1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Harvesting Implements. Mowing Machines. Haymakers. Horse Rakes.

(Part 24)


Harvesting Implements. Mowing Machines. Haymakers. Horse Rakes.

Harvesting Implements

These, till little more than twenty years ago, comprised only the reaping-hook and scythe. An implement by means of which horse-power could be made available for this important operations has long been eagerly desired by farmers. Repeatedly during the first half of the present century their hopes had been excited, only to be disappointed, by the announcement of successful inventions of this kind. These hopes were revived, and raised to a higher pitch than ever, by the appearance, in the Great Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations, of two reaping-machines, known as M’Cornick’s and Hussey’s, from the United States of America, where for several years they had been used extensively and successfully. These implements were subjected to repeated trials in different parts of England, on crops 1851, but never in circumstances which admitted of their capabilities being tested in a thoroughly satisfactory manner.

At the first of these trial, made under the auspices of the Royal Agricultural Society, the preference was given to M’Cornick’s, to which the Exhibition Medal was in consequence awarded. It tuned out, however, that at this trail Hussey’s machine had not fair chance, being attended by a person who had never before seen it at work, for when a further trial took place before the Cleveland Agricultural Society, with Mr.Hussey’s himself superintending his own machine, an all but unanimous decision was given in his favour. Hussey’s machine was in consequence adopted by the leading implement makers, such as Messrs Garrett, Crosskill, &c.

Early in 1852, a very important communication from the pen of the late Mr. James Slight, curator of the museum of the a highland and Agricultural Society, appeared in the Transactions of the Society, by which the attention of the public was recalled to a reaping-machine of home production, viz., that invented by the Rev. Patrick Bell, minister of the parish of Carmylie in Forfarshire, and for which a premium of £50 had been awarded to him by the Highland Society. This machine attracted much attention at that time. Considerable numbers were made and partially used, but from various causes the invention was lost sight of until by the arrival of these America machines, and the notoriety given to them by the Great Exhibition, with concurring causes about to be noticed, an intense interest was again excited regarding reaping by machinery. From Mr. Slight’s report, the public learned that the identical Bell’s machine, to which the prize was awarded on the farm of Inch-Michael in the Carse of Gowrie, occupied by Mr, George Bell, a brother of the inventor, who, during all that period, has succeeded in reaping, on the average, four-fifths of his crops of means of it every year, Nr, Slight further stated, that at least four specimens of it has been carried to America, and that form the identity in principle between them and those now brought thence, with other corroborating circumstances, there is little doubt that the so-called American inventions are after all but imitations of this Scottish machine, When it became known that Bell’s machine was to be exhibited, and if possible, subjected to public trial, at the meeting of the Highland and Agricultural Society at Perth, in August 1852, the event was looked forward to by Scottish farmers with eager interest. On that occasion it was accordingly again brought forward, with several important improvements made upon it, by Mr. George Bell, already referred to, and was fully tested ion competition with Hussey’s, as made by Crosskill. To the disappointment of many, Mr. M’Cornick did not think fir to enter the lists at this or at some subsequent opportunities.

The success of Bell’s machine on this occasion, and at some subsequent public trials, gave it a high place in public estimation, and accordingly many of the implements manufactured by Mr. Crosskill of Beverley were sold to farmer in all parts of Great Britain, and especially in Scotland. After a hopeful start the success of this machine has not been so decided as was at first anticipated. In common with other disadvantages of unprepared fields and unskillful guide; but in addition to this, it was found to be too heavy in draught, too liable to derangement, and (in the first issues of it) too easily broken in some of its parts to be fitted for general use. These drawbacks were, to a greater or less extent, obviated by subsequent improvements, and the machine continued for a few years to receive a fair measure of public patronage. By-and-by it was in a great measure superseded by other self-delivery machines, such as Burgess & Key’s M’Cornick, with its Archimedean screw, which, like Bell’s, lays off the reaped grain in a continuous swathe, and by others which, by means of revolving rakes, lay it off in qualities suitable to form a sheaf. In crops of moderate bulk and standing erect, there self-delivery machines make rapid and satisfactory work, but when the crops is lodged and twisted they are nearly useless. The consequence is that for several years, and especially in those districts where reaping by machinery is most practised, the preference is given to manual-delivery machines, on the ground that they are lighter of draughts, less costly, more easily managed, and thus more to be depended upon for the regular performance of a fair amount of daily work, than their heavier rivals. And, accordingly, light machines on Hussey’s principle, but with endless variations, are at present most in demand.

Before leaving this subject, a remark is due in connection with strange neglect of Bell’s machine for twenty-five years, and the enthusiasm with which it was hailed on its reappearance. The first is so far accounted for by the fact noticed by Mr. George Bell, that such specimens of his brother’s machine as formerly got into the hands of farmers were so imperfectly constructed that they did not work satisfactorily, and thus brought discredit on his invention. The true explanation seems to be, that at that date the country was not ready for such a machine. Not only was manual labour then abundant and cheap, form the number of Irish laborer, who annually, as harvest drew near, flocked into the arable districts of Great Britain, but thought draining has made little progress, and the land was everywhere laid into high ridges, presenting a surface peculiarly unfavorable for the successful working of a reaping-machine. Now, however, the conditions are reversed. Emigration to the colonies, and the ever-growing demand for laborer in connection with factories, mines, docks, and railways, have to a very great extent withdrawn the class of people that use to be available for harvest work, and have so larged raised the rate of wages to those who still remain as to render reaping machines indispensable to the farmer. The progress of thought draining has at the same time enabled him to dispense with the old-fashioned ridges and furrows, and to lay his corn lands in the level state favorable for reaping and other operations of husbandry. In these altered conditions lies the true explanation of the former apathy and subsequent enthusiasm manifested by our farmers towards this invention.

Mowing Machines

Another class of labour-saving machines, closely allied to those we have just described, for which we are indebted to our American cousins, is mowing-machines, Several different forms of there were introduced and brought into somewhat general use during the years 1858 and 1859. Having used such machines for the past fourteen years we can testify to their thorough efficiency, and to the very great saving of labour, and still more of time, which can be secured by means of them. In one instance 20 acres of clover --- a very full crop, and partially lodged --- were mown in 32 hours, and this under all the disadvantages of a first start. This machine being of very light draught, a pair of horses can work pairs of horses, and working them by relay, it can, in the long days of June and July, be kept going sixteen hours a day, and will easily mow from 16 or 18 acres of seeds of meadow in that time, making, moreover, better work than can ordinarily be obtained by using the scythe. These mowing-machines, which cost from £16 to £25 each, have proved a most seasonable and truly important addition or our list of agricultural implements. That they may be used to advantage, it is absolutely necessary to have the land well rolled and carefully freed from stones.


Haymakers are valuable implements, and well deserving of more general use, They do their work thoroughly, and enable the farmer to get through a great amount of it in snatches of favorable weather. Where manual labour is scarce, or when, as in Scotland, haymaking and turnip-thinning usually come on hand together, the mower and haymaker render the horse-power of the farm available for an important process which cannot be done well unless it is done rapidly and in reason.

Horse Rakes

Horse-rakes are in frequent use for gathering together the stalks of corn which are scattered during the process of reaping, for facilitating the process of haymaking, and also for collecting weeds from fallows. By an ingenious contrivance in the most improved form of this implement, the teeth are disengaged from the material which they have gathered without interrupting the progress of the horse.

We seem to be verging on the time when, by means of machines worked by horse-power, farmers will be enables to cut and carry their grass and grain with little more than the ordinary forces of their farms.

Read the rest of this article:
Agriculture - Table of Contents

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries