Rake Development Spurred by Mower Technology

Mechanizing the Farm: Part 2 of 3

| December 2008

Today, petroleum-based products are essential to farm operations. But for thousands of years, fodder – specifically, hay – was the most critical form of fuel on the farm. Up to the late 18th century, the process of making hay remained essentially unchanged. By the 1850s, though, the impact of the Industrial Revolution was unmistakable.

In this article, the second segment of a three-part series on hay equipment (see Part 1 and Part 3), the focus is on sulky rakes. As mowing machines evolved and became increasingly refined, the logical next step was development of a device to lift newly cut hay into windrows where it could dry and cure. By the late 1800s, the marketplace was flooded with rakes, tedders and loaders. 

Most Midwest farmers remember the early rakes their ancestors used to bring in the hay harvest.

Some even keep one of the old relics on display as a nod to the past and to the technology that greatly increased farm productivity.

The revolving horse-rake
The revolving horse-rake, a rather primitive device, was patented in 1836 by Hiram Hunt, Bridgewater, N.Y. In his 1888 book Farm Appliances: A Practical Manual, George A. Martin noted that the rake was “especially useful in raking cornstalks that have been cut by a mower or otherwise, and tall reeds and other rubbish. It can also be adapted to the raking of hay and straw, by making the teeth lighter and placing them 6 inches or less apart.”

The revolving rake was typically 10 feet wide, allowing farmers to bring it through a gate. Teeth were made of tough wood, which, according to Martin, were “well seasoned, 2 inches square, and the pieces cut about 4 inches long. They are then tapered slightly toward the ends, and trimmed in the middle to fit in holes bored with a 2-inch auger; thus prepared, they are inserted 1 foot apart, and secured in place with light bolts.”