The Story Behind the Decal: McCormick-Deering Farmall

DSC (33) In this regular feature, we’ll explore the early inventors and businessmen behind today’s most popular tractor brands. Today, we’ll look into Cyrus McCormick, one of the men whose name appears on early Farmall tractors.


Cyrus McCormick got his start with horse-drawn reapers. Together with his father and brothers (and possibly also with the help of a slave and someone else’s design – history is unclear), Cyrus invented the mechanical reaper. He patented his design in 1834 and moved to Chicago a couple of years later to begin manufacturing the machines. McCormick’s reaper was a good design, but his salesmanship and business savvy is what really set him apart from the competition. His business prospered, and the McCormick family quickly became one of the leading families of Chicago.


Behind every great man stands a woman, and Cyrus was no exception to this adage. He married Nancy Fowler, a woman 25 years his junior, in 1858. Nettie (the nickname she prefered) had a mind for business herself, and took part in Cyrus’s work. This was very unusual for a woman of her time, but Netty’s perseverance and business acumen played a pivotal role in what would become the International Harvester company.


When the Great Chicago Fire struck, the McCormick factory was a total loss. At this point, Cyrus was 62 years old and incredibly wealthy – he could have easily ended the business and retired. But Nettie insisted on rebuilding, both for the sake of the Chicago workmen who depended on p1000939_20120423_1805918339the factory for their livelihoods and for the sake of her sons, who she didn’t want to see grow up “in idleness.” Nettie convinced her husband – they sold their home in New York (where they had been living at the time of the fire) and returned to Chicago to rebuild. Until her husband’s death in 1884, Nettie was the effective (although unofficial) head of the company.


Nettie and Cyrus were great philanthropists during their marriage, but once Cyrus had passed and the reigns of the business were in the hands of his son (Cyrus Jr.), Nettie devoted even more of her attention to doing the most good possible with her substantial wealth. Nettie and Cyrus were devout Christians, and Nettie believed quite strongly that she was responsible to God to use her wealth to honor Him. She gave to hundreds of charitable organizations both in the United States and abroad. Many of the organizations she gave to, like the McCormick Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, and the Pacific Garden Mission, are still in operation today. A private giver, much of her generosity wasn’t known until years after her death.


Next time you see an older Farmall tractor, I hope you’ll take a moment to notice the name “McCormick” on the decal and think of Cyrus and Nettie. And if your tractor’s decals say “McCormick-Deering,” don’t worry! We’ll talk about William Deering and the merger that created International Harvester soon.



To read more about Cyrus and Nettie McCormick, visit the Philanthropy Roundtable or PBS.


How to Replace the Rim on your Tractor

Rim-Video-Side Is the rim on your tractor corroded? Watch this free instructional video demonstrating the installation of a rim and a tube using tractor supplies you may have around your shop. In this newest series of tractor repair videos offered exclusively online at SteinerTractor.TV Rachel Gingell shows you helpful tips when removing and installing both a rim and tube. She also discusses safety tips to practice during your installation. Start watching today! See many more tractor repair videos for your other tractor restoration projects.

The Tractor Guess Game

A guest post by Rachel’s mom, Jennifer Gingell


For this post, I’m delighted to introduce my mom, Jennifer Gingell. People often assume that my Dad is the one who taught me everything I know about tractors, but that’s not the whole story. While Dad’s the mechanic in the family, my mom is the one who did the real work of instilling a love for farm equipment in me from a young age. Here she is to explain what we know affectionately in my family as “The Tractor Guess Game.”

Last summer at a tractor show, a 4-year old boy came by my booth with his family. He took one look at some Farmall fabric I had on display and started identifying the models printed on the material. “That’s a 1206,” he said, reaching for his dad. The two of them together identified all of the models represented on the fabric before they left the booth. I was amazed at this little one’s knowledge, but more importantly at the amount of quality time it represented between father and son.

While my daughters weren’t able to identify tractor models at age 4 like this little boy could, they loved to play the tractor guess game! Perhaps it’s something you can start in your family.

For very little ones, the tractor guess game can start with colors and sounds. Just like you teach your children what sound a pig makes, teach them what sound a John Deere makes!

Older children can play the game by giving each other clues that eventually lead to the correct make and model. For example – I’m thinking of a tractor that: Ella-playing-with-tractor

  • Is red
  • Doesn’t have 3 point hitch
  • Is used to haul firewood
  • Was the top production tractor model for its brand

Have you figured it out yet? If you guessed Farmall H, you’re correct!

Once kids master this version of the tractor guess game, they can try playing 20-questions style. My husband’s significant skill in this version of the tractor guess game came in handy when we opened our own dealership. You’d be shocked at the number of people who would ask us to buy their tractor without even knowing the make and model of what they had to sell! Because it is difficult to make an offer on “a big grey tractor,” we got good at figuring out the make and model of a tractor through a series of questions.

The tractor guess game can be modified to fit all ages and knowledge levels, and it can go a long way towards helping children (and us adults too!) learn new things about tractors in a fun way. Next time you’re sitting around the dinner table, I hope you’ll give it a try!

Celebrate Mom


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