THE STEAM REAPER

THE FIELD TRIALS AT THE UNIVERSAL EXPOSITION OF 1878 PARIS, FRANCE

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The following are excerpts from the Harvester, a publication of the Deseret Museum of Science and Industry, Box 11052, Salt Lake City, Utah 84147. The original article was written by Beethovan A. Williams, Librarian, The Sharon D. Ansted-Williams Memorial Library, a branch of Deseret Museum of Science and Industry.

The Universal Exposition was held at Paris, France, in 1878. Recognizing that agricultural technology and practice was widely different from that of countries in Europe, many companies in the United States did not enter this exposition. The Centennial Exposition had been held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1876, and its success would over shadow the Paris exposition.

The grand prize was awarded to Cyrus H. McCormick of Chicago, Illinois, for the Binding Reaper. Gold medals would go to J. 1. Case, D. M. Osborne, Johnston Harvester Company, Mitchell Warder Company, Walter A. Wood Company and William Anson Wood Company for their harvesters. The William Deering Company was not present at this exposition.

Credit for the invention of the reaper is given to Cyrus Hall McCormick in 1834. The French newspapers during the exposition did not allow it to be forgotten that the reaping machine was first made and used in Gaul, in 79 A.D. The British were also quick to point out that the Rev. Patrick Bell also had invented a reaper in 1828. It was also thought that using a steam traction engine to pull or drag a machine over the ground was not efficient because too much energy of the engine would be consumed just in the process of moving the device.

The following excerpts are from the 'La France' May 28, 1878.

'It was the Gauls, our fathers who, says Palladius, made the first reaper. The description given by him indicates a sort of cart furnished with two wheels; an ox in the reverse direction in the shafts pushed the machine like a wheelbarrow against the wheat. The edge of the cart was armed with a comb having long teeth, where the ears caught and were cut off by the edges of the knives and tumbled into the body of the cart. The straw remained after the ears were removed, and was either left in the field or gathered later. The reaper set up in the American section of the Exposition was made by Messrs. Case, of Wisconsin, and is the Gallic reaper, perfected it is true, but based on the same agricultural system pursued for ages in some portions of China, where they reap by two operations, first with a sickle to gather the wheat and then with a scythe to save the straw. The machine of Messrs. Case, of Wisconsin, disturbs all our ideas of progress in harvesting by machinery. We have carefully examined it in the shed where they have carefully hidden, along the Avenue Suffren, the magnificent American and English agricultural machines as if they did not merit a place of prominence in the Exposition. We cannot, however, neglect rendering our homage to the truth declaring that it is to this side of the Exposition grounds that agriculturists and manufacturers should turn their attention.'

The term 'Gaul' was, in the days of Pliny, who first described the Gallic reaper, rather an indefinite geographical expression, and the district in which Pliny describes the machine as working, 1800 years ago, was Rhaetia, and the 'plains' upon which it was used were probably those of the Adige, a part of that marvelously fertile tract between the Italian Alps and the head of the Adriatica land whose celebrity in the earliest historic times for wool, wine, and racehorses indicates the variety of its climates and the advanced character of its productions, and whose valor in attack recalled the Brennus of the Senonian Gauls from the pillage of Rome to the defense of their pleasant homes on the Mincio and Lago Garda.

The Case reaper was not shown at the trials, but was a very different thing from the crude reaper of the Venetii, which resembled our clover-headers. It had, however, the two points upon which the journalist insists it was pushed by the team and the comb in advance stripped the heads of the standing crop and saved them.

The field trials for the reapers were held on July 22, 1878 at the 'Field of Marmont' near Paris. The following account was produced by Mr. Edward H. Knight, Agricultural Commissioner for the United States Secretary of State, and is offered here in its complete text.

The Sharon D. Ansted-Williams Memorial Library of the Deseret Museum of Science and Industry is dedicated to the preservation of the history and innovative achievements of America's past. The library is interested in the acquisition of books and literature from America's past. Comments may be addressed to the Sharon D. Ansted-Williams Memorial Library at P.O. Box 11052, Salt Lake City, Utah 84147.