A Horse-Drawn Cultivator Collection That Works

Vintage horse-drawn cultivators see active duty in the cornfield.

| September 2015

  • New Century Cultivator
    This photo shows how farmers placed lines used to drive the horses behind their back while using both arms to operate levers on the New Century cultivator. The cultivator shanks were controlled by foot stirrups.
    Photo by Loretta Sorensen
  • New Century Cultivator Side
    Roderick Lean Mfg. Co. produced numerous variations of the popular New Century cultivator.
    Photo by Loretta Sorensen
  • Alan Sorensen
    Alan Sorensen.
    Photo by Loretta Sorensen
  • Jenny Lind Cultivator
    The Jenny Lind cultivator, designed by John H. Pattee, was part of Pattee’s New Departure line. This walking model will straddle corn at least 36 inches tall.
    Photo by Loretta Sorensen
  • Emerson Cultivator
    John H. Manny was the founder of the company that produced this Emerson cultivator. He joined forces with Ralph Emerson in 1854 in order to finance expansion of J.H. Manny & Co. After Manny’s death in 1856, the company name was changed to Talcott, Emerson & Co. In 1909, the company was renamed Emerson-Brantingham.
    Photo by Loretta Sorensen
  • Alan 2 Row Cultivator
    Alan using a 2-row cultivator in about 2000.
    Photo courtesy Loretta Sorensen
  • 2 Row Cultivator
    Alan using a 2-row cultivator in about 2000.
    Photo courtesy Loretta Sorensen
  • Case Cultivator
    Alan’s 2-row J.I. Case cultivator requires four horses that straddle four rows as they walk through the field.
    Photo by Loretta Sorensen
  • Emerson Cultivator
    The Emerson cultivator was designed to allow the operator to remove shanks and use blades that didn’t plow as deeply into the soil while cultivating. The practice reduced soil moisture loss.
    Photo by Loretta Sorensen
  • Garden Cultivator
    The brand name of this garden cultivator is unknown. It is typical of garden cultivators used widely at the turn of the 19th century.
    Photo by Loretta Sorensen
  • Jenny Lind
    Jenny Lind – “the Swedish nightingale” – was among the first celebrities to convert fame into fortune.
    Photo by Poly Von Schneidau
  • New Century Ad
    “See them at the Omaha convention,” this New Century ad urges. Alan Sorensen’s collection started with a New Century cultivator.
    Image courtesy New Century

  • New Century Cultivator
  • New Century Cultivator Side
  • Alan Sorensen
  • Jenny Lind Cultivator
  • Emerson Cultivator
  • Alan 2 Row Cultivator
  • 2 Row Cultivator
  • Case Cultivator
  • Emerson Cultivator
  • Garden Cultivator
  • Jenny Lind
  • New Century Ad

Cultivators are quickly fading from the modern agricultural scene, but the rich history of design and innovation behind these vintage implements, which date to the 1850s, isn’t likely to be uprooted anytime soon.

Yankton, South Dakota, draft horse enthusiast Alan Sorensen has acquired several vintage cultivators over the last 40 years that help illustrate the varying designs and evolution of early cultivators. His collection – used in cultivating his annual corn crop with his Belgian team – includes a 1-row McCormick-Deering, 1-row New Century, 1-row Emerson disc cultivator, a 2-row Case cultivator and a 1-horse garden cultivator.

“At the time I brought these home, none of them had a lot of value,” Alan says. “I just wanted to use them with my Belgian teams.” The collection started in 1973 with the New Century cultivator similar to one Alan’s dad used as a boy.

“The seat can be flipped so you can either ride or walk behind it,” he says. The first horse-drawn cultivator he had used, it was a handful at the beginning. “You steer it with your feet,” he says, “which seemed difficult for me while I was driving my team, too.”



The New Century was produced by Roderick Lean Mfg. Co., Mansfield, Ohio. Founded in 1870, the company produced an extensive line of tillage implements. Promoted as “the original leverless cultivator,” the New Century remained in production even after Lean merged with others in 1930 to form Farm Tools, Inc.

McCormick-Deering still on the job

Alan bought his McCormick-Deering piece from longtime friend Praben Lee (since deceased). Alan paid $40 for the cultivator. “It was much easier for me to operate than the New Century,” he says. “For the most part, it’s the one I take to the field each year.”