The posters in this exhibition were chosen to represent the depth and breadth of that collection. They range in date from 1849 to 1951, and represent a wide variety of printing formats, graphic styles, manufacturers, implements, and marketing approaches. The McCormick-International Harvester Collection includes about 3,000 advertising posters. Poster artist at work, ca. 1905 Visual Materials Archive, Wisconsin Historical Society,
Letterpress with wood engraving, 1849 James J. Langdon (Chicago) for C.H. McCormick & Co. (Chicago) 24.25" x 18.75" This is the earliest poster discovered in the collection so far. Posters of the 1840s and 1850s usually featured small illustrations and dense text. They often explained the technical features of the products they advertised and included endorsements from satisfied customers.
Letterpress with wood engraving, ca. 1855 Printed by Clapp, Matthews & Co. (Buffalo) for Chautauque Co. (Westfield, NY) 22.25" x 16" Before the introduction of lithography, posters tried to capture the viewer’s attention with different sizes and styles of type. The engraved illustrations on this poster add information and graphic interest, but they are confined by the overall typographical layout and are difficult to see from a distance. Occasionally advertisers printed a headline in red, but most posters from this era are black and white.
Color lithograph, ca. 1870 Printed by Edward Mandel (Chicago) for C.H. McCormick & Bro. (Chicago) 23.75" x 36" Nineteenth-century poster artists adopted features of popular contemporary prints celebrating American rural life. Both prints and advertisements featured sentimental, nostalgic scenes of pleasant homesteads, lush landscapes, and happy families. The popular prints rarely showed the actual work of farming, and when they did, old-fashioned hand tools prevailed. In the advertising posters, however, machines took center stage.
Color lithograph, 1876 Printed by Charles Shober & Co. (Chicago) for Gammon & Deering (Chicago) 14" x 17.75" The theme of progress occurs over and over in nineteenth-century advertising, but it is rarely stated as directly as in this small poster. Inset views of obsolete harvesting technologies helped portray the Marsh Harvester as the pinnacle of mechanical genius and the foundation of rural prosperity. The Marsh Harvester itself would be superseded within a decade by the twine binder.
The introduction of color lithography into the United States in 1840 began a revolution in graphic design. Before lithography, color illustrations were expensive and uncommon because they had to be produced by hand one at a time. Lithography allowed production of multiple copies of complex, multi-colored images. By the 1880s, inexpensive color prints had flooded American homes, businesses and public spaces and changed the visual expectations forever. Color lithograph, ca. 1876 Printed by Clay and Co. (Buffalo and Chicago) for C.H. & L.J. McCormick (Chicago) 22.25" x 28"
Some nineteenth-century poster artists borrowed ideas from genre paintings, which depicted folksy scenes from everyday life. Here, the theme of progress is illustrated by a group of old-timers reminiscing about days gone by. Color lithograph, ca. 1883 Unknown printer for William Deering & Co. (Chicago) 21.5" x 27.5"
To find the best arrangement of mechanical components, inventors experimented with many different implement designs, most of which were unsuccessful. In most nineteenth-century mowers, the driver sat directly behind a team of horses and the cutter bar extended to the driver's right. In this design, however, the horses are separated and the cutter bar is mounted between them. Color lithograph, ca. 1885 Printed by Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann Lith. (New York) for Eureka Mower Co. (Towanda, PA) 22.25" x 28.5"
Popular mythology of the nineteenth century held that European settlers were destined to conquer and inhabit North America from sea to sea. The theme appeared in many graphic variations, including this poster based on Emanuel Leutze’s fresco in the United States Capitol, “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way.” Color lithograph, ca. 1886 Printed by Shober & Carqueville Lithog. Co. (Chicago) for McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. (Chicago) 27.5" x 39.75"
I llustrations of the American West were enormously popular throughout the nineteenth century. As western settlement closed the frontier, the interest in Western life became more intense and nostalgic. The cowboy assumed an almost mythic place in American culture, encouraged by the work of artists such as Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. Because it evokes toughness, independence, and masculinity, the cowboy image is still a powerful advertising icon. Color lithograph, 1913 Printed by Hayes Lithographing Co. (Buffalo) for International Harvester Co. (Chicago) 29" x 19.75"
One of Cyrus McCormick’s earliest triumphs was winning a Council Medal, the highest honor offered at the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London. The McCormick Company quickly licensed its patents to English manufacturers and eventually created subsidiaries and operated factories throughout the world. By 1910, International Harvester had expanded the business from Budapest to Buenos Aires. Color lithograph, 1913 Printed by Hayes Lithographing Co. (Buffalo) for International Harvester Co. (Chicago) 29.5" x 20"
D.M. Osborne & Co. of Auburn, N.Y. was a prominent manufacturer of twine binders and a major competitor of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. Although it was not part of the 1902 merger that created International Harvester Co., International purchased Osborne the following year. The company continued to market the Osborne line until 1918, when it agreed to sell the Osborne and several other lines to settle an anti-trust lawsuit. Color lithograph, 1913 Printed by Hayes Lithographing Co. (Buffalo) for International Harvester Co. (Chicago) 29" x 20"
Farm equipment posters rarely broke new stylistic ground, but advertisers sometimes used popular design trends to draw attention. The fanciful curves and sinuous lines of this poster evoke the Art Nouveau style. Color lithograph, 1914 Printed by Hayes Lithographing Co. (Buffalo) for International Harvester Co. ( Chicago ) 29.5" x 19.75"
Since ancient times, Western cultures have depicted material abundance as a mythic, female figure often carrying sheaves of wheat. Goddesses of plenty appeared on many implement and farm supply catalogs in the late nineteenth century. The tradition continued into the twentieth century, but by then the factory had become the new symbol of abundance. Color lithograph, 1914 Printed by Hayes Lithographing Co. (Buffalo) for International Harvester Co. (Chicago) 29.25" x 19.75"
Using children and animals to help sell goods is a time-honored advertising tradition. Advertisers sometimes worked products into childhood scenes in fanciful ways; in other instances there was little connection between merchandise and scene. Illustrations of pets or children presumably made buyers feel affectionate toward the advertisers’ products. Color lithograph, 1914 Printed by Hayes Lithographing Co. (Buffalo) for International Harvester Co. (Chicago) 28.75" x 20"
The introduction of gasoline-powered traction engines in the early 1900s marked a revolution in American farming. Tractors provided a cheaper, more versatile and reliable source of power than the huge, self-propelled steam engines introduced to American farms in the 1870s. This poster captures a moment in tractor evolution just before the industry settled into the basic design familiar today, and sales exploded. In 1915, 25,000 tractors were in use on American farms and by 1920 the number had mushroomed to 246,000. Photolithograph, 1915 Unknown printer for Illinois Tractor Demonstration (Chicago) 30" x 18"
Before implement makers could expect farmers to buy complicated and expensive new machinery, they had to teach them to operate and maintain it properly. This was just as true when International Harvester introduced its tractors in 1906 as it had been when Cyrus McCormick began selling reapers in the 1840s. To make farmers confident enough to buy, the company sponsored free “tractor schools” throughout rural America. Photolithograph, 1919 Printed by Harvester Press (Chicago) for International Harvester Company of America (Chicago) 25" x 19"
International Harvester Company artists spared no effort even on the most mundane pieces of equipment. The detailed rendering and harmonious composition of this poster are impressive, and the muted monochromatic background makes the manure spreader almost leap off the page. Like many examples of 1920s commercial lithography, the design is attractive, yet subordinate to the product being sold. Color lithograph, 1920 Printed by Magill-Weinsheimer Co. (Chicago) for International Harvester Co. of America (Chicago) 24" x 36.25"
Photolithograph, 1924 Printed by Herman Lithographing Co. (Chicago) for International Harvester Co. (Chicago) 31" x 21" The Arabic text on this poster makes it particularly striking and exotic to Western eyes. A closer look, however, reveals traditional American farm scenes, including clapboard buildings that must have looked equally exotic to Arab viewers.
In 1931 International Harvester produced many publications, films, events, and advertisements to commemorate the centennial of Cyrus McCormick’s first reaper. While much of this effort was self-conscious myth making, the impulse to draw on historical sources for imagery was well-established. This poster recalls the pioneers in covered wagons of McCormick's earlier "Westward the Course of Empire" poster. Photolithograph, 1931 Printed by Magill-Weinsheimer Co. (Chicago) for International Harvester Co. (Chicago) 38" x 28"
Introduced in 1924, the multipurpose Farmall tractor was designed not only for drawbar, power take off, and pulley work, but also for cultivation of row crops. The Farmall became one of the most popular tractors ever; within six years International Harvester had sold 100,000 of them. The company redesigned and expanded the Farmall line in the early 1930s to include three different models, of which the F-12 was the smallest and cheapest. With so many Farmalls on public roads, International Harvester switched from gray to red paint as a safety feature in 1936. Photolithograph, 1937 Unknown printer (United States) for International Harvester Co. (Chicago) 38" x 28"
Photolithograph, 1938 Unknown printer (United States) for International Harvester Co. (Chicago) 38" x 28" In a series of posters from the late 1930s, International Harvester used images of engineering marvels to enhance the reputation of its industrial equipment. This poster shows the Trylon and Perisphere, the signature buildings of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Together, they became popular symbols of modernism and progress.
In an effort to diversify its product line, International Harvester began selling freezers and refrigerators in 1947, and its advertising reflected the change. The company invented the term “femineered” to indicate its responsiveness to the needs of female consumers. This poster shows women as happy customers rather than as eye candy for male buyers. Photolithograph, 1951 Unknown printer (United States) for International Harvester Co. (Chicago) 38" x 28"