Memories of 1876

Hydraulic Ram

Hydraulic Ram 1876

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The latest in products for the farm, shown at the International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, look quite antiquated today but a lot of people enjoy reading about them and looking at pictures of them. How will our most 'modern' tractors and other pieces of farm machinery look to the people of 2076?

We're reminiscing again, through the aid of a book titled 'The Centennial Exposition', by J. S. Ingram.

Talking about agricultural machinery, Ingram wrote that there was a profusion of superior products on view. He wrote on: 'Most prominent amid all this array of practical beauty were the reapers and mowers, which, more than anything else perhaps, signalize agricultural progress. It is only a few years since the sickle was seen in every grain field, and with its slow and toilsome results each farmer had to be content. When the cradle came it seemed as if the climax had been attained, and the man who could cut three or four acres of wheat in a day, laying it in fair shape for the binder who followed, was doing good work. But the cradle and hand-rake gave way to the reaper and self-raker, and these, year by year, improved and perfected, make of harvest time little more than a holiday. There remains for further accomplishment in this direction only the automatic binder, already a success, and sure to reach perfection in the near future.

The reaper is peculiarly an American machine. As manufactured here it is confessedly superior to the same implement made in Europe, proof of which statement is found in the fact that American reapers are sold in all countries of the world, and are favorites in England and on the continent -when operated in direct competition with machines there produced.'

A 100 per cent American booster, Ingram continued: 'American genius first invented the perfect reaper, and only in America, with American material, by American skill, can it be most perfectly manufactured. As here made, in the light yet durable manner which characterizes all American machinery as contrasted with that construction abroad, it is the acme of utility, and everywhere bears off the palm.'

An illustration showed the improved reaper and mower combined, exhibited by the Johnston Harvester Co. of Brockport, New York.

Another picture showed the Buckeye Table Rake Reaper and Mower combined made by Aultman Miller & Co. of Akron, Ohio. At the official field exhibition, 'this new table rake was pronounced by the binders to be the easiest machine to bind after, as it left the grain in such even condition, and so compressed, that the work of binding was comparatively easy.'

Carriages were also featured in numerous displays at the Centennial. The Dexter Spring Co. of Hulton, Pa., near Pittsburgh, was very proud of its products. One of its carriage springs met a test of 2,050 pounds. The firm recalled the famous 'One Hoss Shay' which had been immortalized by the Oliver Wendell Holmes poem, and showed its own handiwork as the 1876 successor.

The Daniel Webster plow, made by the famous statesman in 1837, was shown in contrast to plows of 1876.

Webster's plow was 13 feet overall length; beam, 9 feet 1 inch; handle, 6 feet 4 inches. Webster was quoted as having said: 'When I have hold of the handle of my big plow, with four yoke of oxen to pull it through, and hear the roots crack and see the stumps all go under the furrow out of sight, and observe the clean mellowed surface of the plowed land, I feel more enthusiasm over my achievement than comes from my encounters in public life in Washington.'

The plow was part of the New Hampshire exhibit.

Collins & Co. of Hartford, Connecticut showed the latest in their plows.

One was their 'Eclipse' prairie and plantation gang plow, illustrated, made of cast steel. The book said: 'The lightness of draft of this plow was shown by a recent trial, as follows: In heavy, matted grass turf the draft of the prairie gang, with coulters turning a furrow 22 by 6 inches (and carrying a heavy plowman) was 800 to 825 pounds. In a stubble field, heavy, sandy loam, the draft was 450 pounds.

Machinery Hall at the 1876 Exposition had a pump annex, which author Ingram dubbed a miniature Niagara Falls.

In the center of the annex was a tank or basin 146 x 60 feet and 8 feet deep, holding 500,000 gallons of water. Around this were arranged pumps of every kind - from the smallest hand pumps, up to those run by steam and raising nearly 300,000 gallons a minute; blowers, for forcing great volumes of air; hydraulic rams; water meters and mining machinery.

All of those pumps which were driven by steam drew the water up from the tank and then discharged it back again over the edges, either allowing it to quietly fall from a considerable height, or forcing it through nozzles, which sent the water high in the air, as from a fire engine.'

The water, constantly falling, made a continuous roar. The annex was a pleasant cool place to visit in the heat of a Philadelphia summer.

One of the hydraulic rams, made by A. Gawthrop & Son, of Wilmington, Delaware is illustrated.