+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

In June, eighteen hundred and thirty-four,
we find letters patent granted to Angus H.
M'Cormick for improvements in the reaping-
machines; Abraham Randall and Obed
Hussey having each taken out patents for
the same object in eighteen hundred and
thirty-three. From that time reaping-
machines became a regular subject of
improvement and manufacture in the United
States; until, in eighteen hundred and fifty,
the sales had amounted to upwards of twelve
hundred of one patent only; and the renewal
of M'Cormick's patent became the subject of
a serious opposition and remonstrance, on the
ground that it was not an original invention.
Yet, so ignorant were Englishmen still of the
progress of machine-reaping, that, in South
Australiawhere, also, the want of harvest
labour was felt in a manner unknown in the
mother countrya third kind of machine
was invented, which clipped off the ears, and
threshed them out at the same time by the
moving power of a horse pushing behind, as
in Bell's machine; leaving the straw (valueless
there) to be burned off.

In eighteen hundred and fifty-one our
farmers were beginningnot exceptionally,
but as a classto feel the want of the rapid
and certain aid of machinery in agriculture.
Scotch nationality helped not a
little; but there were many difficulties to be
conquered. English crops are heavier, and
straw is more valuable, than in the United
States; and we must add that our ordinary
farm-labourers are not so handy in repairing
or so willing to use, mechanical inventions, as
the States-men. Landlords, as usual, came
forward and purchased; the machine-reapers'
agricultural societies gave prizes; English
tenant-farmers hung back, not without good
reason, as, for want of attention to mechanical
details or workmanship, many machines were
thrown aside as unworkable after one

But, the time had come when the assistance
of machine aid in the harvest was
required, and a large capital of money and
mechanical skill was thrown into the subject.
The results were shown in the Royal
Agricultural trials of August, eighteen hundred
and fifty-six, at Boxted Lodge, Essex, when
the verdict of a large body of tenant-farmers
settled that the heaviest crops could be most
economically cut by the machine-reaper, and
the labourers whom a series of years have
accustomed to the advantages of machinery,
applauded the conclusion of their employers.
On this occasion the machines cut at the rate
of about three acres in four hours, in
wheatfields bearing crops of about forty bushels to
the acre, or more than double the average
of American crops. The first prize was
given to Crosskill's patent improvements of
Bell's Reaper; the second was divided
between Messrs. Burgess, McCormick and
Dray's Hussey.

Experience, and the heavy work of English
crops, have brought about a number of
improvements in the details of each of these
machines, which now work on day after day
without any serious derangement; each
doing the work of from twenty-five to thirty
mowers, and employing from thirty to forty
binders to follow in their track. But, the
money-saving is a secondary advantage in the
use of agricultural machines. The chief
advantage lies in the greater certainty
and regularity which it ensures in all the
operations of the farm. The next important
point is the necessity of raising every
farm operation to the same standard of

Thus, for instance, Boxted Lodge is an
estate; the property is cultivated by one of
the most intelligent members of the council of
the Royal Agricultural Society, and has long
been under high farming, highly manured,
perfectly clear of weeds, with a large breed
of live-stock, and the best useful machinery
of the day. The reaping-machines had the
advantage of level, thoroughly-drained fields,
of regular form, none of less extent than
twenty-five acres, some of fifty acres, with
close straight fences, and crops clear of
weeds. It would be no economy to use a
reaping-machine in a series of three-acre
Devonshire fields, of a cocked-hat shape,
where weeds and flowers make five-and-
twenty per cent, of the crop: because,
between time lost in turning round and round,
and waste of power in cutting weeds, the
machine would cost more than hand-labour.
Hence, the progress of agricultural machinery
offers a premium in favour of clean cultivation,
large square fields, and the ample crops
that can only be had through a liberal
application of drilled manures.

With a machine-reaper the farmer can
begin to cut as soon as any part of his crop is
ripe, because the machine does not eat or ask
wages when not at work, as extra travelling
shearers or mowers do: he can depend
more on his own regularly employed
servants, and can make long hours, with an extra
pair or two of horses, if the weather threaten.
Supposing a hundred or more acres reduced
to stubble, and the corn stacked. According
to the modern rapid system, the ground is
ploughed at once, and not allowed to grow
weeds for two or three months; if needful,
seed for turnips or rape may be, as at Boxted,
put in at once by a horse-drawn drill and
machine broad-caster, which put in the seeds
for each crop, with the manure, at one operation
a feat which no amount of hand-labour
could have effected in the same space of time.
When we come to sowing corn, the use of
machinery is still more important, not only from
mere saving of the time when a week's rain
might peril a future harvest; but from the
regularity of quantity in seed and in manure,—a
little more or less per acre exactly measured,
according to soil and season. Without the
drill, thousands of acres in a showery season