McCormick Estates Records, 1841-1969


The will of Cyrus H. McCormick, Sr. provided that his estate should be treated as an entity for five years after his death in 1884. The estate of the inventor was thus distributed to his heirs on December 31, 1889; and the following year the heirs also purchased the Leander J. McCormick interest in the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, amounting to one-fourth of the Company's capital stock.

McCormick's widow and children soon created an office to handle their individual and common interests in both his estate and his Company. It was this office that came to be known as McCormick Estates. It handled legal matters for the family; managed their many income-producing properties; reported on all financial transactions in behalf of the two incompetent children, Mary Virginia and Stanley; did the bookkeeping for a variety of trusts and syndicates set up by the McCormicks; reported on investments in other companies and in lands; handled securities in the form of stocks and bonds; gave accountings of notes and loans; and frequently rendered aid to the family members regarding private matters.

By 1902, at the time the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company merged with four other companies to form the International Harvester Company, the McCormick Estates office was well established; following consolidation it took on further responsibilities.

Although the McCormick Works became a division of International Harvester and manufacturing by the McCormick Company ceased in 1902, the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company itself, under its own name, did not go out of existence for many years. As a pioneer in marketing its products on credit, it did not relinquish its “accounts receivable” at the time of consolidation; but an agreement was made that International Harvester would collect these accounts, take out a commission, and send the net amounts on to the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company.

These collections, [1] and a pension system worked out for former and current employees of the McCormick Company, account for a long period, 1902-1922, during which the Company was “in liquidation.” Lawyers, bookkeepers, and clerks on the staff of McCormick Estates served as advisors and accountants for the Company as well as for individual members of the McCormick family.

The cost of operating the McCormick Estates office, and the time of its personnel, were apportioned among the Company, individual McCormicks, and matters affecting more than one member of the family as a unit. Each contributed its proportionate share. As the family prospered, the personnel and workload of the Estates office increased. For example, by 1916 the staff had grown to 27 persons: an insurance agent, the chief “agent” or overall manager, one purchasing agent, seven in the accounting department, five who handled rentals of properties and repairs needed on the various McCormick residences, three in the stenographic pool, two in sales, three in an operating department, one telephone operator, and three office boys. Because portions of estates left by family members were placed in continuing trusts, a remnant of the McCormick Estates exists even today (1976), although the one lawyer and his assistant devote only a fraction of their time to McCormick interests.


This arrangement ceased about 1910, when International Harvester paid the McCormick Company more than $300,000 in settlement of unpaid notes, and took over those still to be collected.