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Agricultural implements.

The United States for many years has led the world in the invention and use of appliances for tilling the soil. The extension of farming to large areas, as in Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, where farms of 50,000 acres are not unusual, has called for quicker means of ploughing, sowing, and reaping than is possible by hand. Hence inventive genius has recognized the new conditions and provided ploughs, seeding-machines, cultivators, reapers, binders, and other apparatus operated by horse and steam-power. The invention of the mowing-machine is coeval, in our country, with the reaping-machine. The “Manning” mower was invented in 1831. That and the “Ketcham” (1844) held the place of superior excellence until about 1850, when other inventors had made improvements. In 1850 less than 5,000 mowing-machines had been made in our country. Within [69] a quarter of a century afterwards a mowing-machine was considered indispensable to every farm. The American machines are the best in the world, and are sold all over Europe and South America.

The plough used in this country during the colonial period was made of wood, covered with sheet-iron, the share being of wrought-iron. In 1793, Thomas Jefferson, who had been experimenting on his Virginia farm, invented an improved mouldboard, which would turn a furrow without breaking it. In 1797, Charles Newbold, of Burlington. N. J., invented a castiron plough, and spent about $30,000 in perfecting it. It proved a great loss and failure to him, however, for the report spread among the farmers that the new plough “poisoned the soil, ruined the crops, and promoted the growth of rocks” ; and, as they refused to use it, the manufacture of the new invention ceased. About 1804 Daniel Peacock patented a plough having its mould-board and landside of cast-iron and separate, while its share was of wrought-iron, edged with steel. Jethro Wood, of Scipio, N. Y., patented improvements on this in 1819, and the prejudice against new inventions among farmers having somewhat abated, he did a very successful business as a maker of these implements, and his plans have been the basis of most all those of modern construction. The first steam-plough in the United States was patented by E. C. Bellinger, of South Carolina, in 1833, but did not come into practical use until much later.

Perhaps the “Great plough.” invented by Daniel Webster, which was twelve feet long, drawn by four yoke of oxen, and turned a furrow two feet wide and one foot deep, may be regarded as the unwieldy precursor of the admirable and efficient sulky ploughs of later times. The value of inventive genius to the farmer, however, is not shown as much in the improvements of the plough as in the mowers and reaping-machines which to-day take the places of sickle, scythe, and cradle, laboriously wielded by our forefathers. The first reaping-machine in America was patented in 1803 by Richard French and John J. Hankins. One wheel of the machine ran in the grain, and the cutting was done by a number of scythes which revolved on a pivot. It did not prove very successful. Two or three other like machines were patented in the following twenty-five years. In 1831 the Manney mower was patented, which was the first successful machine of the kind.

In 1833, Mr. Obed Hussey, of Cincinnati. O., patented a reaper, with saw-toothed cutters and guards, which was immediately put into practical operation, and proved thoroughly satisfactory. In 1834, Cyrus H. McCormick, then of Virginia, and late of Chicago, took out the first patent on his reaper, which has since come into such general use. This reaper, with improvements patented in 1845 and 1847, received the first prize at the World's Fair of 1851, where American reapers were first introduced to the notice of Europeans. At the International Exhibition at Paris, in 1855, American reapers were brought into competition with others, each machine being allowed to cut an acre of standing oats near Paris. The American reaper did its work in twenty-two minutes, the English in sixty, and an Algerian in seventy-two. It used a cutter similar to that of Hussey's machine, its main features being the reel, the divider, the receiving platform for the grain, and the stand for the raker. American reaping-machines are now used all over Europe where cereals abound. The automatic rake was patented by a Mr. Seymour, of Brockport, N. Y., in 1851, and in 1856 Mr. Dorsey, of Maryland, patented the revolving rake, which was improved upon by Samuel Johnston, of Brockport. in 1865. The first self-binder was patented by C. W. and W. W. Marsh in 1858.

The first threshing-machine used here was largely modelled after the invention of Andrew Meikle, a Scotchman, patented in Great Britain in 1788, but this has since been changed in detail, till scarcely more than the outline of the original plan is left. The fanning-machine was originally invented in Holland, though largely improved and altered by American inventions. An agricultural implement of great importance to one part of the country, at least, is the cotton-gin. The first machine of this kind was invented by M. Debreuil, a French planter of Louisiana, but did not prove successful. Whitney's cotton-gin, which did succeed, and increased [70] the production of cotton tenfold in two years, was invented in 1793.

The census of 1890 reported 910 establishments engaged in the manufacture of agricultural implements. These had a capital investment of $145.313,997, employed 42,544 persons, paid $21,811,761 for wages, and $31,603,265 for materials used in construction, and turned out implements valued at $81,271,651. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 1900, the exportation of American-made agricultural implements aggregated in value $16,094,886.

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