Significant contributions to the Agriculture world as far a machinery goes cannot be connected to just one Machine, accept maybe the Cotton Gin. Without these machines Agriculture as we know it would not be the same.
I. Cotton gin. Back in the Colonial Era, believe it or not Cotton material was far more pricey than Linen or even wool. The reasoning behind this was that it was an very tedious and daunting task to separate the seeds form the fibers they were attached to. Because of this one picker had the capability of separating the seeds from the cotton at a rate of about one pound a day.
Then comes the year 1793 and Eli Whitney's invention, the Cotton gin, this contraption was made of a wheels set very closely together with serrated teeth and the wheels came out through narrow openings housed in between metal bars into the hopper which held the cotton bolls. Then as the wheels rotated, the teeth would grab the fibers and pull them up thru the narrow slits that were made specifically to narrow for the seeds to pass through, thereby the cotton fiber was separated from the seeds.
Eli Whitney’s invention made it possible for thousand pounds of cotton to be extruded and cleaned in the same amount of time it took a single worker to do 5 pounds manually. Then and only then did the price of cotton go down and hence the cotton plantation culture of the Southwest born, and of course this caused the use of slave labor to become entrenched.
II. Reaper/binder. For years Sickles or Scythes were used to cut crops and then raked and bound into sheaths manually.
Some harvesting machines came onto the scene in Great Britain about 1800, and then decades later they came to the U.S.; however most of these failed.
Grain harvesting machines first appeared in Great Britain about 1800, and a decade or two later in the U.S., but most failed. In the Early 1830's, Obed Hussey and Cyrus McCormick both developed successful reapers. McCormick's machines quickly became the most popular and the reaper was given to his credit. These machines however still need the pre-bound sheaves. Fast forward 1857 the Marsh Brothers came on the scene and managed to attach the reaper to a moving canvas, a makeshift conveyor belt more than likely; it was then transported to a Rostrum where it was bound into the a passel a.k.a bundle by a worker atop the machine.
Ten years later John Appleby demonstrated the first twine knotter and seven years later Sylvanus Locke created the wire binder, which was later adopted by McCormick. This was well for a while but with the wire binding often times bits of wire got into the grain and would end up inside livestock and flour with pernicious results; realizing this William Deering, originally and investment farmer, partnered with Elijah Gammon and they funded the Marsh Brothers with $40,000 for the production of a horse-drawn grain harvester. His company, Deering Manufacturing, then incorporated the Twine Binder/Knotter mechanism for his popular Deering harvesters. During the 1880 harvest Deering produced and sold 3,000 of Appleby's twine-tie binder, showing profits upwards of $400.0002 . by this time Deering had relocated Deering Manufacturing to Chicago and establish the Deering Harvester Works. By 1881 McCormick had also incorporated Appleby's twine-tie binder as well.
Side-note: Deering was also responsible for building a modern twine factory to supply farmers with sufficient length and quality of twine to work with the binders, a move followed by most competitors. He conducted several experiments and determined that the ideal binder twine would be made of manila, spun to 700 feet per pound.
III. Thresher. As we know the original way of harvesting grain was by hand with a Sickle or a Scythe which was slow and labor intensive. It was then hauled to the bard, spread out and hand flailed or beat down by animals; doing this knocked the kernels off the straw and they were then raked away. then was was left was winnowed by air tossing and relying on the wind to blow the chaff and debris away to allow the heavier grain to fall to the floor.
Then along came the First thresher invented in 1786 in Scotland by Andrew Meikle. It was a machine with a rotating, cylinders with teeth and conclaves. Years later in 1830, brothers Hiram and John Pitts were credited with the first truly successful American separator, they also adapted a horse tread power to power it. Not long after this, Hiram soon added a fanning mill to the threshing drum and this allowed the grain to be separated and cleaned at the same time.
Of course, later improvements resulted in machines that extracted virtually all the grain from the straw, along with thoroughly cleaning it, while blowing the straw into a stack.
IV. Steam engine. By the late 18th century, American farmers were using new farm machines like the Cotton Gin, Reaper/Thresher and the Binder but they still had to rely on the their own strong backs and those of family members, hired men, and/or slaves. The new farm machines that were being made ended up requiring more power, so oxen, horses and mules were often hooked up to these machines to pull them. I would surmise that's the reason that the word "Horsepower" came into play; I mean oxen-power would sound pretty fun. Just for trivia sake do you know the definition of horsepower? MyDictionary.com tells us that "Horsepower is defined as the power that a horse gives when pulling, and it is used informally to mean power, or is the power needed to raise [push, pull, drag] 550 pounds a distance of one foot in one second ".
More power was still needed as farm equipment improved; it was about 1849 when portable steam power made its first appearance. In the beginning of these portable steam engines they were heavy and to literally be pulled from one destination to another by horses. It wasn't until the 1870's that several inventors designed practical drive systems and also the self-propelled steam traction engine which became the most common sue for power with many threshrers countrywide. These self-propelled engines were also use to pull multiple gang plows in the larger fields of what was known as the "Wheat Belt"; which extends "along a north-south axis for more than 1,500 miles (2,400 km) from central Alberta, Can., to central Texas"
The Steam engine thrived untill the advent of the Gasoline Powered Tractor in the 1920's; although people often think that the Steam Engine fell by the wayside at that time it did not. Automobiles with steam engines were still in production for years to come with the Doble Brothers, originally inventors of the steam car, the Bessler Brothers and McCollough Motors with their Paxton Engineering Division. Paxton Motors with designer Brooks Stevens eventually designed the Paxton Pheonix Prototype in 1953 and it was designed to house an alternative fuel steamed engine. Unfortunately the Pheonix never hit production and the Prototype was sold at a liquidation auction in 1977; it remained with a private collector untill it was mechanically restored in the early 1990's. the Phoenix still had its original factory paint, time and interior when it was sold back to Brookes Stevens family for his museum and then eventrually sold to another private collector that regularly exibits it with other unusual and one of a kind or one-off cars.
However the Steam powered tractor met its demise by the 1920's, however it did pave the way for the gasoline tractors that then followed.
V. Combined Harvester-Thresher. In 1830 brothers Hiram and John Pitts were credited with the first truly successful American separator, they also adapted a horse tread power to power it. Not long after this, Hiram soon added a fanning mill to the threshing drum and this allowed the grain to be separated and cleaned at the same time, hence the Combine was born. The name, Combine, which means "to become one"'; five separate processes become one with the Combine, harvesting, reaping, threshing and winnowing.
The Oil Drum | Drumbeat: June 22, 2011
Early versions of this Harvester-Thresher were Horse drawn however by By 1860, Combine harvesters with a cutting, or swathe, width of several meters were used on American farms. Australian Hugh Victor McKay produced a commercially successful combine harvester in 1885, the Sunshine Harvester. History shows us that the Combine is at the top of the list of the "most economically important labor saving inventions, significantly reducing the fraction of the population that must be engaged in agriculture".
Not long after the Civil War, came the development of the ground-driven combines in the regions that grew wheat in the northwest. It is said that these ground-driven combines took up to 32 head of horses or mules probably less if the power being used were oxen since "A fully grown ox can easily outweigh a draft horse and can pull more weight". Back in 1895 in the Dakotas on Bonanza farms, " it took six different people and 36 horses pulling huge harvesters, working 10 hours a day, to produce 20,000 bushels".
Around 1870 a Napa Valley inventor by the name of B.F. Cook is credited with putting a steam engine on a combine thereby making it possible of to need less "horse-power". Cook's invention became the standard for many more combine models to come". It wasn't until an extremely hot summer in 1885, after the loss of many livestock to heatstroke that George Stockton Berry decided to take the straw and use it for fuel to heat the boiler of the steam engine and combine it into a single self-propelled machine. In 1886 when Berry's wheat crop neared harvesting he decided it was time to test his design; people came from miles around to see Berry and his contraption. Spectators watched Berry move at three miles per hour and by dusk Berry had harvested 160 acres of grain"; on that day the first self-propelled Combine was born. Historylink.com tells us that at that time "The cost of the reaper and thresher was about $3 a acre while the combine was between $1.50 and $1.75".
As we know steam power was replaced by gasoline power and by 1912 the combines were powered by gasoline. It is said that the United States Department of Commerce published a bulletin that stated "Without the combine,bread rationing in the United States would have been inevitable".
Side-Note: Berry's invention became known as the "Steam Traction Engine" and in 1921 Alexander Legge , GM of International Harvester company authorized the development of this all purpose engine, and the new tractor became known as the "Farmall"
VI. Auto-Wagon With the invention of so many types of machinery and their capabilities along came with them their size, girth and weight. Even though the steam engine seemed to solve some of the problems, many farmers were still using horse and oxen as they found it easier than the new-fangled machines. It is said that "The machine was cumbersome and difficult to transport. Its basic use was costly, and it was also considerably dangerous—just one spark from the thresher boiler could set fire to a prairie on a windy day".
After doing some research it was hard to determine who invented the Gas-Powered Tractor;many save it was the International Harvester with their "Auto-Wagon" which was introduced in 1907 and later called the Farmall. Other sources say that a business man from Iowa by the name of Froelich introduced four prototype "Tractors" as early as 1892", made from designs that he had been working on for years. Froelich got his original start as a business man where he "operated a mobile threshing service and grain elevator". And "He charged farmers a fee to thresh their crops at harvest time with the help of his crew and a steam-powered thresher machine".
VII. Gasoline Tractor Froelich was so confident in his design that he ship it off to Waterloo " Iowa to show some businessmen. Immediately, the men formed a company to manufacture the “Froelich Tractor.” They named the company The Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company and made John the president." Unfortunately the company did not take off as quickly as planned, later that fall two Tractors were shipped and two tractors were returned so it was back to the drawing board. At this time the Waterloo company decided to build stationary engines and continued to refine the tractor. It was shortly after that that Froelich resigned his position as he wanted to build tractors not stationary engines.
It wasn't until nineteen years later that in "1914 the first Waterloo Boy Tractor, the Model “R” single-speed tractor, was introduced. Farmers liked it and within a year sales reached 118. When the Model “N” Waterloo Boy with two forward speeds was introduced, that was also successful. all of this did not go unnoticed by his competitors as well, namely "the Deere and Company in Moline, Illinois, manufacturer of a full line of John Deere implements".
In 1918 the Waterloo Company was sold to House of Deere for $2.2 million dollars and it turned into one of the the most successful modern tractor company's of its kind, and this all was mirrored
from Foroelichs original concept for internal combustion gasoline engine". To this day John Deer is still one of the larges producers of tractors in the nation.
The unincorporated town is still named "Froelich" and boasts the name "Tractor Town U.S.A." John Froelich is also listed in the Iowa Inventors Hall of Fame where he is credited with many inventions; some of which are a washing machine and dryer, a dish-washer, a mechanical corn picker and the mounting of a gasoline engine on his well driller. Many sites proclaim that Froelich invented the first Air Conditioner which later became Carrier Air Conditioning, It was just such this invention that gave him the idea to put the gasoline engine on a tractor.
VIII. General Purpose Tractor By the 1920's work such as planting and cultivating, even though Gasoline Tractors had been introduced, most were to heavy, bulky or not versatile enough for the lighter jobs. Even though lightweight row crop tractors had been introduced, most were not satisfactory. Many manufacturers offered motor cultivators but very minuet number were will to make the investment in a machine that would only be used for a couple of months out of the year.
So in 1924, International Harvester (IH) introduced the "Farmall"; the Farmall was the first General Purpose tractor that could actually pull the heavier tillage and other harvesting machines and could also help plant and cultivate row crops. By 1930 the Farmall had made a name for itself and IH was producing about 200 Farmalls a day. Of course it didn't take long for all the other major tractor manufacturing company's to offer a similar row crop machine.
Even still the Farmall was the what kept the Fordson from monopolizing the market for a small mass produced machine that was affordable for the small and medium farms; with the Farmalls formidable narrow-front tricycle design and the ability of high ground clearance while cultivating due to its portal axle a.k.a. drop gear set. This gave the Farmall a power take-off (PTO), a form of a drive shaft, Revolvy.com describes it best, "The power take-off allows implements to draw energy from the engine. ... These applications typically use a drive shaft and bolted joint to transmit power ... can be easily connected and disconnected, and a corresponding input shaft on the ... the PTO requires the tractor motion to slow or stop running to allow the PTO driven ...". International Harvester was an early leader in the PTO market, and was the "first to market it on a production tractor, with its model 8-16, introduced in 1918 "; with its "standard mounting points for cultivators and other implementations of the tractors frame (a Farmall first)8]"; this gave Farmall "some copetitive advantages over the Forsdson, especially for row crops, and it became the favorite row-crop tractor of America, outselling all other competitors(such as John Deere)". So the "swift mechanization of the American Farms" by the late 1930's and early 40's was well on its way.
X. Hydraulic implement lift with draft control When you think of hydraulics, sometimes the first thing that comes to mind is elevators and lifts they use in auto repair shops. But hydraulics have a a very deep history dating back to before the turn of the century. You could actually say that hydraulics stem from the first version of harnessing the power of water thousands of years ago. The harnessing of water started with water wheels and canals. Based on the British historians M.J.T. accounts from the work of the a technician from Greece, Appolnius of Perge, these water wheels also known as water mills actually powered peoples lives dating back to the early 3rd century BCE .
These precursors influenced the construction of communities, cities and even more specifically canals. One of the techniques that developed from the early use of the what was described by Philo of Byzantium. as a water mill, became known as the water wheel  in Europe was called stream jamming and this helped put the country on the path to water supply and the technology of irrigation to be combined with the modification of the supplication of power of the water wheel.
Hydraulic power networks used pipes to carry water pressure and transmit mechanical power to the end user. One of the largest and still existing Hydraulic power networks is the world-famous Jetd'Eau, installed in 1886 at the Usine de la Coulouvrenière, in 1891 after its exquisite aesthetic value was acknowledged it was moved to its current location where Lake Geneva empties into the Rhone. "Since 2003, the fountain has operated during the day all year round, except in case of frost and particularly strong wind" . It also operates in the evening between spring and autumn and is lit by a set of 21 lights totaling 9 kW. On 25 August 2016, the fountain celebrated its 125th anniversary at its present location.
Fast forward to 1785 and an Englander, Joseph Bramah. along with industrialist Armstrong Whitworth took note that the water wheel was doing an immense amount of work the there was still a lot of potential that had not been harnessed. The two first designed a rotary engine but later moved it to a hydraulic piston type design that could move a crane. So in an era where the science of hydraulics was not yet truly recognized, Bramah and Armstrong were utilizing Pascal's laws to further their invention. Bramah got a patent for the invention of the hydraulic press in 1795. "Since 1795 several engineers and inventors have added their contribution to this scientific field of science that deals with the subject of forces exerted on fluids or fluid dynamics".
Over a century later ther first tractor mechanical lift appeared and then in 1934 the hydraulic lift. Irishman Harry Ferguson laid claim to the first hydraulic lift and his "three-point hitch was probably the most revolutionary improvement in tractor and implement technology during the first half of the 20th century. Today, virtually every tractor sold anywhere in the world features a three-point hitch based on Ferguson’s original system."
Just four short years later Ferguson showed the tractor he had built to Henry Ford at the Ford Fairlane Farm. Ford was very enammered and worked hastilly to form a partnership and they shook on it. They never signed a
contract but this put ford back in the Tractor business. Within four years Ford-Ferguson had captured 20 percent of the tractor market, this was compared to International Harvester's 40 percent, but by that year there were over 100,000 Ford-Ferguson's out in the fields. Unfortunately years later Ferguson had to sue Ford for patent infringement and after many long years of court battles took a settlement of 9.25 Million.
Years later due to his deteriorating health Ferguson "merged his company with Daniel Massey and Alanson Harris's company, Massey-Harris; remember them they were responsible for producing the world’s first commercially successful self-propelled combine harvester in 1938. The new Massey Fergusoncompany became a major player in the tractor market of the late 20th Century.
Bull Tractor Co. Big Bull (a.k.a. Whiting-Bull in England)
25 H.P. horizontally opposed two cylinder engine
delivered 10 H.P. at the draw-bar. Featured a three wheel design
Briefly imported by Massey-Harris during 1917
Produced from 1915-1920 at Minneapolis
Whatever you call it, "fluid power" a.k.a. "hydro-power" or "hydraulic power" the Agricultural industry still relies heavily on the use of pressurized fluid just as the original water wheel did in order to produce energy/power.
X. Rubber Tires Tractor tires were originally made of steel and lugs. This not only limited speed but the vibration shook bolts loose , got stuck often and made the ride extremely uncomfortable for the farmer. Solid molded rubber tires were being installed on tractors around 1920 and Citrus growers in Florida began to experiment with large truck tires on their own tractors in 1928. That said, we need to rewind back to 1847 when Scottish inventor Robert William Thomson filed the first patent on the Rubber "Pneumatic" Tire (Tyre). However, this never went into production. The first practical pneumatic tire was produced in 1888 by Henry Dunlop who mistakenly thought he had invented the first pneumatic tire. Just two short years later, Sir Arthur Du Cros, tells us in his book "Wheels of Fortune, a salute to pioneers" that Dunlop was made aware that in fact, he was not the first but did not share this knowledge with anyone; in 1892 Dunlop's patent was declared invalid because of the prior forgotten art of Thomson. Dunlop however is credited with "realizing rubber could withstand the wear and tear of being a tire while retaining its resilience"; it is said that Dunlop's actual patent was for bicycles not powered vehicles. John Boyd Dunlop and Harvey du Cros did not throw in the towel; they continued to work together even through numerous considerable difficulties, to ensue there lasting place in the Pneumatic Tire marketplace. Dunlop and Du Cros discovery would go on to become popular when Willie Hume won seven out of eight races with his new pneumatic tires; Harris was "was the first member of the public to purchase a "safety bicycle" fitted with Dunlop's newly patented pneumatic tyres".
Dunlop went on to incorporate the Pheumatic Tyre and Booth's Cycle Aganecy Co. Ltd. in 1889. The money for this venture was floated by Du Cros; DuCros was actually the president of the Irish Cyclists' Association. Du Cros had purchased the patent from Dunlop for £3,000; By 1930, Dunlop was the eighth largest public company in Britain by market value, by 1939 it was one Britains largest multinational companies. In the meantime in America in 1898 Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was founded by Frank Seiberling just short of forty years after Charles Goodyear's death. Charles Goodyear who is often credited with the invention of "Vulcanized Rubber" and he himself even went as far as to claim that he invented the Vulcanization Process back in 1939. But in fact, in the book, "Mechanics and Thermomechanics of Rubberlike Solids", published in May of 2014, Saccomandi and Ogden state, "In 1834 the German chemist Friedrich Ludersdorf and Nathaniel Hayward discovered that the addition of sulphur to gum rubber lessened or eliminated... [it's] stickiness". It was in 1853 the American inventor Charles Goodyear claimed that he had founded the Pneumatic tire back in 1939, but Hayward and Ludersdorf state that this was done "using the findings of the two chemist discovered" the same process and named it Vulcnisation ; the product was soon to be call Vulcanized Rubber. Goodyear does state in his book that he did in fact carry out one of many experiments for the optimization of cured rubber whilst collaborating with Nathaniel Hayward whom he had visited at a Roxbury Rubber plant.
Some historians claim that Goodyear purchased the rights to use the process from Hayward; Unfortunately Goodyear's process was not accepted in England and failed in a factory in France. However,Goodyear did go on to be granted more than sixty patents; some of these inventions had to be defended by Goodyear on the basis of copyright infringement. One famous case was Goodyear v. Day and Goodyear prevailed after a long court battle that ended in 1852 the same time as his travels to England and eventually France. Now lets take a few steps back to Dunlop and Cros who would not have been able to form what was to be known as "Dunlop Tires" without the vulcanization technology and the "Clincher" rim technology traditionally used on bicycles. Prior to this time "wired-on rims were straight-sided. Various "hook" (also called "crochet") designs re-emerged in the 1970s to hold the bead of the tire in place,", This resulted in the modern "Clincher" design. In a historical background article, Jag.com tells us "In 1898 Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company—[...], the discoverer of vulcanized rubber—was formed in America by Frank Seiberling.
Then Firestone Tire & Rubber Company was started by Harvey Firestone in 1900. Other tire makers followed." "Michelin developed and patented a key innovation in tire history in....[1946, the Radial tire], and successfully exploited this technological innovation to become one of the worlds leading tire manufacturers". Indeed it was Michelin to introduce the first Radial tire, this new design had a longer tread life, created better steering, better gas mileage and better rolling resistance, unfortunately it had a substantially harder ride. Therefore the truth to be told "The tire industry was afraid of how much it would cost to retool the entire American tire industry to make the more costly radial tires. Not happy with the threat of having to make tremendous investments, most American automobile makers and tire manufacturers wrote off the radial tire as 'a freak product that isn’t going anywhere'". "The first recorded attempt to use rubber tires was the English built "Thompson's Rubber Tire Steamer" that was purported to "haul through soft ground, pull a gang of seven plows, and speed along the road at 10 miles per hour." The machine was tested in California's San Joaquin Valley in 1871, but was unsuccessful." More than likely this was B.F. Cook who is credited with putting a steam engine on a combine thereby making it possible to need less "horse-power". The Second was in 1918, International Harvester put rubber tires on an 8-16 tractor (Farmall). by the early 1900's alot of progress had been made and BFG (B.F. Goodrich) introduced their "zero pressure" tire specifically made for farm tractors. Farmcollector.com tells us that " It was neither pneumatic nor solid, but had a web of solid piers inside that supported the outer arch which was said to give the tire enough flexibility to provide full soil contact and superior traction, besides being puncture proof. This tire must not have caught on, because in 1933 Goodrich was advertising a self-cleaning, low pressure tire using a tube". Pneumatic tires came on the scene for tractors when a Wisconsin farmer Albert Schroeder put a pair of Firestone 48 X 12 (an airplane tire) with the help of Allis-Chalmers (A-C), and they publicly tested successfully on Labor Day in 1932.
In October of that year A-C proudly announced that these pneumatic specialty tires that were to be built by Firestone, would now become standard equipment on their Model U Tractors. So, by "1940, 95 percent of tractors were ordered on rubber...[tires] and Harvey Firestone’s dream of putting the farm on rubber was on its way to being reality".
TireReview.com showcased an article in October of last year that tells us that "education has become key in the Agriculture Tire Industry," stated by Bruce Besancon, Alliance Tire Group’s vice president of marketing. "Educating the tire and equipment dealers as well as end-users on new tire technology will become increasingly important[...]
One of the key factors is whether or not the farmer really knows how to utilize this technology to the fullest;”[...]"equipment manufacturers, from Deere to Case and Holland...continue to build larger, most powerful and heavier equipment."[...] "With this trend of the use of more powerful heavier equipment; tire manufactures are forced to devote more R&D resources to the newer technologies on the market today"..
I wonder what Goodyear, Firestone, Dunlop, Perrelli and so many more would have to say about new technologies like AI (Auto Inflation), LSW (Low Side Wall), IF (Increased Flexion) and AD2 (Advanced Definition Design), just to name a few. DigitalTrends.com tells us that "It’s apparent that several innovations will have opportunities to work themselves into the traditional pneumatic tire before a wholly new form takes over". He goes on to tell us that even with the development of "energy powertrains and autonomous driving systems", tire manufactures will continue to move the line and keep "investing R&D resources in refining air-filled tires [...] Advances are already here, and as long as hovering cars don’t become the norm in the next decade, we’ll at least see some of this awesome tire technology hit the pavement."
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*Some of the information in this article was gleaned from FarmandDairy.com