During the 1880s and 1890s the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company created a brand based upon Cyrus H. McCormick's supposed invention of the mechanized reaper in 1831. The company's “prestige of priority” functioned to break the industry price-slashing deadlock of the “reaper wars” while assuaging populist criticismdirected at their company as a parasiticmonopoly. Its interpretation of the past reimagined McCormick as a heroic producer-inventor from the farm, who freed successive generations of agrarians from toil and enabled their rise to civilized affluence. This brand modified the producer-populist “labor theory of value” to create a “technological surplus value ideology,” which framed invention as productive labor. The firm's initiative to mold McCormick heritage into recognized national history through advertising, sales agents, exhibitions, and ultimately a campaign to have McCormick Senior's image printed on federal currency, left the brand susceptible to competing claims on the past from the company's competitors.

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