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The Romance of the Reaper by Herbert Newton Casson

Whiteley and Warder did not merge their companies


ten minutes in a horse collar made $2,000,000 for Whiteley. His antagonist, Benjamin H. Warder, was filled with admiration for Whiteley's prowess, and at once proposed that they should quit fighting and work in harmony.

"Give me the right to make your reaper and I'll pay you $5 apiece for all I can sell," said Warder. "It's a bargain," responded Whiteley. And so there arose the first consolidation in the harvester business.

Whiteley and Warder did not merge their companies; but they divided the United States into three parts--one for Whiteley, one for his brother Amos, who also made reapers in Springfield, and one for Warder. They united in building a malleable iron foundry and a knife works, so that they could use better materials at a lower cost. They made the first handsome and shapely machines.

For twelve years this triple alliance led the way, and all others, even the mighty McCormick and the sagacious Deering, had to follow. The "Champion" reaper became the leading machine of the United States, and the little town of Springfield, Ohio, was known as the "Reaper City." As many as 160,000 reapers and mowers were sent out as a year's work. In all, 2,000,000 of Whiteley's "Champion" machines have been made in Springfield, and have sold at a gain of $18,000,000.

As the millions came pouring in so fast, Whiteley's head was turned and he began

to run amuck. He cut loose from Warder and from his own partners, Fassler and Kelly, opened war on the Knights of Labour, built the biggest reaper factory in the world, became a railroad president, helped to corner the Chicago wheat market, backed the "Strasburg Clock"--an absurd self-binder that was as big as a pipe-organ--and came crashing down in a failure that jarred the farming world from end to end.

Whiteley lost millions in this crash--and with comparative indifference. It was never the profits that he fought for. At heart he was a sportsman rather than a money-maker. He craved the excitement of the race itself more than the prizes. To win--that was the ambition of his life. And he did not shrink from spectacular methods to accomplish his ambition.

For instance, nothing less would satisfy him, when he exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial, than a quarter-sized reaper, made daintily of rosewood and gold. This brought him so sudden a rush of orders from the East that in one day of the following year he sent seventy loaded cars to Baltimore. With flags flying and brass bands playing, these cars rolled off, with orders to travel only by daylight. When they arrived in Harrisburg, running in three sections, they caught the eye of a railroad superintendent named McCrea--who is now, by the way, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. McCrea saw a chance to advertise his railway as well as Whiteley's reapers, so he linked the seventy cars together into one three-quarter-mile train, put his biggest engine at the front, and sent the gaudy caravan on its way.

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