Agricultural Inventions from 1862: A Look Back in Scientific American's Archives [Slide Show]
As the young United States expanded, inventions became one of the cornerstones of progress. Inventors could come from any class of people, including many who worked long and hard in the dominant industry of 1862, agriculture
Credits: Scientific American, January 4, 1862
WASHING WOOL: The task of getting newly sheared sheep wool into and out of a large tub of water for three or four rinses was obviously too laborious for one inventor from East Dedham, Mass, who thought up this device in 1862 for cleaning wool better and faster.
Scientific American, January 11, 1862
CLEARING FIELDS: Ripping out tree stumps is hard work. This invention from 150 years ago from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was one of many that applied simple principles of physics to solve such problems. The principals were fine but the devices were usually too expensive for ordinary farmers.
Scientific American, December 6, 1862
TRANSPORTING GOODS: Agricultural products destined for the market, such as cotton or hay, need to be squeezed into bales handy for sale and for transport by cart, rail or ship. This baling press is the machine to use, operated “by horse or other suitable power.”
Scientific American, August 19, 1862
WELL WATER: The Old Croton Aqueduct started supplying New Yorkers with water in 1842. For most of the rest of the country in 1862, water was laboriously hauled up by pump or by bucket. This invention, with its pulleys, gears and pawls, was one of many aimed at safely easing the burden.
Scientific American, May 10, 1862 Advertisement
FORCE PUMP: Water, in 1862 as now, was the lifeblood of farming and rural life. Much thought was given to how to get it out of the ground in the cheapest and easiest way. Here’s one pump designed to be made “at a moderate cost, and in a durable manner.”
Scientific American, October 4, 1862
BUDDING KNIFE: Folding blades are quite an old concept. The news on this gadget from 1862, including its T-shaped blade tips, was that it was an entire pocket tool kit for the science and art of budding—attaching new buds to old trees to yield particular varieties of fruit.
Scientific American, March 8, 1862
REAPER AND RAKE: This overengineered machine from 1862 presages the complex agricultural machinery that now dominates agribusiness. The device combined the actions of cutting and gathering grain onto a platform, where it could be bundled by a farmhand.
Scientific American, July 5, 1862
HORSE RAKE, WITH SEAT: “Among all the agricultural implements which have been invented in modern times we know of no other that pays for itself so quickly, in the labor that it saves, as the horse rake.” This newfangled rake from 1862 replaced up to six farmhands raking cut hay by hand.
Scientific American, January 4, 1862 Advertisement
HORSE RAKE: Cutting grass with a scythe was laborious. After it was cut the farmer had to gather it so that it could dry into hay—the fuel of the farm in 1862—and be collected. This rake helped in gathering, although perhaps this inventor from Iowa would have kicked himself for not adding a comfortable seat.
Scientific American, November 15, 1862
LAZY PLOW: This gang plow was designed to turn up the rich prairie soil in Illinois to make it ready for planting. Plows were formerly pulled by horses while the farmer walked behind them, but the addition of the seat for the comfort of the farmer prompted the magazine to ask, “Is there not danger that they will be growing lazy?
Scientific American, July 26, 1862
FARM FENCE: An inventor in Fort Wayne, Indiana, designed an easy-to-build (perhaps also easy to knock over) fence for “the settler on the distant prairies or the emigrant breaking ground for the first time in the far West.”
Scientific American, November 1, 1862
SUGAR JUICE: By 1862 most people sweetened their food with refined cane sugar from Hawaii or Puerto Rico, and also molasses, domestic maple syrup or honey. This patented evaporator, for making sugar from syrup, was deemed the best of several introduced at a convention of sugar-cane growers in Adrian, Michigan, in 1862.
Scientific American, August 2, 1862 Advertisement
HONEY: Artificial beehive design improved, and honey production expanded. The new hives helped bees to make honey and allowed the beekeeper to extract it without damaging the colony. Here is one of many designs for a beehive, patented in 1862.
Scientific American, February 8, 1862 Advertisement Expertise. Insights. Illumination.
Discover world-changing science. Explore our digital archive back to 1845, including articles by more than 150 Nobel Prize winners.