Robert McCormick (Virginia)

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Robert McCormick Jr.
Robert Hall McCormick.jpg
Born(1780-06-08)June 8, 1780
DiedJuly 4, 1846(1846-07-04) (aged 66)
Spouse(s)Mary Ann Hall
(m. 1808–1846; his death)
Parent(s)Robert McCormick, Sr.
Martha Sanderson
RelativesSee McCormick family

Robert McCormick Jr. (June 8, 1780 – July 4, 1846) was an American inventor, who invented numerous devices including a version of the reaper which his eldest son Cyrus McCormick patented in 1834. Although he lived his life in rural Virginia, he was patriarch of the McCormick family that became influential throughout the world, especially in large cities such as Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York City.


McCormick was born June 8, 1780, on the family estate of Walnut Grove in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains to American Revolutionary War veteran Robert McCormick Sr. (1738 – October 12, 1818)[1] and Martha Sanderson (1747–1804). Martha's parents were Scottish immigrants George Sanderson and Catharine Ross.[2] Robert Sr.'s father Thomas McCormick (1702–1762) was a Scotch-Irish immigrant who settled in Pennsylvania in 1735 and married Elizabeth Carruth (May 4, 1705 – 1766) in 1728.[3]:117 Robert Jr. had five elder siblings: George (1771–1849), Martha (1773–?), Elizabeth (1774–?), William (1776–1837), and James McCormick (1778–1839).

On February 11, 1808 Robert Jr. married Mary Ann "Polly" Hall (1780– June 1, 1853), a daughter of Patrick Hall and Susan McChesney, and was granted ownership of Walnut Grove in 1810.[4]:82 They had eight children:[3]

  1. Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809–1884), who moved to Chicago and established the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company
  2. Robert Hall McCormick (May 24, 1810 – June 29, 1826)
  3. Susan J. McCormick (August 1, 1813 – June 27, 1826)
  4. William Sanderson McCormick (1815–1865), who joined Cyrus in Chicago, married Mary Ann Grigsby on July 11, 1848.
  5. Mary Caroline McCormick (April 18, 1817 – March 18, 1888), married Reverend James Shields IV on May 11, 1847
  6. Leander James McCormick (1819–1900), who also joined Cyrus in Chicago, married Henrietta Maria Hamilton on October 22, 1845.
  7. John Prestly McCormick (November 8, 1820 – September 4, 1849)
  8. Amanda Joanna McCormick (September 17, 1822 – October 12, 1891), married Hugh Adams on May 8, 1845.

Robert Jr. and Polly raised their eight children on the farm who grew up helping in the shop and the mill. He frequently busied himself with small gadgets and inventions around the farm.[5]

By 1809, McCormick had constructed a partially completed reaper. He eventually decided to formalize some of his work when he applied for a patent in 1830 for a "hemp-break", a device for breaking hemp and flax. He also produced a threshing machine, a clover sheller of stone, a blacksmith's bellows and a hill-side plow. By 1831, he had completed a reaper. He was encouraged by Polly to give it to their assertive and business-minded son Cyrus, who was able to improve and patent it in 1834.[5] He died on July 4, 1846. He and his wife were buried in the cemetery of the Old Providence Stone Church just north of the estate.[6]

In 2002, Robert Jr. and his three surviving sons had a variety of wheat named after them, for "inventing, perfecting, manufacturing, and marketing of the mechanical grain reaper [which] ushered in the era of modern agriculture and wrought one of the greatest advancements in agricultural history." McCormick is a soft red winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) developed and released in May 2002 by the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station.[7]

Family tree[edit]


  1. ^ "Pvt Robert McCormick". Find a Grave. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  2. ^ "Martha Sanderson". Find a Grave.
  3. ^ a b Leander James McCormick (1896). Family record and biography. pp. 300–303.
  4. ^ Herbert Newton Casson (2009) [1909]. Cyrus Hall Mccormick: His Life and Work. BiblioBazaar, LLC. ISBN 1-110-23294-2.
  5. ^ a b Norbert Lyons (1955). The McCormick reaper legend: the true story of a great invention. New York: Exposition Press.
  6. ^ Robert McCormick Jr at Find a Grave
  7. ^ Registration of 'McCormick' Wheat, by C. Griffey, et al., Crop Science, 45: 417-419 (July 31, 2005)