This latter-day image depicts a reaper trial, in which entrepreneurs
demonstrated their farm implements to a group of assembled farmers or
fair judges. Illinois became a leader in the farm machinery trade in
the antebellum period, beginning with John Deere's invention and marketing
of the self-cleaning steel plow in 1837. In 1848 Cyrus McCormick moved
his reaper manufactory from Virginia to Chicago, the Northwest's growing
commercial center, in order to be nearer to the nation's wheat-growing
regions. McCormick had invented the world's first practical device for
the mechanical reaping of wheat, and it won him international celebrity
and great wealth. But in 1855 another Illinois entrepreneur, John H.
Manny of Rockford, defeated McCormick's machine at the Paris Exposition.
In the aftermath of this defeat McCormick unsuccessfully sued Manny
for the violation of his patent. In the ensuing trial, Manny's lawyers
retained the young Springfield lawyer Abraham Lincoln to join their
team as a local contact. But when the trial was moved to federal court
in Cincinnati, the eastern lawyers decided that such "a long, lank creature
from Illinois, wearing a dirty linen duster for a coat" could only embarrass
them. Hurt by the snub, Lincoln vowed to redouble his legal studies
and improve himself for future encounters with eastern advocates.