| May/June 1993

Corn harvesting by mechanical means has not been with us for very long, at least a commercially successful machine wasn't really available until the 1930s. However, as we shall see, the basic ideas were much older. Unfortunately, technology hadn't yet caught up to abstract notions. Over the years, most historians have given the credit for the first corn harvesting machine, i.e., corn picker, to Edmund W. Quincy. 'Old Father Quincy', as he was known throughout the country, received a patent for this machine in 1850. In all, he spent over forty years trying to produce a machine to pick corn, and for most of his life, he lived in abject poverty.

Numerous other 'corn picker' patents were issued in the interim, but on January 5, 1892, a patent was issued to A. S. Peck of Geneva, Illinois. Peck's patent was not for a corn picker, but for a corn binder. It was intended to cut the stalks of corn and tie them into bundles, much like the ordinary grain binder. Usually the bundles were shocked in the field for curing and drying.

With the development of the corn binder came the husker-shredder. This machine was equipped with snapping rolls which picked off the ears of corn, with the stalks and leaves going through the shredder. The fodder thus created was valuable for feed and for bedding.

Peck's invention had gained wide recognition by 1895 when McCormick, Deering, and several other manufacturers began offering corn binders in a big way. However, the 45 year period between Old Father Quincy's corn harvester and the Peck corn binder can best be classified as an experimental and developmental period. Virtually all those inventors who developed machines during this time made no money on them, and in fact, probably lost considerable money for their efforts. Peck's early design is shown in Figure 1. Figures 2, 3, and 4 show the various designs of the 1890s, with Figure 2 illustrating the gathering chain arrangement as used at the time. In Figure 2, the lower chain was known as the 'short-corn chain,' the middle one was the conveyor chain, and the upper unit was the 'tall corn' chain. The 'tall corn' chain was intended to carry the tops of tall corn back into the binding deck.

Usually a very heavy pit mans wheel was used on the cutting knife drive. This, or some other means of providing extra stored energy for cutting the stalks. One such arrangement is shown in Figure 3.

In Figure 4 we see the packers which forced the vertical stalks into a tight bundle, preparatory to binding. The binding mechanism was adapted from the grain binder. Thus, the developmental period of the grain binder during the 1880s was indeed an essential step in the development of the corn binder.