his return, as he attempted to re-enter, the cars started; he was thrown beneath the wheels and instantly killed. The last act of his life was one of kindness and compassion.

Obed Hussey is dead, but his machine still lives, an article of measureless value to the great world of agriculture. His life was one of long suffering and faithful service and he justly deserves the proper credit and honor for his great invention. To Obed Hussey belongs the fame of Inventor of the Reaper as these pages will show, to which purpose these facts are published by those who knew him and his works, and these facts, like his works, stand squarely on their own merits.

FOLLETT L. GREENO. Rochester, N. Y., April 21, 1912.


[Sidenote: A Natural Inventor]

Obed Hussey was of Quaker stock, born in Maine in 1792 and early removed to Nantucket, Mass. When young, like all Nantucket boys, he had a desire to go to sea, and made one or two whaling voyages. He was of quiet and retiring disposition, studious, thoughtful, with a strong bent for studying intricate mechanical contrivances. Little is known of his early life and there is none living who knew him at that time. He was a skillful draftsman and incessant worker at different inventions all his life. He invented a successful steam plow, for which he obtained a medal in the West. He also invented a machine for grinding out hooks and eyes, a mill for grinding corn and cobs, a husking machine run by horse power, the "iron finger bar," a machine for crushing sugar cane, a machine for making artificial ice, and other devices of more or less note.

His chief characteristic seems to have been an extremely sensitive, modest and unassuming personality. It was this reticence which has served to keep him in the background as the inventor of the reaper. He was unwilling to push himself forward, and his claim to distinction has had to rest solely upon the merits of his greatest invention.

Mr. Hussey first began work on his reaper in a room at the factory of Richard B. Chenoweth, a manufacturer of agricultural implements, and the story of those early efforts is told by Sarah A. Chenoweth, a granddaughter of the latter:

[Sidenote: Early Efforts]

"As a child, it seemed that I had always known Mr. Hussey. I saw him every day of my life, for he lived in a room, the use of which my grandfather, Richard B. Chenoweth, a manufacturer of agricultural implements in Baltimore City, had given him at his factory. No grown person was allowed to enter, for in this room he spent most of his time making patterns for the perfecting of his reaper. I, unforbidden, was his constant visitor, and asked him numberless questions, one of which, I remember, was why he washed and dried his dishes with shavings. His reply was characteristic of himself, 'Shavings are clean.'

[Sidenote: First Trial]

"At this time I was about seven years of age, having been born in 1824. Although very poor at the time, he was a man of education, upright and honorable, and so very gentle in both speech and manner that I never knew fear or awe of him. I do not know for a certainty how long he remained there,—several years, at the least, I think, but of his connection with the reaper, I am positive, for it was talked of morning, noon and night. To this day, my brother bears on his finger a scar, made by receiving a cut from one of the teeth of the machine. When, finally, the model was completed, it was brought out into the yard of the factory for trial. This trial was made on a board, drilled with holes, and stuck full of rye straws. I helped to put those very straws in place. Mr. Hussey, with repressed excitement, stood watching, and when he saw the perfect success of his invention, he hastened to his room too moved and agitated to speak. This scene is vividly impressed on my mind, as is also a remark made by a workman, that Mr. Hussey did not wish us to see the tears in his eyes."

The story of Mr. Hussey's efforts at that time is also told by a brother of the little granddaughter:

"Chicago, Nov. 25, 1893.

"Clark Lane, Esq., "Elkhart, Ind.

"My Dear Sir:—

"I notice in this morning's 'Inter Ocean' your letter of 22nd in regard to the First Reaper and Obed Hussey; now I can say that the name of Obed Hussey called to my mind the best friend of my boyhood days, as he was in the habit of keeping me supplied with pennies when I was short, and taught me how to put iron on a wood sled, and helped me to make my first wagon as he turned the wheel for me. You are right with regard to the date of the fingers and shaped cutters for Reapers, as I saw and handled it, to my sorrow in 1833 or '34 before the machine was finished and nearly cut my fingers off. I have the whole thing photographed in my mind and can show the spot or within 10 feet of it where I lay on the floor. It was not possible to try it in Maryland, owing to the hilly nature of the ground, and was afterwards taken to Ohio for trial and was rebuilt there, or at least a part of it, but of that part (the rebuilding) I do not know for a certainty, but the bars, fingers and knives I do most positively remember, as I was a lad of some eight or nine years old with a mechanical turn of mind and was looking into what seemed strange to me, hence I cut my finger so bad that I carried the scar for a number of years. I very distinctly remember the incomplete reaper made by my old friend, Obed Hussey, as it was made in my grandfather's shop in Baltimore, Maryland, who was at that time the leading plow-maker of the U. S. and that it was made either in 1833 or '34, as I would not have had a chance to see it if later than '34 as I was not at home until '38, when it had been sent, as I was told, to Ohio for trial and some parts had to be rebuilt.

"Please excuse the liberty I have taken in writing to you, but I could not resist the temptation to give my tribute to my old friend, O. Hussey.

"Very respectfully yours,

(Signed) "W. H. CHENOWETH."

The machine referred to was, no doubt, the reaper completed and tested near Cincinnati in the harvest of 1833.

[Sidenote: The First Reaper]

It is not known when Mr. Hussey left the Chenoweth factory, but during the winter of 1832-33 he was at Cincinnati working upon the reaper that, more than else, won him lasting fame during the harvest of 1833. The "Mechanics Magazine" for April, 1834, contains an illustration of "Hussey's Grain Cutter." The picture does not represent the model deposited in the Patent Office with his application, for it differs in many essentials from the drawing of the patent, which, of course, corresponded with the model there filed. It has neither divider nor outer wheel, and the construction of the platform differs from that of his regular machine. It is thought that the picture represents the small working model made at the Chenoweth factory, mentioned by the little girl.

[Sidenote: Financing the First Reaper]

Mr. Hussey found one who took an interest in his invention and became so confident of its value that he provided the necessary funds and mechanical facilities for manufacturing a reaper to be tested in the field. This was Jarvis Reynolds of Cincinnati. Drawings were made of the cutting apparatus and a description of it was sent by the inventor to a friend, Edwin G. Pratt, early in 1833.

[Sidenote: The Reaper Historian]

Another personal friend of Obed Hussey was Edward Stabler, who lived at Sandy Hill, Maryland, and was, as he termed himself, "a farmer and a mechanic." That he was a mechanic of ability is evidenced by government seals which were cut by him, that for the Smithsonian Institute being worthy of mention as an example of his skill. He was a postmaster from President Jackson's time until his own death. He is the only one who may be said to have acted as Hussey's historian, and has left very much valuable information in the form of letters, legal papers, et cetera. In 1854 and '55 he published "A Brief Narrative of the Invention of Reaping Machines," "Hussey's Reaping Machine in England," and "A Review of the Pamphlet of W. N. P. Fitzgerald in Opposition to the Extension of the Patent of Obed Hussey; and also of the Defense, of Evidence in Favor of Said Extention," etc. There is sufficient data obtainable from Mr. Stabler's various publications and material in the Congressional Library to enable one to judge for himself whether the honors placed upon this inventor by the Patent Office, the Courts, by Congress, and by the farmer were earned.

It was at the time Mr. Hussey was residing in Baltimore that he turned his attention to the idea of a reaping machine and spent his leisure hours in working out his model. This satisfied him that the thing was practical, and he undertook an operating machine, which, although lightly made, was fully sufficient to test the great principle. At this time he had no knowledge whether any others had undertaken anything in this direction and there was nothing in his own mechanical occupation which would make him familiar with the subject.

[Sidenote: McCormick Claims Invention]

As the only other claimant for the honor of inventing the reaper was Cyrus H. McCormick, reference is here made to a book entitled "Memorial of Robert McCormick," the father of Cyrus H. McCormick, Leander J. McCormick and William S. McCormick, published by the said Leander J. McCormick in 1885, pages 44 to the bottom of page 51, also pages 58 to 61 inclusive, from which I extract:

[Sidenote: Denial by Members of McCormick Family]

"Now, while we have no disposition to question the merits of the so-called McCormick harvester and binder, which, without doubt, is a good machine,—though the judgment of foreigners as to its value is of no consequence,—we do assert that C. H. McCormick was not entitled to any of the honors showered upon him as its inventor. To be more explicit, he not only did not invent the said machine, nor mechanically assist in the combinations of the inventions of others which produced it, but he never invented or produced any essential elementary part in any reaping or harvesting machine from the first to last. These assertions are broad, but absolutely true. They stand squarely upon the records and the history and state of the art. C. H. McCormick, or any one for him, cannot deny them with proofs, therefore he is not entitled to recognition as the man who 'has done more to elevate agriculture than any man the world has produced,' because of his supposed inventions in this line; but on the contrary, that the development of Western agriculture has elevated him, and that he has more money, and received more honors, 'than any man the world has produced,' by appropriating the brains of others, and the credit due them as inventors, are propositions much more defensible."

[Sidenote: Their Affirmation of Hussey's Claim]

"But the man who is entitled to the most credit, as inventor and pioneer in this business, is Obed Hussey, who, December 31st, 1833, patented the machine (successfully operated in previous harvest, well known and in use since to this day), which combined all the main features—except the reel, which was then an old device—of practical reapers down to the time, at least, when 'harvesters,' so-called, came into the field."

[Sidenote: The First Machine]

The following is also copied from "Memorial of Robert McCormick," published by Leander J. McCormick in 1885:



"Of the Citizens of New York against the renewal of Letters Patent granted to Cyrus H. McCormick, June 21, 1834, for improvements in the Reaping Machine.

"Among the early reaper inventors of this country, Mr. Obed Hussey, now of Baltimore, stood for many years deservedly the most prominent, and he has doubtless by his genius and indefatigable exertions (although in a modest way) contributed more to the advancement of this invention than any other man. He first tested his machine in 1833, and took out a patent for it the 31st of December of that year.

"He first constructed his machine with a reel to gather the grain up to the cutters, and throw it upon the platform; but on trial, with his cutter, he thought it unnecessary and only an incumbrance, and, therefore, threw it aside and has never used it since. The main frame-work containing the gearing was suspended on two wheels about three feet four inches in diameter. The platform was attached to the rear of this frame, and extended out one side of it say six feet. The team was attached to the front end of the frame and traveled at the side of the standing grain as in Randall's machine. The cutting apparatus was pretty much the same as now used in Hussey's machine. The knife is constructed of steel plates, riveted to a flat bar of iron. These plates are three inches broad at the end where they are riveted to the bar, and four and a half inches long, projecting in front, and tapering nearly to a point, forming what is described as a saw with very coarse teeth, which are sharp on both edges. This cutter is supported on what he terms guards, which are attached to the front edge of the platform or cutter-bar (as termed by Hussey), one every three inches the whole width of the machine, projecting horizontally in front about six or eight inches. These guards have long slots through them horizontally through which the cutter vibrates, and thus form a support for the grain whilst it is cut, and protect the cutter from liability to injury from large stones and other obstructions. The cutter is attached by means of a pitman rod to a crank, which is put in motion by gearing connecting with one or both of the ground wheels as may be desired, according to circumstances, which gives to the cutter as the machine advances, a quick vibrating motion; and each point of the cutter vibrates from the centre of one guard, through the space between, to the centre of the next, thus cutting equally both ways. As the machine advances, the grain is readily cut, and the butts are carried along with the machine which causes the tops to fall back upon the platform without the aid of the reel. The grain to be cut was separated from that to be left standing by means of a point projecting in front of the cutter, in the form of a wedge, bearing the grain both inwards and outwards, with a board set edgewise upon it, sloping downwards, to a point in front. The grain was raked from the machine by a man riding upon it, in rear of the frame, at the side of the cutter, nearly in range with the guards, with his back towards the team, sometimes at the side and sometimes behind the platform. Soon after this date Mr. Hussey changed the construction of his machine somewhat, used one large ground wheel instead of two, placed the platform alongside the frame, and placed his raker on a seat by the side of the large ground wheel, facing the team, and raked the grain off in rear of the platform.

[Sidenote: The Most Practical]

"This was for many years doubtless the most practical reaping machine known, and, with the improvements that have been made upon it, from time to time, it is now preferred to any other in many wheat growing sections of the country."

[Sidenote: Mr. Hussey's Plea]

The fact and intensity of Mr. Hussey's struggles may, in part, be gathered from his letter to Edward Stabler, dated March 12, 1854:

"Baltimore, March 12, 1854.

"My Esteemed Friend, Edward Stabler:—

"I think the work goes bravely on. I am unable to express my estimation of thy disinterested efforts; I never before experienced anything of the kind; it seems entirely new to me to have any one go out of their way so much, to do so much for me. I am not so much surprised at the progress thee makes considering the man, as I am that any man could be found to do me such a service. I hope thee will not get weary; I am sure thee will not. I hope the Committee will not act so unjustly as to turn their backs on all cases because there is 'rascality' in some; because there is rascality in some cases, why should a just cause suffer? The facts in my case can be easily proved. I made no money during the existence of my patent, or I might say I made less than I would have made if I had held an under-clerk's position in the Patent Office; I would have been better off at the end of the 14 years if I had filled exactly such station as my foreman holds, and got his pay, and would not have had half the hard work, nor a hundredth part of the heart-aching. I never experienced half the fatigue in rowing after a whale in the Pacific Ocean (which I have often done) as I experienced year after year for eighteen years in the harvest field, I might say twenty years, for I worked as hard in England as I do at home, for in the harvest, wherever I am there is no rest for me. If I am guilty of no rascality why should I not be compensated for toiling to introduce an invention which I thought to be of so much advantage to the World. I know I was the first one who successfully accomplished the cutting of grain and grass by machinery. If others tried to do it before me it was not doing it; being the first who ever did it, why should I be obliged to suffer and toil most, and get the least by it? No man knows how much I have suffered in body and mind since 1833, on account of this thing, the first year I operated it in Balto. Three years after I cut the first crop, I could not go to meeting for many weeks for want of a decent coat, while for economy I made my own coffee and eat, slept in my shop, until I had sold machines enough to be able to do better; there was no rascality in all that. My machines then cost me nearly all I got for them when counting moderate wages for my own labour. The Quaker who lent me the ninety dollars ten years afterward would not then (ten years before) trust me for iron, one who was not a Quaker did. There is one thing not generally understood; thou will remember the trial at Lloyd's, thou remembers also that I received the purse of 100 dollars; now what would the world suppose I would do? Why that I would do like the flour holders, keep the price up! But it is a fact and can be proved, that after it was announced to me that the verdict was in my favor I said to a gentleman now I will reduce my price 10 dollars, on each machine, and I did it, from that hour and did not breathe my intention until after that decision was announced to me! Where is the man who has done the like under similar circumstances? There is no 'rascality' in that. Now I do not believe that there is a reaper in the country (which is good for anything) at so low a price as mine, and not one on which so little profit is made.

"I will inclose a pamphlet which I suppose thee has already seen—it may be useful.

"Thy friend,

(Signed) "OBED HUSSEY."

Mr. William N. Whitely, an early inventor and manufacturer of harvesting machinery, who was for many years the king of the reaper business, and who fought the Hussey extension "tooth and nail," on January 8, 1897, wrote to the "Farm Implement News" upon the subject of McCormick's portrait on the silver certificates, then about to be issued, in which he refers also to Mr. Hussey, as follows:

[Sidenote: From the Pen of a Hussey Opponent]

"Editor 'Farm Implement News':

"Having been informed that the bureau of engraving and printing was preparing new $10 silver certificates to be ornamented by the busts of Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin, and C. H. McCormick, 'inventor of the reaper,' I write you to say that it would manifestly be unjust to credit the invention of the reaper to any one man. Mr. McCormick does deserve great credit for his enterprise and business skill in the many years he was engaged in manufacturing harvesting machinery and we are pleased to honor his memory; yet so much has been done in bringing the reaper to its present state of perfection by the many thousands of inventors that our government would make a mistake in singling out Mr. McCormick from the many meritorious ones who have contributed so much to the reaper of the past and of the present day. We well understand that no effort has been spared for many years past in keeping C. H. McCormick before the American people as the inventor of the reaper by his immediate relatives and friends, and we have no right to find fault with such a course upon their part; but when the great government of the United States of America proposes to certify by the above mentioned course to the correctness of the claims made for C. H. McCormick as the inventor of the reaper, to the disparagement of so many other worthy inventors and co-workers upon the reaper, then those who know better should raise their voices against such an attempted recognition for any one man, of whom the best that can be said is that he was only one of the many.

[Sidenote: The Reaper Itself Mr. Hussey's Contribution]

"From 1831 to 1834, and for several years thereafter, two persons, i.e., Obed Hussey and C. H. McCormick, were striving to produce a successful reaping machine for cutting grain and grass, as were many others, before and since. These two men were contemporaneously in the field, and no doubt they both labored faithfully to accomplish the desired result. The invention of Obed Hussey, the features of which were embraced in his first machine in 1832 and 1833, included all the principles of a practical reaper. It was a side draft or side cut machine; that is, the cutting apparatus extended out to one side, the animals drawing the machine moving along by the side of the grain or grass to be cut. It had two driving and supporting wheels, gearing extending rearward with a crank and pitman therefrom to reciprocate the cutters, which were scalloped or projecting blades from a bar and vibrated through slotted guard fingers which held the stalks to be cut. The cutting apparatus was hinged to the side of the frame of the machine to enable it to follow the surface of the ground over which the machine was passing. A platform was supported by an outer and inner wheel. The operator was seated upon the machine and raked the grain into sheaves from the platform as it was cut. Over sixty years have come and gone, yet all the essential features of the first Hussey machine and all Hussey machines made thereafter (which were large numbers) employed substantially these devices. The machine was successful the first time it was completed, and ever after were the Hussey machines successful in harvesting grain and grass. The fundamental principles of all harvesting machinery of the world to-day were furnished by Obed Hussey's invention and patent of 1833; and while very many and valuable improvements have been made thereon for harvesting grain and grass, for which credit should be given to the worthy inventors who followed after Hussey, yet we must not ignore his valuable contribution, 'the reaper.'

"Cyrus H. McCormick's first patent was dated in 1834. This was known as a push machine with a straight cutter, the operator walking by the side of the machine and raking the grain from the platform. Other modifications in after years were made on this machine by Mr. McCormick; and it may be said that the inventive genius of Obed Hussey and the business tact and skill of C. H. McCormick produced and brought into practical use the first successful reaping machine of this or any other country.

[Sidenote: Whose Machine Still Lives?]

"Whatever might have been embodied in the first McCormick machine or in his experiments or machines for the first fifteen years of his efforts, the reaper of the present day does not disclose any principles contained in these early efforts of C. H. McCormick; but that cannot be said of Hussey. All reaping machines of the present day embody substantially all of the vital principles given by Obed Hussey in 1833 and at different periods thereafter. The Patent Office, as well as other sources of information, make good these statements.

"Passing, however, from the early history up to the present time, when the present mowing machines and grain binding machines are seen in operation, and taking into account the thousands of patents that have been issued to American inventors for various features that they have brought out, it would be but simple justice that all be recognized as contributors to the building up of such valuable and important pieces of machinery; and I cannot but repeat that it would be very unjust, unfair and un-American to single out one person, and that one Mr. McCormick, as a representative to be used by the government printing bureau, when it is so well known what he did and what he did not do in the invention of the reaper. It would be a false monument; it would only be respected by persons who are ignorant of the facts.

"If this should succeed, it would not be the first time, as likely it will not be the last time, in the history of mankind where those who did the work were soon forgotten and those who were more fortunate in being held up and prominently kept before the public by their friends or powerful allies received unjustly the credit."

[Sidenote: Early Ventures in Manufacture]

[Sidenote: An Unfortunate Delay]

It will be seen from the foregoing extracts that Mr. Hussey's machines went early into the field in such quantities as he and other little manufacturers throughout the country, some of whom ignored the exclusive rights granted him, could put them out. They were simple, and a few castings were all that was necessary, except lumber, which was plenty in the forests of the East and in the groves of the West, to enable a country wagon maker and blacksmith to put machines into the field. Many of the earlier inventors, who began the manufacture of reapers of their own invention, followed that course and castings were sometimes brought from great distances. Mr. Hussey applied for an extension of his 1833 patent, but, not knowing the exact requirements, his application was offered too late, sixty days before the expiration of the patent being the time allotted. Knowing, we presume, but little about law, and still less about "the rules and regulations of the Patent Office"—for all his time, and constant labor with his own hands, were required in the workshop to earn a bare support,—but being very desirous to obtain an extension of his Patent before it should expire, and also having some personal acquaintance with Commissioner Ellsworth, Hussey's first application was made to him in 1845, a short time previous to his going out of office; certainly not less than twelve months before the expiration. This is proved by the annexed letter:

"La Fayette, Ia., July 3, 1854.

"Dear Sir:—

"Your letter of some weeks since, referring to a conversation I had with you while I was Commissioner of Patents, relative to the extention of your patent for a Reaper, would have been answered earlier, but for absence and extreme pressure of business."

"If my recollection will aid you, I most cheerfully state, that before your patent expired, you consulted me as to the extension of the same. I replied that it was better to postpone an application until near the time the patent would run out, for the Office must estimate the profits of the invention during the whole term; and you accordingly postponed it. I regret you postponed it too long. The publication of thirty days before the patent expired, was a rule as published by myself. If you have lost your opportunity for relief through (the) Patent Office, you must of course go to Congress. I have always regarded your improvement as valuable, and that the country is greatly indebted to your persevering efforts, notwithstanding the obstacles presented.

"Yours respectfully,


"Mr. Obed Hussey, Balto., Md."

Hussey acted on this official advice, and did "postpone an application until near the time the patent would run out"—literally so, for he was not advised of even the "thirty days' rule."

[Sidenote: Why Mr. Hussey's Application Was Late]

When he again applied, and not "until near the time the patent would run out," Edmund Burke was Commissioner of Patents. He states in a letter to Senators Douglas and Shields, under date March 4th, 1850, as follows:

"In relation to the patent of Hussey, if my memory serves me, his patent expired some time within the latter part of December, 1847. During that month, and within some ten or twelve days before the expiration of his patent, he applied to me as Commissioner of Patents for an extension. I informed him, that inasmuch as the act of Congress prescribed the mode in which patents should be extended; required a reasonable notice to be given to the public in sundry newspapers, published in those parts of the country most interested against such extension; and as the board had decided that 'reasonable' notice should be a publication of the application for extension three weeks prior to the day appointed for the hearing, there was not time to give the required notice in his case; and I advised Mr. Hussey not to make his application, and thus lose the fee of $40 required in such cases, as he inevitably would, without the least prospect of succeeding in his application—but to petition Congress for an extension, which body had the power to grant it."

[Sidenote: An Able and Unanswerable Report]

"Washington, 5th Sept., 1854.

"Obed Hussey, Esq., Baltimore:—

"My Dear Sir: I have recently learned, with surprise and indignation, that certain speculating harpies who fill their coffers with the products of other men's brains, and who, in your case, seek to 'reap where they sow not' are basely and unjustly endeavoring to prevent a renewal of your patent for your Reaping and Mowing Machine,' upon the ground [among others] that you and your agents have neglected to press your Claim properly before Congress.

"I have been your Agent from the time the claim was first presented to Congress, and know that the Charge is entirely unfounded.

"The facts according to the best of my recollection and belief, are as follows: Your Claim for a renewal was presented to Congress at the very first Session, after you ascertained that your application to the Commissioner could not be acted upon under the rules of the Patent Office. Every paper and proof necessary to establish your right to a renewal of your patent, under the existing laws, was procured, and promptly placed with your memorial, before Congress. No further proof was required by the Committee on Patents, in the Senate, and your right to a renewal was fully established by an able and unanswerable report of that Committee, accompanied by a bill for a renewal. This report and bill were printed by order of the Senate, and were noticed as a part of the proceedings of Congress, by the press throughout the United States, and every body thus notified of your application.

[Sidenote: Mr. Hussey's Methods]

"From that period to the present time, I do not think there has been a single Congress at which all proper efforts were not made to obtain the action of that Body. Members were not annoyed with indecent importunity; nor were any powerful combinations of interested individuals resorted to, to force your Claim upon the consideration of Congress. This was not in accordance with your taste, or your means. I well remember, however, that you frequently visited this City on that business; and that at almost every session, you either brought or sent to me, to be laid before Congress, some new evidence of the triumph of your great invention. These documents were faithfully laid before that body, or sent to the senators from Maryland for that purpose. On one occasion, as your agent, I addressed a somewhat extended communication to the Senators from Maryland, attempting to show the vast importance of your invention to the Agricultural interests of the United States, and the strong claims you had to a renewal of your patent, and requested them as the Representatives of your State in the Senate, to give their attention and influence to accomplish that end.

"At a subsequent Session, this request was repeated, to one or both of the Senators from that State.

"I can also state with certainty that hardly a Session of Congress has passed since your memorial was first presented, at which prominent and Scientific Agriculturalists, in different parts of the Country, who were acquainted with the merits of your invention, have not used their influence with Members of Congress to obtain a renewal of your patent. Any pretense, therefore, that your Claim has not been duly presented, notified to the public, and urged with all proper care and diligence upon the attention of Congress, I repeat is totally unfounded.

"It will be a stain upon the justice of the Country, if one whom truth and time must rank among its greatest Benefactors, shall be stricken down and permitted to die in indigence by the interested and unworthy efforts thus made to defeat you.

"You are at liberty to use this statement in any manner you may desire.

"Very truly and respectfully,

"Your Ob't Ser'vt,


Although not coming in the natural order of events, I quote from an enclosure found in a letter written to Hon. H. May, evidently a member of Congress. Mr. Hussey having failed to apply for an extension of his 1833 patent early enough, a bill was introduced in Congress with an extension in view. In some correspondence between Mr. Hussey and the Hon. H. May an enclosure is found reading as follows:

[Sidenote: Mr. Hussey's Defense]

"During the examination of my case in the Committee-room on the 21st inst. you asked me a question, and accompanied it with a remark to the effect 'Why could I not raise a company in Baltimore with sufficient capital and make as many machines as Howard & Co. and compete with them on equal ground? The excitement of the occasion disqualified me for giving a full reply to your question and remarks. I was at the time so impressed with the injustice and the great hardship of being compelled to compete with the world for what of right belonged to myself exclusively that I had not the words to express my feelings. Could any gentleman look back twenty-one years and see me combating the prejudices of the farmers, and exerting the most intense labor of body and mind, and continuing to do so from year to year, at the very door of poverty, and also look back on those New York parties through the same period, accumulating wealth by the usual course of business, and perhaps watching my progress, and waiting for the proper moment to step in with their money power and grasp the lion's share of the prize which justly belongs to myself. If they could look back on the circumstances and comprehend the case in all its reality and truth I should have no fear of a just decision by the Committee in the House of Representatives. The Government which can tolerate and uphold such a state of things would appear to me to be a hard Government.

"The end and design of the Patent Laws was to reward the inventor for a valuable invention by giving him the exclusive right to make and vend the article which he had invented and fourteen years was deemed a sufficient time in which to secure that reward. The telegraph was perfect on its first trial. It required no improvement. On the contrary, half the wire was dispensed with. The Government was at the cost of trying the experiment and has since heaped wealth on the inventor. My fourteen years were required in perfecting my invention without any return for time and labor. (The finishing touch to his cutting apparatus is, no doubt here referred to, and shown in his patent of 1847.)

[Sidenote: Mr. Hussey's Protest]

"Public opinion on the subject of valuable inventions is liberal until an obscure individual appears in the community claiming the reward for a valuable invention; the disposition then seems to be to let him shrink into a corner. The world has got the advantage of his labors and has no further use for him; every unreasonable man in the community will at once claim an equal right with the inventor of the device and one not content to urge their claims by misrepresentation but must heap abuses on the poor inventor who they have in a great measure pushed out of their way. The idea that a wise Government, of an enlightened country, can not only look on and suffer such injustice but will actually encourage it by disregarding the prayers of the poor inventor is a mystery to those who build their hopes on the dogma that 'Truth is mighty and will prevail.' I hope the Committee will not pass lightly over my case but duly consider, as I believe they will, to whom the advantages of this invention belongs, whether to me or to the parties in New York. My chief aim in addressing this to you is to endeavor to draw a parallel between myself and the parties in New York, and thereby secure your good opinion in my favor."

[Sidenote: Farmers Using Hussey Reaper]

Edward Stabler, on January 11, 1854, wrote to Hon. Henry May as follows:

"As requested I have examined the petitions of the 450 farmers who advocate the extension of Hussey's patent and from a personal acquaintance or by character with much larger portion in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, and on reliable information of those from New York—234 in number—I am satisfied that they are wheat-growers to an amount of not less than from four to 500,000 bushels annually. * * * They used Hussey's reaper, and some of them three and four, or more of these great labor-saving implements."

Mr. Edward Stabler writes to Henry May, under date March 19, 1854:

"The most that I fear is that Hussey's interests (which all appear willing to admit is a meritorious case) may suffer in the contests that I am satisfied will take place with regard to Moore & Haskell's and McCormick's extensions. I should be greatly pleased, and have stronger hopes if Hussey's case could be acted on promptly and before that contest begins.

"On the ground of its having been so long and so favorably reported on, by the Senate's Committee in '48—six years next May, possibly it could be called up at an earlier date,—the sooner the better, to avoid competition from interested parties, and which I certainly anticipate if long delayed in either House of Congress. Honestly believing the cause just and right, for no fee, however large, could tempt me to advocate what I thought unjust or wrong, I shall persevere as long as there is ground for hope. If we fail I shall have pleasing reflections, doing unto others as you would that they under similar circumstances should do unto you."

Mr. Edward Stabler, on February 5, 1854, wrote to J. A. Pierce, member of one of the Committees, a letter from which the following is extracted:

[Sidenote: Mr. Hussey's Character and Service]

"I will, however, preface my remarks by saying that I have no connection whatever with his business operations nor pecuniary interest in his affairs, but being well acquainted with him I am free to say, that I have known no man on whose word I have placed more implicit reliance, no one more honestly entitled to what he asks for.

"He has faithfully devoted the prime of his life, and no small portion of it either, in the invention and the perfecting of the reaping and mowing machine; and his untiring perseverance has certainly been crowned with success so far as to confer a signal and lasting benefit on his country; but unfortunately he has derived no corresponding advantage for himself, and from no fault on his part.

[Sidenote: Opinion of an Able Mechanic]

[Sidenote: Mr. Stabler's Testimony]

"While C. H. McCormick has literally fattened on the agricultural public by the sale of his inferior and cheaply made machines—for such I do consider them, both from my own observations and the report to me by those who have been induced to purchase them—Hussey has been pirated on from all quarters, and others reaping the reward of his labors. And I perceive by the papers on file, and accompanying the printed report (No. 16) that this same C. H. McCormick has actually petitioned against the renewal of Hussey's patent. It is really a very hard case, that a poor man and one of the most deserving in the community in every sense of the term, should thus fail of a just reward when he has done so much for the benefit of others. * * * Believing as I do that the extension is no more than sheer justice to Obed Hussey,—quite equal in merit to any that has been granted,—as one of the most meritorious in the language of the Committee, I do most earnestly solicit thy kind aid and influence to get it through the Senate. * * * He was then (and still is) a comparatively poor man; without the means from his limited sales to extend his business in a profitable manner or to protect his known and acknowledged rights from the depredations of others. His shops—and I speak from personal knowledge—are for the most part dilapidated sheds—too confined and cramped up to do any part of his work to the best advantage, and from a personal knowledge speaking as a practical machinist of some 25 years experience, I do know that his profits are far less than some other machine makers—not the half of what is usually supposed.

[Sidenote: The Two Machines Compared]

"Take, for example, the machines as usually made by Obed Hussey and C. H. McCormick—for I am familiar with both; owing to the quality of the work, costs of material and arrangement of the mechanism, two of McCormick's can be made by him for little or no more than the cost to Hussey of one of his. Such, too, is the statement on oath of competent men employed by both manufacturers. McCormick's foreman and clerk have sworn (see petition from New York against his extension) that his machines are made for some $35 to $40 each. Any man who will undertake to make and sell Hussey machines as he makes them for much less than double this sum, will soon beg his bread if he depends on his profits to buy it, unless he cheats his hands out of their part."

A postscript is added, which reads:

"I should have made no allusion to C. H. McCormick or to his machines, had he not volunteered by petition to injure his rival—in my opinion a most worthy, reliable and deserving man—and I would add that in my estimation the two machines differ just about as widely as the two men."

We may assume that Mr. Hussey must have begun on his large machine late in 1832, or early in 1833, at latest. During the early part of the harvest of 1833 he was in the field. "The machine was started," Stabler tells us, "but owing to some part giving way, or some slight defect not apparent until then, it at first failed to work satisfactorily. One burly fellow present picked up a reaping cradle and, swinging it with an air of great exultation, exclaimed, 'This is the machine to cut the wheat!'" Another account charges the breakage to a fractious team.

[Sidenote: Mr. Hussey's Triumph]

"After the jeers and merriment of the crowd had somewhat subsided, the inventor remedied the defect, and assisted by the laborers present—the horses having been removed—pulled the machine to the top of an adjacent hill; when, alone, he drew the machine down the hill and through the standing grain, when it cut every head clean in its track. The same machine was directly afterwards exhibited before the Hamilton County Agricultural Society near Carthage, on the 2nd day of July, 1833."

The secretary of the Society wrote an exceedingly favorable report. The group of spectators present at this trial drew up a testimonial that was very favorable indeed. On July 2, 1833, then, we are warranted in saying, the problem that had so long exercised the minds of inventors was solved.

[Sidenote: The Hussey Reaper in the Field]

[Sidenote: Public Tests]

Fortunately Mr. Hussey was not as easily discouraged as many. He, no doubt, felt chagrined that his machine had broken down, but had the pluck then and there to make an effort to close the hooting mouths, and fully succeeded. In 1834 other machines were put out. We learn from the Genesee Farmer, dated December 6, 1834, that Mr. Hussey, the inventor of a machine for harvesting wheat, had left in the village one of his machines for the purpose of giving the farmers an opportunity to test its value. During the harvest of 1834 it was operated in the presence of hundreds of farmers with most satisfactory results. We next find Mr. Hussey at Palmyra, Mo., on July 6, 1835, with two of his machines, at the farm of his old friend, Edwin G. Pratt. The machine "excited much attention, and its performance was highly satisfactory." The results of the trials were published in the "Missouri Courrier" in August or September of 1835. The machines were sold for $150 each. A Mr. Muldrow bought another kind of machine, however, in which the cutting was done by a "whirling wheel" and paid $500 for it. In 1836 Mr. Hussey was in Maryland, at the written solicitation of the Board of Trustees of the Maryland Agricultural Society. The fame of his reaping machines in the state of New York, and the far West, had spread, "though with something like a snail's pace," as new things did two-thirds of a century ago. The machine was operated at Oxford, Talbot County, on the 1st of July, in the presence of the Board and a considerable number of other gentlemen. Its performance was perfect, as it cut every spear of grain, collected it in bunches of the proper size for sheaves and laid it straight and even for the binder. On the 12th of July a public exhibition was made at Easton, under the direction of the Board; several hundred persons, principally farmers, being present. This same machine was sold to Mr. Tench Tilghman, for whom it cut 180 acres of wheat, oats and barley during that season. The report of the Board of Trustees of the Maryland Agricultural Society stated that "three mules of medium size worked in it constantly with as much ease as in a drag harrow. They moved with equal facility in a walk or trot." In 1837 the machines were sold in various parts of the country. One at Hornewood, Md., one at West River, and several others throughout the state. One of the machines sold in 1838 to the St. George's and Appoquinomick Ag. Society cut several hundred acres of grain, up to 1845, and was then in good repair. In all this time the cost for repairs was only 1-1/4c per acre. The popularity of the machine became so pronounced that other inventors were given courage, and those who before had failed were prompted to pick up their work where they had dropped it or begin on newer lines.

[Sidenote: A Hussey-McCormick Contest]

In 1843 we find that Hussey's machine was in a field-contest with one brought in by Cyrus H. McCormick of Rockbridge County, Va. We say brought in, because the claim that it was in fact invented and made by Robert McCormick seems to be quite well founded. (Memorial of Robert McCormick.) The contest took place on the farm of a Mr. Hutchinson, about four miles above the city of Richmond. Mr. Hussey had, for a number of years, been building two sizes of machines, and at the first day's trial was obliged to use a small one because his only large machine within reach was elsewhere occupied. The majority of the self-appointed committee of bystanders reported in favor of McCormick's machine, but Mr. Roane, one of them, who signed very reluctantly, later bought a Hussey machine. A few days after, at Tree Hill, Mr. Hussey was present with his large machine.

In the "American Farmer" was soon after published a letter from Mr. Roane, dated January 23, 1844, to Mr. Hussey, in which, among other things, he says:

[Sidenote: Mr. Roane's Letter]

"Averse as I am to having my name in print on this, or any other occasion, I cannot with propriety decline a response to your inquiry. I had never seen or formed an idea of a reaping machine until I went to Hutchinson's. I was surprised and delighted with the performance of each of them, and fully resolved to own one of them by the next harvest, but their performance that day left me in a state of doubt which I should select. The report spoke in terms of high praise of each machine, and I consented to its award, that on the whole Mr. McCormick's was preferable, merely because being the cheapest, and requiring but two horses, it would best suit the majority of our farmers, who make small crops of wheat on weak land, for I doubted its capacity in heavy grain. After this report was made I heard your complaint that you did not have a fair trial, because being unable to bring into the field your large improved reaper, which was up the river, you were compelled to comply with your engagement for the day, with a small and inferior machine, drawn by an indifferent and untutored team. Mr. Hutchinson's wheat was badly rusted, and therefore light. I had ready for the scythe a low ground field of heavy and well matured grain; partly to expedite my harvest work, and partly to renew the trial, that I might solve my doubts as to the merits of these machines, I succeeded in engaging them to be at Tree Hill on a named day. They both came agreeable to appointment, Mr. McCormick bringing the machine he used at Hutchinson's, and you bringing the one you could not on that occasion bring down the river. The day was fine, and both machines did their best, and had a very fair trial. My doubts were fully removed, and my mind convinced that in the heavy wheat we raise on our river low grounds, rich bottoms, etc. your machine is superior to Mr. McCormick's of which I still think highly. I accordingly ordered one of yours to be made for the approaching harvest.

"I wish you all possible success in cutting hemp in the 'Great West.' It must be very desirable to cut that valuable plant instead of pulling it up by the roots, and I cannot doubt that your reaper has ample power for the purpose." (Records of U.S. Patent Office.)

[Sidenote: Mr. Hussey Not a Business Man]

No one will claim that Mr. Hussey was what may be termed a good business man; like most inventors, his mind was on what he sought to accomplish rather than on the hoarding of wealth. I have already quoted from correspondence that passed between him and his friends, when attempting to get his 1833 patent extended.

An early manufacturer, well known to Mr. Hussey and who paid royalties under Mr. Hussey's patents, writes:

"Mr. Hussey's early machines were made by Jarvis Reynolds of Cincinnati, Ohio," we are informed by Mr. William N. Whitely, who early became familiar with many of the facts, he having opposed Hussey's extension application, "in a shop on the river front, beginning in 1831 or '32. After making that operated in 1833 he built several others during two or three years or more. Some of the early ones were taken to Glendale, Ohio, to the farm of Algernon Foster."

"The first machine taken there had a reel on it, but after using it a short time the reel was laid aside. On the same machine was an extra platform, attached to the rear, so that the raker could deliver the grain to one side. The machines were intended for both reaping and mowing." Mr. Whitely states that he saw two of the machines still on Mr. Foster's farm in 1860, that had been there since, probably, 1835.

"The machines were at first bought by farmers who did cutting for the neighbors and under the circumstances were anxious to prostrate as many acres of grain per day as possible; in order to accomplish this, they applied four horses and moved on a 'jog trot.' So moving the reel was found of little service because the rapidly moving machine caused the severed straws to fall backward on the platform so that the raker had little to do but to remove it, except where it was particularly badly lodged; in such cases he manipulated his rake as it is now used on all reelless reaping machines."

After building the machines for Algernon Foster, Mr. Hussey undertook the manufacture of two or more machines for the harvest of 1835. From a letter received from John Lane, we quote:

[Sidenote: A Contract]

"'Old Judge Foster' was a well known jurist and judge of court in Hamilton County, Ohio, having his country home (a farm) 3-1/2 miles near due east from my father's place of business, and it was he who introduced Obed Hussey to John Lane as being a mechanic who could and would make for him the reaper he was at that time seeking to have made in Cincinnati. Also it was agreed between said Hussey and Foster that when said reaper had been made and tested to their satisfaction in the standing grains, his sons, Algernon and brother (whose name I do not remember) would pay all costs of making said reaper and put the same in use to best of their ability."

I quote from the book entitled "Valley of the Upper Wabash, Indiana," published by Henry Ellsworth in 1838:

"Another material reduction of the expense attending the cultivation of hay and other crops will be found in the use of some of the mowing and reaping machines recently invented.

[Sidenote: Editorial Comment]

"A machine of this description, invented by Mr. Obed Hussey, of Cambridge, Maryland, has of late excited general admiration, from the neatness and rapidity of its execution, and the great amount of labor which its use will save. Its introduction on large farms, of the description we have mentioned, will undoubtedly be followed by remarkable results. These machines, when in good order (and they seldom need repair), can cut from twelve to fifteen acres of grass, and from fifteen to twenty acres of wheat, daily.

"The following letter from John Stonebraker, Esq., of Hagerstown, Maryland, will exhibit his experience in the use of this machine.

"He was induced (as the writer knows from personal communication with him on the subject) to try it from the representations of others, and with many misgivings as to the result. That trial, however, has satisfied him and with him, many of his neighbors, of the great utility of the machine.

"The letter is as follows:

"'Hagerstown, August 15, 1837.

"'Dear Sir: Will you please give this a place in your paper, for the benefit of wheat growers. As the subject is of public interest, it is hoped that other papers will circulate it through the grain growing districts of the country.

[Sidenote: A Hussey Testimonial]

"'I procured a reaping machine this summer of Mr. Hussey, the inventor, which I have used through my wheat harvest. It was in constant use every day, and performed its work to my satisfaction, and far better than I had any expectation of when I first engaged it of Mr. Hussey. When the ground is clear of rocks, loose stones, stumps, etc., and the grain stands well, it cuts it perfectly clear, taking every head; and, if well managed, scatters none, but leaves it in neat heaps ready for binding. When the grain is flat down, the machine will of course pass over it; but if it be leaning, or tangled only, it is cut nearly as well as if standing, excepting when it leans from the machine, and then if the horses are put in a trot it will be very well cut. But in cutting such grain much depends on the expertness of the hand who pushes off the grain, in making clean work and good sheaves. I found the machine capable of going through anything growing on my wheat land, such as weeds and grass, no matter how thick.

"'After my harvest was over, I cut my seed timothy with the same neatness and ease that I did my grain. As respects the durability of the machine, I can say this much for my machine, that not the least thing has given out yet; it appears as strong as a cart, and but little liable to get out of order, if well used. I was advised by Mr. Hussey of the necessity of keeping some of the parts well greased; this I have punctually attended to, and no perceptible wear yet appears, beyond the ordinary wear of any other machinery.

[Sidenote: Durability of the Machine]

"'It is immaterial to the machine whether the speed be a walk, or trot; although a walk will make the most perfect work. My speed was a common walk, but a trot is sometimes necessary to counteract the effect of a strong wind when blowing from behind, in order to incline the grain backwards, on to the platform, to make good bundles. A quick walk is required to make good work in very short and scattering grain. The machine performs well, up or down hill, provided the surface be not too broken. By its compactness and ease of management, rocks, and stumps too high to be cut over, can be easily avoided. Although a rough surface is very objectionable, yet I have cut over very rocky ground with no material difficulty. I can say one thing which to some may appear incredible, but it is not the less true; the cutters of my machine have not been sharpened since I have had it; nor have I yet seen any appearance of a need of it in the quality of its work. How many harvests a machine would cut without sharpening is hard to say. I propose sharpening mine once a year only. I have used two horses at a time in the machine, and sometimes changed at noon; they worked it with ease, the draught being light. I took no account of what I cut in any one day, with this exception: in less than half a day I cut six acres, and was often detained for want of the requisite number of binders, by which much time was lost. My machine being something narrower than those generally made by Mr. Hussey, I could cut but about one acre in going two miles; this, at the moderate gait of two and a half miles per hour, would amount to twelve and a half acres in ten hours; and at four miles per hour, a speed at which the work is done in fine style, the amount would be twenty acres in ten hours. I should judge my quantity per day to range between ten and fifteen acres, yet I am decided in the opinion that I can cut twenty acres in a day, of good grain, on good ground, by the usual diligence of harvest hands, with a little increase of my usual speed, and a change of horses. Two hands are required to work the machine, a man to push off the grain and a boy to drive, besides a number of binders, proportioned to the quantity cut. As the machine can be drawn equally fast in heavy or light grain, the number of binders is necessarily increased in heavy grain, except an additional speed be given in light grain. Under every circumstance, the number of binders will vary from four to ten; and, when the usual care is practiced by the binders, there will be much less waste than in any other method of cutting.

[Sidenote: A Labor-Saving Machine]

"'I speak with more confidence of the merits and capacity of Mr. Hussey's reaping machine, from the circumstance of having pushed the grain off myself for several days, in order to make myself practically and thoroughly acquainted with it, before putting it into the hands of my laboring men. The land in this country being rather rocky and uneven, it is hard to say what may be the ultimate advantage of these machines to our farmers; but from what little experience I have had, I am resolved not to be without one or two of them. I can therefore recommend the machine with confidence, especially to those who have a large proportion of smooth ground in cultivation. It is undoubtedly a labor saving machine, and worthy of their attention.


'Mr. Bell, Editor of the Torch Light.'

"To this testimonial from one of the best and most practical farmers in Maryland could be added many more, should they be needed. Farther improvements on the part of the inventor, during the past year, have much increased the power of the machine; and its adoption, as a valuable agricultural implement, is becoming very general.

[Sidenote: Other Testimonials]

"One of these machines is now in the possession of the writer, which arrived too late for use during the harvest of the present season. From one or two trials, however, and those under the disadvantageous circumstances of arranging a new machine, and the forced selection of a spot little suited for experiment, no doubt remains of the result.

"We add a letter to the inventor from Colonel Tilghmann, who also resides near Hagerstown, Maryland.

"'September 15, 1837.

"'Sir: Your wheat cutting machine was used by me in securing my clover seed. With one man, three boys, and two horses, we cut about twelve acres per day. The operation was in every respect complete. The clover was well cut, and deposited in proper sized heaps, and no raking required, further than to remove the heaps of cut clover from the track of the machine. The whole operation was easily performed by the hands and the horses.

"'In the operation of cutting wheat, I followed the machine for two hours in the field of Mr. John Stonebraker, during the late wheat harvest, and can vouch for the operation in securing his wheat in the manner described in his publication. The late improvements made by you in your machine have added greatly to the beauty and facility of its operation.

'Yours respectfully,


'Mr. Hussey.'

"We add the following notice of this machine, from Messrs. S. and E. P. Le Compte, enterprising farmers, of Cambridge, Maryland, as follows:

"'Cambridge, July 3, 1838.

"'We have employed Mr. Obed Hussey's wheat cutting machine to cut for us about thirty-four acres; the greater part of which was very heavy. We were remarkably well pleased with the performance of said machine, and are of opinion that, with proper management and attention, it will cut twenty acres per day, and save it much better than any other mode of cutting we have ever tried.

"'S. & E. P. LE COMPTE.'

"To which is appended the following postscript:

"'I have been a practical farmer forty years; and am well satisfied, that, on a large farm, this machine will save wheat enough, beyond the scythe and hooks, to pay all the expense of cutting and binding.


I next quoted again from the "Valley of the Upper Wabash, Indiana:"


"Report of the Board of Trustees of 'The Maryland Agricultural Society,' for the Eastern Shore, on the machine for harvesting small grain, invented by Mr. Obed Hussey, of Cincinnati, Ohio.

[Sidenote: Invitation of Agricultural Board]

[Sidenote: How the Reaper Worked]

"The favorable accounts of the operation of this implement in several of the Western States, induced the board to invite Mr. Hussey to bring it to Maryland, and submit it to their inspection. It was accordingly exhibited in Oxford, Talbot county, on the first of July, in presence of the board, and a considerable number of other gentlemen. Its performance may justly be denominated perfect, as it cuts every spear of grain, collects it in bunches of the proper size for sheaves, and lays it straight and even for the binders. On the 12th of July a public exhibition was made at Easton, under the direction of the board; several hundred persons, principally farmers, assembled to witness it, and expressed themselves highly satisfied with the result. At the Trappe, where it was shown by the inventor on the following Saturday, an equal degree of approbation was evinced. It was afterwards used on the farm of Mr. Tench Tilghman, where 180 acres of wheat, oats, and barley were cut with it. Three mules of medium size worked in it constantly, with as much ease as in a drag harrow. They moved with equal facility in a walk or a trot. A concise description of this simple implement will show that it is admirably adapted to the important purpose for which it was invented. Resting on two wheels, which are permanently attached to the machine, and impart the motion to the whole, the main body of the machine is drawn by the horses along the outer edge of the standing grain. As the horses travel outside of the grain, it is neither knocked down or tangled in the slightest degree. Behind the wheels is a platform (supported by a roller or wheel), which projects beyond the side of the machine five feet into the grain. On the front of the edge projecting part of the platform is the cutter. This is composed of twenty-one teeth, resembling large lancet blades, which are placed side by side, and firmly riveted to a rod of iron. A lateral motion is imparted to it by a crank, causing it to vibrate between two rows of iron spikes, which point forward. As the machine advances, the grain is cut and falls backwards on the platform, where it collects in a pile. A man is placed on the part of the platform directly behind the horses, and with a rake of peculiar construction pushes off the grain in separate bunches, each bunch making a sheaf. It may appear to some that the grain will accumulate too rapidly for this man to perform his duty. But, upon considering the difference between the space occupied by the grain when standing, and when lying in a pile after it is cut, it will be evident that the raker has ample time to push off the bunches even in the thickest grain. In thin grain he has to wait until sufficient has collected to form a sheaf.

"The machine is driven around the grain, which may be sown either on a smooth surface or on corn ridges. For the first round a way may be cleared with a cradle; but this is deemed unnecessary, for the grain, when driven over, is left in an inclined position, and by cutting it in the opposite direction as much of it is saved as with a cradle. Fourteen acres in corn lands were cut between 10 A. M. and 7-1/2 P. M. The hands had never worked with the machine before, nor was it a trial day's work; for, owing to the shortness of the straw, the machine was not allowed to cut when passing over the ridges from one side of the ground to the other, and this time was consequently lost. From the principle on which the cutting is performed, a keen edge to the cutter is by no means essential. The toughest weeds, an occasional corn stalk, or a stick of the thickness of a man's little finger, have been frequently cut without at all affecting its operation; it can be sharpened, however, in a few minutes with a file. The width of the swath may be increased by having the cutter made longer, and the same machine will cut a stubble of several different heights.

[Sidenote: Mr. Hussey Awarded Silver Cups]

"There is ample room to make the different parts of any size, though the strength of every part has been fully tested. The machine has been often choked by oyster-shells getting into the cutter, in attempting to cut too low a stubble. The motion of the machinery being checked, the main wheels slide on the ground; the strain on every part being equal to the power exerted by the horses. It can be managed by any intelligent, careful negro. We deem it a simple, strong, and effective machine, and take much pleasure in awarding unanimously the meritorious inventor of it a handsome pair of silver cups.


Mr. Lane goes on to say that one of the machines was taken to La Porte, Indiana, and there put to work. Another was sent to Illinois.

"The turning and fitting for these machines was done at the mill of Henry Rogers, about 500 yards away from the little shop. In the following copy of a recent affidavit sent us, date not given, these last matters are sufficiently substantiated."

Mr. Lane continues:

[Sidenote: The True Inventor]

"Who invented the Reaper? The full, honest answer is that Obed Hussey invented the Reaper.

"Between April and July, 1835, John Lane and Henry Rogers (with Isaac and Clark Lane assisting in the work) at their respective places of business one mile north of Mt. Healthy, Hamilton County, Ohio, made to order of Obed Hussey one Reaping machine for S. F. and Algernon Foster, then of the same County and State. Said Reaper was made to conform to or with drawings and patterns made and furnished by the said Obed Hussey, who also superintended the work of making the machine, and witnessed its trial in the field near the middle of June, 1835, in presence of many farmers, mechanics and others near by where the same was made; and when and where it was delivered to the Messrs. Foster's, who took this same reaper to La Porte County, Indiana, for the reaping season of the same year.

"For the iron and steel work done as aforesaid books in my possession show that fifty-three and 69/100 dollars was paid by Messrs. Fosters, July 6th, 1835, to John Lane and by him receipted for in full, etc., etc.

"The cutting device we then made for this machine evidently was the invention of Obed Hussey; and it was as near exactly the same in all material parts to the cutting device now universally in use, as the hand made sickle could then or now be made. The sections of sickle were forged steel blades V shaped, having serrated or sickle cut edges, and riveted to vibrating bar passing through slotted fingers, substantially riveted to the apron or table upon which the cut grain fell in position to be raked, or 'forked off.'

"This Obed Hussey machine cutting in a good average stand of barley, June, 1835, was light draught for two horses and left as clean and as evenly cut stubble behind it as the best of machines now do the same work. But one fault, if any, with this first reaper was the lack of one or more cogs in the driving wheel that gave motion to the sickle, which required the team to walk a bit too fast for teams of habitual, or slow motion.

(Signed) "CLARK LANE."

[Sidenote: McCormick Late in the Field]

[Sidenote: McCormick's Application Rejected]

Regarding one who became a competitor of Hussey, much can be gathered from the U.S. Patent Office. McCormick, who came comparatively late in the field, when applying for an extension of his patents made many admissions which were afterwards shown to dispute that he had accomplished a successful machine before Mr. Hussey and others. He tells us in his petition and brief to the Commissioner of Patents that he had operated his machine in some late wheat in the harvest of 1831, but that, although he was sometimes flattered, he was often discouraged; that he did not make sales or sell rights because not satisfied that the reaper would succeed well. He was not sufficiently satisfied of its being a "useful" machine to patent the reaper; he tells us that its construction and proportions were imperfect and its cutting apparatus defective on account of liability to choke. He admits that the cutting "proved not sufficiently certain to be relied upon in all situations" until "the improvement in the fingers and reversed angle of the teeth of the sickle" shown in his patent of 1845 were adopted. A farmer ordered a machine to be delivered in 1841, but McCormick "did not then feel that it was safe to warrant its performance." These facts are found in the records of the United States Patent Office. Referring to Mr. Hussey, on whose patent, among others, McCormick's application for an extension was rejected, who proved to be a factor he must consider, he said: "I did not interfere with him because I did not find him very much in the way, calculated to beat him without, and supposed it might be best to do so." Mr. Hussey, no doubt, took the charitable view and supposed Mr. McCormick to have meant that his proofs would have been sufficient to support him in his own rights. Mr. Hussey, the Quaker, wrote the Board to whom McCormick's application for an extension had been referred, and from his letter I quote:

"In view of all these facts, I feel justified in asking your Honorable Board a decision, which, while it adjudges McCormick's machine according to its merits, will not be prejudicial to my interests, seeing that Mr. McCormick makes no claims to the grand principle in my machine, which makes it valuable, and so much better than his, which principle I claim as my invention.

[Sidenote: Mr. Hussey's Attitude]

"I had no intention, neither had I any desire, to place any obstacle in the way of the extension of McCormick's patent, but the course he has taken, before your Board and before Congress, has compelled me to act in self defense, by which I have given your Honorable Board much trouble, which I would have gladly avoided."

Mr. McCormick also said to the Board: "If my claim be made out as so far appears from the evidence presented, it will be observed (as I think) that nothing will be left of Mr. Hussey's claim to which he is entitled, and all the improvements he has added since his patent have, I believe, been taken from mine." Reference is no doubt had to the effect that Hussey, in some of his machines, used only a single drive wheel and balanced his machine thereon. He confessed that he never received profits from his first patent until after twelve years of study, and never should have realized anything from the invention but for later improvements, and he continues as follows: "If then it shall appear that I am the original inventor of all the leading and important principles of the invention, is it wrong that I should ask for reciprocal benefits for myself, who alone have brought them into being? Mr. Hussey's prior patent stood in Mr. McCormick's way, but its inventor raised no voice against the extension of McCormick's rights unless his prior rights became endangered. The honors due Mr. Hussey were not lessened by the Commissioner of Patents when treating of a competitive claimant to have invented the reaper.

[Sidenote: Not McCormick's Inventions]

Mr. McCormick took out a third patent in 1847 covering inventions shown by the statement of Leander and others to have been the invention of the father or some one else. An application was made for the extension of this patent. It then became necessary that the applicant show that he had not reaped the benefits he believed himself entitled to through his monopoly for the term of the patent.

[Sidenote: Neither Brilliant nor Extraordinary]

The value of the second patent that of 1845, may be gathered from the words of the Commissioner of Patents: "The invention of 1845, considered in itself, and examined in presence of the reaping machine as then in successful operation, both in Europe and America, can scarcely be regarded as brilliant or in any degree extraordinary."

The Commissioner further said:

[Sidenote: An Efficient Machine]

"It was a conviction of the inefficiency of the machine that led the applicant to make his invention of 1847, which, by a modification of pre-existing elements, provided an advantageous location for the raker's seat. Upon this his fame as an inventor rests, and to this is his reaper indebted for the triumphs it has achieved. This seat had been previously known in at least nine patented reapers; but it had not been well placed, and an appropriate location for it was, up to 1847, an acknowledged desideratum. Whatever, however, may have been the value or the success of the reaper as improved in 1847, such value or success can exert no influence in determining the issue under discussion."

The Commissioner further said, referring to the 1847 patent:

[Sidenote: McCormick's "Invention" Valueless]

"Without the parts thus slowly accumulated and combined, and which have been so unhesitatingly appropriated by himself, his own invention would have been as valueless as would be a shingle to him who could find no house-top on which to nail it. The construction insisted on would compel the public to pay again, and pay extravagantly, for that which is already its own, alike by purchase and by long uninterrupted possession."

The authorities cited make it clear the Hussey reaper was successful, from the start, but the Patent Office did not seem to think that the machine of his opponent for honors was so.

The Commissioner in his decision refers to the testimony of William S. McCormick, who, at that time, was a partner of Cyrus McCormick as a manufacturer and seller of the McCormick reaper:

[Sidenote: A Worthless Machine]

"As a farmer I used the reaper without a seat, before a good one was invented, and am perfectly certain that it was so nearly worthless that a machine without one could not be sold at any price that would pay in competition with one having a raker's seat; this is my experience from my intimate connection with the business for many years." (Commissioner's Decision, January 28, 1859.)

I further find:

"In the criticism which has been necessarily made upon the invention of 1845, there has been no design to detract from the acknowledged value and usefulness of the machine, as constructed under the patent of 1847. It has had its brilliant successes in England and France, but it has also had its marked discomfitures when competing with other machines. Though enjoying a great and perhaps a still expanding popularity, it is by no means a universal favorite."

The last words of the Commissioner are: "The application must therefore be rejected."

There were no questions raised as to the invention of Mr. Hussey.

[Sidenote: McCormick Had to Pay for Hussey Improvements]

[Sidenote: Mr. Hussey Did Not Need the Improvements of Others]

The statement that McCormick's success was founded upon the inventions of others and to no extent upon his own, as quoted from "Memorial of Robert McCormick," is in part admitted by Cyrus McCormick, who, in his affidavit when applying for the extension of his 1847 patent said: "He has, at the expense of much thought, time, and money, added many other important improvements to it since 1847, which have contributed to the profits of his manufacture." He then refers to other improvements, saying: Among such improvements by others as he has had to pay for, are the inventions of his brothers, of Obed Hussey, of Jonathan Reed, of Henry Green, of Solymon Bell and of Joseph Nesen. It is known that for nearly thirty years Obed Hussey manufactured and sold reaping machines and mowers in his limited way and, infringing no rights of others, had no royalties to pay. To such an extent was his mind that of an inventor, that he devoted thought to many side lines, the expense of which taxed his abilities until, when his patent of 1847 had but two years to run, he sold it for $200,000.00.


In the matter of this application of Eunice B. Hussey, Administratrix of Obed Hussey, deceased, for the extension of Reissued Letters Patent No. 449 for an improvement in Reaping Machines, dated the 14th day of April, 1857, being a division and re-issue of original Letters Patent No. 5227, dated the 7th day of August, 1847, for an improvement in Reaping machines.

[Sidenote: Applications of Mr. Hussey's Widow for Patent Extension all Granted]

Also, the application of the same party for the extension of the Reissued Letters Patent No. 451, for an improvement in Reaping Machines, dated the 14th day of April 1851, being a division and Reissue of Original Letters Patent No. 5227, dated the 7th day of August, 1847, for an improvement in Reaping Machines.

Also, the application of the same party for the extension of Reissued Letters Patent No. 742, for an improvement in Reaping Machines, dated the 21st day of June, 1859, being a division of Reissued Letters Patent No. 450, dated the 14th of April, 1857, being a division and Reissue of original Letters Patent No. 5227, dated the 7th day of August, 1847, for an improvement in Reaping Machines.

Also the application of the same party for the extension of Reissued Letters Patent No. 917, dated the 28th day of February, 1860, for an improvement in Reaping Machines, being a reissue of reissued Letters Patent No. 743, dated June 21, 1859, the last named Patent being a division and reissue of reissued Letters Patent No. 450, dated the 14th day of April, 1857, which last mentioned patent was a division and reissue of original Letters Patent No. 5227, dated the 7th of August, 1847, for an Improvement in Reaping Machines.

[Sidenote: Claim of Opponents Overruled]

These four applications for the extension of the said four patents, Nos. 449, 451, 742 and 917, having been made in due form on the 30th day of November, 1860, and the Commissioner of Patents having caused to be published in due and legal form, notice of said applications and of the time and place when and where the same would be considered. And the applicant, the administratrix and widow of the patentee, having duly furnished and filed statements in writing under oath of the ascertained value of the said inventions and improvements claimed in said patents, and of the receipts and expenditures of the patentee and his legal representatives sufficiently in detail to exhibit a true and faithful account of loss and profit in any manner accruing to the patentee and his legal representatives from and by reason of said inventions and patents. And the testimony in these four cases having been duly filed and considered and referred to the principal Examiner having charge of the class of inventions to which these belong, and the said Examiner having made a full report upon the said cases, and particularly that the inventions or improvements, secured by the said four patents, were new and patentable when patented. And the printed arguments in these cases having been duly filed and considered, and the day of hearing viz. the 28th day of Feb., 1861, arrived, undersigned, the Acting Commissioner of Patents, sitting at the time and place designated in the said published notice to hear and decide upon the evidence produced before him both for and against the extension, and having heard all persons who appeared to show cause why the extension should not be granted, does decide as follows, viz.:

That the applications for extension in these cases were made at a proper time, and not prematurely as the opponents have contended. The only ground alleged to support the allegation that the applications were premature is that the receipts for the year 1861 cannot be fully ascertained at this time, but must be estimated or guessed at. If this is a good reason for not considering the applications now it would also be good on the 7th of August when the patent expires, for the receipts would not then be ascertained, but would still be the subject of estimate only. These receipts can be as well determined by this mode now, as in August. The objection on this point is not therefore well taken, and must be overruled. An application for extension cannot be regarded as premature if made during the last year of the term of the patent, and the total receipts are known or can be estimated with reasonable certainty. In addition to this there seems to be no little force in the argument of Counsel that the public convenience would be promoted by an early decision upon these cases before manufacturers enter upon their preparations for another year's business.

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