Tuesday, November 24, 2015

IH: McCormick Reaper Works, Revisited

(Update: Lost Illinois Manufacturing posting. He has some pictures that I don't have.)

You should start with this post, which was the original plants for McCormick and Deering.

Illinois Digital Archives
This postcard was handed out at the International Harvester's exhibit at the Century of Progress, 1933-34. The text indicates:

McCormick Works (red)
Tractor Works (blue)
Combined Area - 147.1 Acres

The water along the right edge would be the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The water in the middle is the original South Branch before it was filled in. If you look at the 1915 map in the above reference, just a little of the Tractor Works existed and some of the Reaper Work buildings have changed. The easiest change to spot is that the building on the south shore the of the South Branch is new. The above link was provided as a comment for the following Facebook posting.

Ken Gidewall commneted on a post
Sharon Clancy Ken Gidewall my mom made airplane parts there during WWII.

Eugene Klichowski commented on a post

Paul Renaud ->  Forgotten Chicago

Paul's comment:
Southeast panorama of the McCormick Reaper Works, rail yard and canal. The factory was owned by the McCormick Harvesting Machine company before 1902. In 1902 it became the McCormick Works of the International Harvester Company. The factory was located at Blue Island and Western Avenues in the Chicago subdivision called "Canalport." It was closed in 1961.
Darla Zailskas in another posting of this picture commented that it was "circa 1900."

I think the stretch of water in the photo is the South Branch rather than the canal. And I think it is after 1915 because the building on the left appears to be the new one mentioned above.

Paul posted three more pictures to Forgotten Chicago. The comments are, respectively:
  • Quitting Time at McCormick Reaper Works
  • McCormick Reaper Works factory and rail yard as seen across a canal. Workers can be seen unloading wood.
  • Twine mill with shipping platform at the McCormick Reaper Works, just after construction.
For the middle photo, I think the view is across a channalized South Branch rather than the S&S Canal. There was controversy in the comments for the third photo as to its location. I have not been able to determine where it was.

About the only difference between the aerial view above and the aerial photo in my  previous posting is that the South Branch river has been filled in west of the new building on the south shore of the river.

In the upper-right corner of the aerial view you can see part of the Chicago Produce Terminal yard.

References for future research concerning IH:  After the Holidays, I need to remember to check out International Harvester, Mccormick, Navistar : milestones in the company that helped build America (from a library search).

MWRD posted
Construction of the first 8 Track Rail Bridge over the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal on September 21, 1900. This bridge was replaced by the current 8-track "scissors" bridge, which is actually four separate spans with two rail tracks each, built by the MWRD between 1908 and 1910.
Dennis DeBruler: I believe the buildings in the right background were the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. before it was absorbed by International Harvester Co. in 1902.

Trent Blasco posted
Farmall Tractors and Tanks during World War II at the Tractor Works, 2600 West 31st Street.
(Chicago History Museum, ICHi-25512)
Jeff Nichols posted
McCormick Works (Blue Island & Western) photographed from the opposite bank of the Chicago River, 1914. McCormick - International Harvester, Wisconsin Historical Society, Image ID: 45297
Marty Miller posted
 McCormick Works at Western and Blue Island. I don't think the workers used this entrance?Photo dated 1926
Chris La Course posted
The McCormick Reaper Works, 26th and Oakley, 1928, Chicago
MWRD posted
Historical Photo of the Week: Workers prepare to raise a sunken tug boat out of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal on July 12, 1922, viewed looking roughly northwest from an area near Damen Ave. (Robey St. at the time of the photo).
David Daruszka McCormick Reaper Works in the background. All gone today
MWRD posted
Paul Rabenhorst shared
MWRD shared
MWRD posted on Mar 21, 2023
Association for Great Lakes Maritime History posted
[Their description provides a history of the tug.]

ChicagoHistory has an interactive picture of the works.

A video advertising their complete line of tractors. Unfortunately, I could not find a date.


  1. I believe the twine works was located at Oakley and Blue Island.

    1. My grandfathers Draft registration on Sept. 12, 1918 states he was a bench hand for The International Harvester Co. on Oakley and Blue Island if that helps.

    2. My grandmother worked in the twine works or "twine mill" as our family referred to it soon after her immigration to the US from Galicia in 1907.

  2. The earlier comment that states that none of the Tractor Works buildings existed on a 1915 map maybe correct with respect to the map but IH moved into the Tractor Works in January of 1911 so by 1915, the buildings almost certainly existed.

    1. Thanks for providing the detail of when the move was made.

    2. I took another look at the 1915 map and changed "none" to "just a little".

  3. THE POSTCARD is great, but it's all at angles. It can be compared with the 1929 USGS Englewood Quad ( https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/topoview/viewer/#13/41.8310/-87.6874 ).

    I think the postcard is looking Northeast from above California Ave. and the canal. The railroad going side to side, between the red and yellow, is the NORTH/SOUTH running "Panhandle Line" (and others). North is to the left. Near the south (right) side, the steel bridges over 31st St. show on Google in 2023. On the very right is the beginning of the 8-track bridges. To the north (left) it crosses the river and keeps going.

    The street just east (above) the Panhandle line Western Ave. The main drag running from Western, at the very left corner of the red, up to the top center along the side of the red, is Blue Island Ave. It was the main street that the McCormick Works was built on, Western was just the edge of nowhere.

    From the corner of Western and Blue Island 26th St. goes straight west (to the left). You can see a straight line above the rail yard.

    Just above the Airplane View label is 31st St. Just left of the curving bridge is where Sharon Clancy/Ken Gidewall's 1911 picture of the Tractor Factory is. Google shows a Water Department yard there in 2023.

    The railroad yard in the middle left is the Illinois Northern, IH's company RR ( https://industrialscenery.blogspot.com/2014/10/illinois-northern-railroad.html ). It curves between the northbound Panhandle and the IN tracks west on 26th St. The light square is a material yard and shed. The yard shows up as woods on Google in 2023.

    Directly east (above right) of that yard the light curve is the IN's freight house, McCormick Station. Wagons and trucks transferred cargo to the trains or each other. The YMCA is there now.

    The IN main line comes in from the west (left), just above the tall building. It runs on the south side of 26th St., the light line north (above) the yard, then crosses the panhandle at grade and runs along the north side of McCormick Station.

    The very left of the red area is two railroad bridges over Western Ave., the IN crosses and then goes south (down) into the factory, along the river. Right above (north) of the IN bridge the Burlington's "Lumber District", which you can just barely see curving off the Panhandle, crosses Western on their own bridge and curves up behind Blue Island Ave. The IN connects, crosses, parallels, and has trackage rights on it.

    The filled fork. The McCormick Works was built on the West Fork of the South Branch, which kept going to Mud Lake. The north/south "Collateral Channel" connected the river and the new Sanitary Canal when it opened. They left the river open for a while, but it wasn't used and filled up with sewage. The city wanted it gone by 1921 but it took the Feds until 1935 to declare it un-navigable so it could be filled. In 1938 it had been filled from the Collateral Channel east to the Panhandle and was being filled east of there to Leavitt. Ave. The Collateral Channel was left as a slip, it's still there. You can see the ghost of the river running through Cook County Jail.

    The Postcard was compared to the USGS with some Sanborn and other stuff for details, then followed up with Google.