Machinery down on the farm, 1877

September 26, 2014

Readers of William Hoyt Coleman’s column in the Christian Union got a chatty and patchy report of the New York State Fair of 1877:  no pie judging, no news of prize livestock.  Coleman focused on developments in farm machinery, new grape varieties, and a surprisingly entertaining argument about flower-growing.

This extract on new farm equipment makes some interesting points for those of us uneducated on the history of farm machinery.  There’s the fact that developments in harvesting occurred before developments in planting.  There’s the nerdish description of lawn mowers.  There’s the gee-golly description of the machine making barbed wire.  And, above all, there’s the pleasure of realizing that some of these machines were powered by steam—adding a little steam-punky layer to Willie Coleman’s time at the fair.

from “The New York State Fair at Rochester.” Christian Union 16 (3 Oct 1877): 286.

Steam is thoroughly at home on the farm. It may not yet prepare the land for grain, but it takes good care of the crop when harvested. Six or eight portable engines were scattered among the farm machinery, and everything that could go went. Patent rakers and binders flung off sheaves at the spectators’ feet, separators rattled noisily, and hay was baled and bound with wire. Eighty Robinson chilled plows stood in shining ranks. It is a good plow, as we know from personal observation this season. The Thomas Smoothing Harrow is becoming noted, not only in legitimate harrow work, but as a grain-seeder and a cultivator of startling crops, such as wheat, rye, corn, etc. Ruhlman’s wheel-hoe, with two strong steel knives, did excellent work in a little piece of ground where rows of sticks did duty for growing crops. It is recommended by James Vick and Chase Bros. The Excelsior Lawn-mower has at last recognized the merits of the Philadelphia and become a light two-wheeled machine with wooden roller. But it retains its strong gearing, has an open three-blade wiper and its double handle, and in these respects it surpasses the Philadelphia. Its cogs are so constructed as to throw out anything that is caught upon it and to mash the grass so as to lubricate the cogs. The manufacture of the heavy roller machines will still go on, as many prefer them. The company has just made a contract to furnish five thousand machines to England, and these will all be rollers. Bailey’s Elevator, by a combination of three cog-wheels, enabled one to lift a block of stone weighing three tons by pulling on a rope and dropping it by the touch of the finger on the release rod. In the Hall a great attraction was the barbed-wire fence machine, which twisted two wires together, twisted a third across at regular distances, cutting it off with sharp points and rolling up the finished wire in a huge ball. The inventor has evidently studied thorn hedges to good advantage.


One Response to “Machinery down on the farm, 1877”

  1. […] of the New York State Fair of 1877: no pie judging, no news of prize livestock. Coleman focused on developments in farm machinery, new grape varieties, and a surprisingly entertaining argument about […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: