International Harvester Company

William Deering, Charles Deering’s father, originally owned a wholesale dry goods business. Through this business he amassed quite a fortune, and in 1870, he sought various investment opportunities to grow his wealth. He was primarily looking at real estate investment in the Chicago area, but an old acquaintance, Elijah H. Gammon, convinced him to invest in his harvesting manufacturing business.

Gammon through business associations had acquired (or some say stole) rights to manufacture a harvester. Due to poor health and a need for capital to expand his manufacturing business, he reached out to William Deering. Deering made an initial investment of $40,000 in Gammon’s business. In 1872, the business showed an $80,000 profit, and Deering asked to become a full partner in the harvesting company. Their success, primarily with a harvesting and wire binding machine, grew. But, due to declining health, Gammon asked William to manage the business. In 1880, Gammon sold his partnership interest to Deering.

A series of improvements to the harvesting process, the binding process and available materials, as well as Deering’s own innovation in securing raw supplies for manufacturing, led to great success for the Deering Harvester Company. Competition amongst all manufacturers of agricultural machinery grew fierce, and litigation over patents mounted to unprecedented levels. Between 1880 and 1885 the number of machines manufactured in a year rose from 60,000 to 250,000, while the number of manufacturers dropped from over 100 to about 20. The Deering Harvester Company, largely on the worth of its twine binder and Deering's business talent, swept ahead of most competitors. By 1890 the company's Chicago plant, with 9,000 employees, had a daily capacity of 1,200 machines of various kinds, which it sold all over the world.

Deering’s biggest competitor at the time, the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, had been in the manufacturing business for more than 40 years. In 1890, these two companies were the leaders in the harvesting business. According to some sources, William Deering approached Cyrus Hall McCormick to sell out his business. Unable to raise the necessary capital, the plan failed. The intense competition between the Deering Harvester Company and the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company continued throughout the 1890s and eventually became damaging to both. As a result, when William Deering retired, Charles Deering, brother James Deering and with the blessing of their father, the brothers orchestrated “a deal of the century” and merged nineteen companies including the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company to form International Harvester (IH) in 1902. Charles Deering served as Chairman of the world renowned company from 1904 until 1918. James served as President. In later years, the Deering family and the McCormick family would bond in marriage when Marion (one of Charles’ daughters) and Chauncey McCormick became husband and wife.