Sweep Rake Eased Strenuous Task

Learn about the invention of the sweep rake and how it revolutionized hay gathering and advanced rake design to ease back breaking labor.

Photo by Richard Whiteman

By the time you read this column, all my property and other “stuff” in Ohio will have gone under the auctioneer’s hammer and I’ll be embarking on a new chapter of my life in Salt Lake City, Utah, where my daughter and son-in-law live. It’s been a little more than 21 years since the first Let’s Talk Rusty Iron column appeared in Farm Collector magazine, and this will be the last regular one I’ll pen, as most of my reference material will be disposed of as well. It’s been fun; I’ve learned a lot and met many great folks along the way.

Photo by Peggy Townsend

“Buck rake” and “bull rake” are a couple of the more common names for an implement officially known as a sweep rake. Developed during the latter half of the 19th century, the first ones were called “hay-gatherers”; the sweep rake was designed to speed up the collection and transportation of loose hay over short distances.

It was hard, hot work putting up loose hay. Horse-drawn mowing machines had replaced sickles and scythes to make cutting the stuff easier. Hand-raking had been superseded by rollover and dump rakes, also pulled by horses. Men with pitchforks, however, still had to lift the hay from the windrow or haycock (we called them “hand-stacks” on the western Pennsylvania farm of my youth) and throw it onto a cart, wagon or sled to transport the crop to a barn or stack.



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