Separators, Churns Milking Machines
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The editor of American Agricultural wrote in 1878 that he'd examined 20 different milking devices and that all produced some degree of unfavorable results - some even drew blood from the cows. Still, a market of at least a million sore-armed laborers existed, begging for relief. These farmers were rising before dawn to spend several cold hours in the milk barn, only to repeat the same chore again that evening. The nation's 12 million milk cows had to be milked twice a day, seven days a week. Some say that the unending drudgery drove many an innocent country boy into bootlegging, factory work in the city or an early military career.
Temporary relief came in the 1880s when a vacuum hand pump and covered jar were added to the previously invented gravity-flow udder attachments. The Mehring Co.'s foot-powered milker, invented in 1891, resembled a rowing machine and could milk two cows at once. The first practical milking machine wasn't introduced until about 1916.
Single-cylinder gasoline engines powered a variety of these successful vacuum-pump milkers until electricity took over in the 1930s. A 1947 IH pamphlet crowed that, 'Milkers have eliminated the hand milking chore on many American farms. Modern milking machines extract the milk from cows' udders with a gentle massaging action.'
With automatic milking machines, mechanical cream separators and numerous devices to turn cream into butter, the old ways of manipulating milk came to an end on most farms. Today, those devices are more than relics of days gone by. They're fun to collect and educational, too.
- Ronald S. Barlow has published eight books on antiques and the tools of early trades. His latest book, 300 Years of Farm Implements and Machinery, 1630-1930, is available from Farm Collector books. See the book ad on page 42.
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