Origins of the Feed Cutter: Inventors on Both Sides of the Atlantic Develop Devices
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During the 1840s and ’50s, American farmers demanded easier and more efficient ways to do their work. Farm equipment manufacturers, as well as farmer-inventors (and more than a few shysters), introduced hundreds of “New and Improved!” machines, some of which actually lived up to the billing.
Fodder cutters were no exception. Better rotary designs were developed, one of which was the Worth cutter built in the U.S. in about 1840. The hand crank of the Worth machine turned two rollers that were held together by spring pressure. The lower roller had several straight, sharp blades attached lengthwise and spaced an equal distance apart. The blades worked against a soft metal upper roller that provided a firm cutting surface without dulling the blades. Fodder was fed between the rollers and cut into lengths according to the spacing of the blades on the lower roller.
Most all of these early cutters were turned with a hand crank aided by a heavy flywheel to maintain motion while the blade bit through the fodder. Early rotary cutters still required the stalks to be pushed into the blade, but self-feeding cutters soon became available.
As farms and dairy herds became larger, heavier and more elaborate cutters came on the market. Many of these were meant to be powered by horse powers or steam engines and could chop as much as 500 bushels per hour.
Eventually, elevators were added to the horse-powered cutters to raise the cut stalks into a mow. After steam engine power became common, high-speed blowers were fitted to blow fodder into the silos that were coming into vogue at the end of the century.
Whether American feed cutters evolved from designs brought here by German immigrants is unclear. Immigrants from many lands carried memories of tools used in their home countries, tools that were later reproduced here. Most likely only wealthy American farmers could afford to import such machines from Europe. A crude, lever-type cutter could be hammered together by most any carpenter or blacksmith using an old scythe blade. Farmers everywhere faced similar problems, and there are many examples of new machinery designs being developed simultaneously by individuals in different parts of the country, or the world, who had no knowledge of each other’s efforts. FC Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by e-mail at email@example.com.
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