Graduate Student Dan Ott has won the 2012 Everett E. Edwards Award from the Agricultural History Society. The Edwards Award is presented annually for the best article submitted to the Society's journal, Agricultural History, by a graduate student.
Ott's paper, “Producing a Past: McCormick Harvester and Producer Populists in the 1890s", comes out of work that he has undertaken in his graduate seminars in the History Department. It focuses on the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company’s advertising during the 1880s and 1890s as the company attempted to assuage producer antagonism and fend off industrial competitors. The center of their advertising and brand was the “fact” that Cyrus McCormick Sr. invented the mechanized reaper in 1831. They used this historical fiction to align their company’s inventive labor with the manual labor of their producer customers who were a significant portion of the radical agrarian movement during the period. McCormick Harvester also utilized that position to claim that they had provided farmers with the tools of civilization that allowed them to produce at greater levels and become modern consumers. Through this strategy, they also implied that all other harvester manufacturers were child-like followers upon the trail created by McCormick’s inventive genius. This marketing strategy was met with incredible resistance from their competitors, like Deering Harvester, as they waged a campaign to refute the McCormick past in the public sphere. Their ultimate success undermined the McCormick brand and market share, forcing the firm that “fathered the reaper” to seek industrial consolidation - resulting in the creation of International Harvester in 1902.
The Edwards Award will be presented to Ott at the 2013 Annual Meeting in Banff, Alberta.