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In modern times, despite poor record-keeping and erased histories, it has been revealed that enslaved African-Americans contributed far more than free labor to this country. A slave, Jo Anderson, is largely credited as the co-inventor of the McCormick mechanical reaper, which revolutionized American farming in the 19th Century.

Jo Anderson, who was born in 1808, was owned by the family of inventor Robert McCormick. McCormick invented a horse-drawn reaper, which is an instrument that gathers and collects crops,  but never refined the device. He handed over the designs to his son, Cyrus, who made significant improvements, but Anderson was right there in lockstep with the younger McCormick.

During this month in 1831, McCormick and Anderson debuted their version of the reaper with both men showing of its capabilities to speed up the harvest collection. The device was patented in 1834, and was largely seen as an updated version of earlier versions of the reaper that were invented in Scotland and other locales.

In 1931, Cyrus McCormick II, the grandson of Cyrus McCormick, wrote in his book The Century Of The Reaper that Anderson should have been noted as a co-inventor of the device.

This family account has been supported by descendants of the McCormicks many times over. Another account that Anderson and McCormick were just a year apart in age and were more like brothers than slaves. When McCormick freed Anderson before the Civil War, Anderson couldn’t live freely so he worked for farming neighbors at a rate of $60 per month which McCormick paid until his death.




Little Known Black History Fact: Jo Anderson  was originally published on