Rake Development Spurred by Mower Technology

Mechanizing the Farm: Part 2 of 3

| December 2008

  • Rakes_sidedeliveryaction
    Side-delivery rakes were perfected in the 1890s. By the 1920s they had evolved to the design shown here. This Case rake, one of the company’s last horse-drawn side-delivery rakes, was designed to be used with horses or a tractor.
  • Rakes_dumpphoto
    Dump rakes such as this one were generally drawn by a team of horses and consisted of a series of teeth set 4 inches apart between two wheels. A lever was used to dump the hay at a given spot as horses pulled the rake across the field. That allowed the farmer to gather and dump the hay in rows so two men (one on each side) could fork it onto a wagon after the hay had cured.
  • Rakes_woodhay
    The Walter A. Wood hay rake.
  • Rakes_sidedelivery
    Side-delivery rakes were a big improvement over the dump rake.
  • Rakes_revolving
    Revolving horse-rake for two horses dating to the 1860s, from George A. Martin’s Farm Appliances: A Practical Manual. “The shafts are intended to be hooked to the hind axle of a naked wagon,” Martin wrote, “and thus worked by a team, the driver riding on the wagon and operating the lever whenever the rake is full.”
  • Rakes_becksidedelivery
    The Beck side-delivery rake, 1893.
  • Rakes_CBQsidedelivery
    The C.B.&Q. side-delivery rake, late 1880s.
  • Rakes_beightle
    J.L. Beightle’s hay rake and loader, patented Nov. 23, 1880.
  • Rakes_wheelerharvester
    Harvester rake patented by Cyrenus Wheeler Jr. April 7, 1868.
  • Rakes_haytedderad
    Hay tedders lifted hay for curing but did not form windrows.
  • Rakes_haycap
    From an 1898 catalog: Symm’s patent hay and grain caps “thoroughly waterproof wood fibre caps … that will last a lifetime. $6 a dozen.” The caps were said to produce superior hay, keeping rain and dew from the hay, and protecting it from sunlight during the day while retaining heat overnight.
  • Rakes_dainloaderad
    The Dain loader and side-delivery rake.
  • Rakes_selfdumpad
    Ellwood’s “Veteran” self-dump rake. Note the amputee (presumably a Civil War veteran) shown in the illustration. As wounded soldiers returned to the farm, farm equipment manufacturers responded by promoting their equipment as being so easy to use, even amputees could operate it.
  • Rakes_Foustloading
    J.W. Foust’s machine for loading hay, patent pending in 1862.

  • Rakes_sidedeliveryaction
  • Rakes_dumpphoto
  • Rakes_woodhay
  • Rakes_sidedelivery
  • Rakes_revolving
  • Rakes_becksidedelivery
  • Rakes_CBQsidedelivery
  • Rakes_beightle
  • Rakes_wheelerharvester
  • Rakes_haytedderad
  • Rakes_haycap
  • Rakes_dainloaderad
  • Rakes_selfdumpad
  • Rakes_Foustloading

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.”