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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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McCormick-International Harvester Co Branch House (G. Tipler photo, 2009)

McCormick-International Harvester Co Branch House (G. Tipler photo, 2009)

McCormick-International Harvester Co Branch House (G. Tipler photo, 2009)

McCormick-International Harvester Co Branch House (G. Tipler photo, 2009)

McCormick-International Harvester Company Branch House
301 S. Blount Street, Madison, Dane County
Dates of construction: 1898, 1910

The McCormick-International Harvester Company Branch House in Madison functioned as a regional branch house for sales and distribution of agricultural implements for both the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company and the International Harvester Company. The large two-story cream brick building was first built by the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in 1898 along the city’s east rail corridor. Following the 1902 corporate exchange to the International Harvester Company, the building was increased in size following new standards for branch houses, with an addition completed in early 1910.

In August 1902, McCormick Harvesting Machine Company joined its chief competitor, Deering Harvester Company, and several other companies in a corporate merger becoming the International Harvester Company, the largest and most influential manufacturer of agricultural implements. International Harvester, then under the direction of Cyrus Hall McCormick, Jr. as its president, set upon a campaign of building a network of regional branch houses to better serve the company and its clients.

Agricultural implement manufacturers established branch house systems to more efficiently accommodate the sale, financing, delivery, and maintenance of their products in a manner most suitable to both manufacturer and customer. The branch house system developed in the late nineteenth century and was well suited to the bulky and expensive farm equipment trades. Branch houses, as agents for the manufacturer, sold the products to the independently owned retail dealers, whose sales were made directly to farmers. Some manufacturing companies developed company owned and operated retail outlets, but these only handled a minor part of equipment sales. The branch houses became full line distributors, and provided access to the fullest range of farming equipment possible. They were highly competitive against smaller manufacturers, which specialized in only a few lines of equipment, and were often incorporated into the mergers and aggregation of the larger companies. On the sales side of the business, branch houses employed a number of salesmen, canvassers, machinery experts, and "blockmen," salesmen who operated one section or block of the branch territory.

The building remained associated with the International Harvester Co. through 1953 when the business moved to a new building at the periphery of the city.

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