The agricultural machinery industry emerged in Britain and the United States in the 19th century. Until then the common tools of farming were the plough and the sickle. These iron agricultural implements were often made by blacksmiths in the local village, who regularly also acted as farrier. In the first part of the 19th century some of the early agricultural machine manufacturers arose from these blacksmith workshops, such as John Deere who started up with the production of ploughs in series in the 1840s.
Agricultural Implements, 1851.
Other companies arose from the introduction of horse drawn reaping, which replaced the type of hand reaper in use since biblical times. A company as the McCormick started up with building these kind of harvesting machines around the 1840s. And another origin of agricultural industry was the introduction of combined harvesting, threshing and cleaning in the 1830s. The Case Corporation for example started building those in 1842 as the Racine Threshing Machine Works. Until early 20th century most of those machinery were powered by horses.
Mid 19th century the portable steam-powered plowing engines were introduced. They were used in pairs, placed on either side of a field to haul a plow back and forth between them using a wire cable. These portable engines were also used to power threshing machines, mills and pumps. The portable steam engines were produced by specific agricultural machinery maker, such as Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies who had started as brass and iron-founder making casting ploughshares late 18th century.
Late 19th century in Britain more companies such as Richard Garrett & Sons and Mann’s Patent Steam Cart and Wagon Companydeveloped steam tractors for direct ploughing, but the heavy, wet soil of England meant that these designs were less economical than a team of horses. In the United States, where soil conditions permitted, steam tractors were used to direct-haul plows. Steam-powered agricultural engines remained in use well into the 20th century until reliable internal combustion engines had been developed.
Collins (1987) recalled that the impact of the agricultural machinery industry in the 19th century was still limited. He stated : “prior the third quarter of the nineteenth century the impact of machinery in agriculture was slight compared with that in manufacturing industry. Some operations such as barn work and hay and corn harvesting had been largely mechanized by 1880 but, up to the Second World War, many were still performed by hand labour and large numbers of workers were still required for seasonal tasks such as hop- and fruit-picking and vegetable cultivations.
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