The Rise of Cast Iron Implement Seats

The addition of seats on farm implements was revolutionary and enabled easier and more efficient farming

| July 2004

Farm equipment manufacturers produced brittle cast iron seats for horse-drawn farm implements from about 1850 to 1900. Most of the original patterns were made from wood, except for one, “Wishusen,” which was cast in Stafford, Kan., from a pattern built of clay.

Seats carried various patterns and often the manufacturer’s name — after all, the seat was a great place for equipment manufacturers to advertise their company and add a splash of uniqueness to their machines. Equipment salesmen would often custom-fit seats for different buyers, ensuring the piece of machinery was as comfortable as possible to operate. After 1900, manufacturers began making seats from pressed steel. These later seats might be interesting finds, seat collector Don Lanford says, but are worthless to cast iron seat collectors.

The addition of seats on farm implements was revolutionary and enabled easier and more efficient farming. With seats, farmers could ride behind their machines instead of trudging behind in the mud and muck. The innovation also saved time and allowed farmers to use their feet to operate newly invented levers and freed their hands to drive the horses.

Seat collectors have identified about 1,600 different seats, Don says, and they’re all rated on a scale of 1 to 10.5 for condition and rarity in design. New finds are often added to the list, and some seats are one of a kind.

Those one-of-a-kind seats earn a 10.5 rating — that’s because they’re naturally the most valuable and sought after by collectors.

In 1973, a small group of seat collectors formed the Cast Iron Seat Collectors Association. As of 2004, the group is a global network of about 600 members in America, Canada, Ireland, England, Wales, Australia and New Zealand. The club’s newsletter, published four times a year, provides free ad space to members to buy, sell or trade seats and other antiques.