Excerpt from Classic American Tractors; 150 Years of International Harvester C.H. Wendel

Warder, Bushnell & Glessner Co.

Benjamin Warder began building reapers at Spring­ field, Ohio in 1850. Prior to that time, Warder had established a sawmill, grist mill, and woolen mill. A factory designed to make small farm tools was even­ tually converted to a reaper building.

Warder became quite wealthy from his various enterprises. He was fascinated by the new hand-rake reaper emerging from Seymour & Morgan. For $30,000, Warder bought an interest in the Seymour & Morgan patents.

The business grew rapidly. During the early 1850’s, Warder associated himself with J. C. Child. Business was conducted as Warder & Child until January, 1866. Also, during the 1850’s, Warder & Child began building the Wright-Atkins “Automaton”, an early self-rake under a license from Seymour & Morgan.

Warder was one of the few men of his social status who served as a lieutenant in the Union Army. During his absence, the business was managed by Mr. Child, along with Ross Mitchell and J. J. Glessner. When this arrangement expired by limitation in 1879, the firm of Warder, Bushnell & Glessner was organized, with Mr. Mitchell retiring.

The firm of Hatch & Whitely was organized at Springfield, Ohio in 1852. Whitely built his first machine as a combined reaper and mower. It was 1854 before this outfit was placed on the market, but it was the basis for much of the “Champion” system that followed.

A partnership of 1856 resulted in Whitely, Fassler & Kelly. In 1860, this firm launched an unsuccessful at­ tempt to unite manufacturers to resist paying royalties and shop rights to Obed Hussey.

William N. Whitely could generally out-talk, out­ work and outwit any adversary. The feat that first made Whitely famous was performed in 1867 at Jamestown Ohio. A field competitor was doing as good a job as Whitely. Angered at this, Whitely un­ hitched one of his horses and finished reaping with but one animal. The competitor followed suit, and did just as well. Seeing himself bested, the enraged Whitely cut loose the remaining horse and pulled the reaper across the plot singlehanded. This amazing feat was witnessed by about five hundred farmers and was ful­ ly reported in the press.

Whitely’s factory took an 1867 license to build the Johnston self-rake reapers. The keen competition be­ tween Whitely and Warder led to an 1867 consolida­ tion of the business whereby the territory was divided between these two companies. The Champion Machine Company was then organized to handle territory ced­ ed to it by the other two firms.

The consolidation greatly strengthened both com­ panies. Warder and his partners handled the business management of the three houses. Whitely headed the experimental  work,  and  Fassler  managed  the factories.

Champion introduced malleable iron castings in its 1874 machines, followed shortly after by a reaper of all-steel construction. Throughout its years of opera­ tion, the Champion factories were renowned for high­ quality machines and excellent workmanship.

Whitely, Fassler & Kelly Company failed in 1887, and Champion Machine Company withdrew from the business. Warder, Bushnell & Glessner Company took over both firms. During the following fifteen years, the Champion line experienced steady growth. It was one of the  five firms which formed International Harvester Company in 1902.

For 1869, Champion offered the No. 1 and No. 3 Single Mowers. These were of the rear-mounted design, with the sickle bar and gears mounted behind the axle. This design had several inherent disadvantages – a specific one being the constant danger to the operator in case he was accidentally thrown from the machine. The divide board at the outer end of the cutter bar was made of hardened wood fingers – they turned the outer end of the swath inward to prevent the cut material from plugging the sickle on the next round.
The Champion No. 2 Mower was available with a dropper attachment for 1869. In use, the cut grain fell over the wooden fingers behind the sickle. When the desired amount had accumulated, the operator dropped the fingers to the position shown here, allowing the cut grain to slide onto the ground. The fingers were again raised for a repeat performance. A reel assisted in bringing the grain into the sickle end helped tip it onto the dropper.


Obviously the Champion people attempted to build a complete line of harvesting equipment around the No. I Mower. At the top of this line stood the Champion No. 2 with a self-rake attachment. In order to stay clear of the revolving rakes, the operator was seated over the tongue. Except for the wheels, gearing, and a few other castings, this machine was built primarily of wood, including the rake teeth. As the Marsh harvester developed, Champion was quick to become a leader in the harvester and binder industry.


Another attachment for the No. 2 Mower of 1869 was this hand-rake device. While the driver was seated well ahead of the operation, the unfortunate laborer manning the hand-rake stood on a tiny platform, and was forced to rely on a thigh-high support to maintain his balance. Working in this position must have been a difficult and tiresome task.


Whether the McCormicks ever used this photograph in their advertising is unknown, but it certainly would not have been appreciated by the Champion people. Apparent­ly, Walter Biebel, an unhappy farmer from Belleville, Ill., offered this machine for sale at the bargain price of $50, stating on the placard that it was “no good in heavy wheat”. Whether all the blame could be laid on the machine itself seems doubtful, but it certainly provided something for the competition to crow about.