Hart Massey had begun experiments with a stripper header in the 1880s. A stripper header was a machine that cut the heads off standing grain and the heads then were conveyed into a thresher – cleaner which threshed the kernels out of the head and discarded any chaff , awns and other debris. Stripper Headers really only worked well in areas where grain could dry while standing. Western Canada was not the place for this technology given the long time to maturity of the wheat varieties in use in the 1880s, E.G. Red Fife. An early winter could result in snow falling on the crop flattening it. A stripper header could not cope with this condition. Stripper headers were commonly used in areas such as Australia, California and Argentina. However Massey persisted with the stripper header even after the amalgamation that saw Massey Harris formed. Massey Harris built and shipped 350 stripper headers in 1901.
Massey Harris in 1906 began work on a travelling combined harvester thresher and hired two Australian engineers. These engineers split the year between Australia and Canada working on designs. By 1909, they had developed a machine that cut a standing crop, conveyed the stalks to a threshing cylinder which threshed the material and dumped it out onto straw walkers under which were sieves through which air was blown. The air flow cleaned the chaff and debris from the grain, when properly adjusted. This machine featured a ground wheel drive and a 9 foot cut. Operators on the machine had to bag grain as it came through the sieves.
This machine was introduced to the market as the Massey Harris Number 1 in 1910. The machine was further improved with new models coming on to the market. In 1922 the Massey Harris Number 5 was introduced. The Model 5 was the first Massey Harris combine to feature an engine drive. All previous Massey Harris combines had featured ground wheel drive. The Number 5 could be drawn by either a tractor or horses.