Harold Fowler McCormick Papers, 1892-1947


Harold Fowler McCormick, son of Cyrus Hall (inventor of the reaper) and Nancy (Nettie) Fowler McCormick, was born in Chicago on May 2, 1872. He was educated at the University School of Chicago, the Browning School of New York City, 1889-1891, and received his A.B. from Princeton in 1895.

He married Edith, daughter of John D. Rockefeller, on November 26, 1895; they had five children, of whom two, John and Editha, died in childhood.

The other children were Harold Fowler (called Fowler) born 1898, who married Anna Stillman; Muriel, born 1902, who married Elisha Dyer Hubbard and died in 1959; and Mathilde, born 1905, who married Max Oser and died in 1947.

Harold and Edith Rockefeller McCormick were divorced December 28, 1921.

On August 11, 1922, he married Ganna Walska in Paris. They were divorced in 1931.

On May 31, 1938, at Pasadena, California, he married Adah, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ward Wilson of Idaho.

Harold McCormick died October 16, 1941, in California.

During the whole of his adult life, Mr. McCormick was a top executive of the International Harvester Company. He joined the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company immediately after his graduation from Princeton in 1895, and was put in charge of the Council Bluffs, Iowa, sales branch. In 1898, he was elected a vice-president of the company. After the formation of the International Harvester Company, he remained a vice-president. In 1918, he was elected president of the IHC. During his presidency, he played a major role in the formation of the company's “Employee Representation Plan.” From 1922 to 1935, he was chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors, and from 1935 to his death, he was chairman of the board.

In addition to the Harvester Company, Mr. McCormick was interested in the Belle City Malleable Iron Company, whose plant near Chicago he acquired in 1899.

McCormick supported a variety of philanthropic causes and gave money to an enormous number of individuals, ranging from relatives to complete strangers, who called on him for aid in meeting a variety of personal needs. As a memorial to his son, he and his wife established in 1903 the John Rockefeller McCormick Institute for Infectious Diseases in Chicago. He was all his life a Presbyterian and supported religious institutions such as the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, the McCormick Theological Seminary, and Olivet Institute, a Presbyterian mission in Chicago. But of all his interests outside business and the family, music was undoubtedly the most important to him. He was a member or officer of a large number of organizations trying to develop opera and orchestral groups in Chicago.

McCormick was also interested in Chicago civic affairs and involved in various civic reform efforts. He was a member of the Commercial Club and the Merchants' Club of Chicago, two organizations interested in civic betterment and in the Chicago Plan for urban development.

McCormick's deepest involvement in politics came during World War I. In Switzerland when the war began, he composed Via Pacis, a plan for an immediate peace settlement. The publication of the little book involved him in discussions with French and other European officials and the U.S. Department of State. After the U.S. entered the war, McCormick served as a purchasing agent under General Charles G. Dawes of the Allied Expeditionary Force. In 1918, he conferred with officers of the German government and returned to Washington to lay German peace proposals before President Wilson.

Other aspects of McCormick's life include an early enthusiasm for automobiles in which he made several trips through Europe; interest in the development of the airplane; his national amateur racquets championship and interest in other sports; and Princeton University activities as a member of the Class of 1895.