Cyrus McCormick: Gave us cheap bread
The year 1809 produced many world-renowned notables: Poe, Chopin, Lincoln, Gladstone, Mendelssohn, Darwin, and the man who changed the world of agriculture and gave us cheap bread -- Cyrus Hall McCormick. Cyrus was born in Rockbridge County, Va. His father, Robert, owned four farms comprising 1,800 acres, grist mills, saw mills, a smelting furnace, a distillery and a blacksmith shop. Although built of logs, the McCormick home had a parlor with mahogany furniture, carpets and books. Agriculture was the principal occupation of 90 percent of Americans living at the time, born of the simple need to survive. It was never an easy life; a pawn to the vicissitudes of nature and less so of man. And the methods employed in coaxing the land to bear its fruit had not changed in centuries. Grain, the principal staple, was reaped by brute strength -- one man could harvest half an acre a day using the scythe.