Early Thoughts on the Threshing Machine


| 3/6/2019 3:37:00 PM


Sam MooreThe first threshing machine wasn’t produced in this country but in the British Isles when a Scotsman, Andrew Meikle, improved upon a semi-successful thresher built by an English farmer named Leckie. Meikle used a rotary cylinder with beaters around the circumference, as well as powered feed rollers to carry the grain into the cylinder and, eventually, a cleaning fan to blow away dirt and chaff. Meikle’s machine, which was patented in 1788, wasn’t portable, however, and was built into a barn and powered by a water wheel or a horsepower.

Arthur Young, an English agricultural writer wrote in 1808, warning the farmer to keep a sharp eye on the men doing his threshing (with a flail and winnowing basket). He wrote: He may lose immensely if his straw be not threshed clean; and as it is work generally performed by measure, the men are too apt to turn it over too quickly, and thresh out only that (grain) which comes the easiest from the ear. In respect to pilfering, the work gives them great opportunities so he should have a sharp lookout, and take care now and then to meet the men of an evening in their home, and to come upon them in the barn at various times and unawares. Such conduct will keep the men honest, if they are already, and will prevent many knaves from practicing their roguery. According to this, British yeomen must have been an untrustworthy lot.

Young then described the advantages of the new threshing machines: If the farmer has one of these most useful implements, he is safe from such dirty work and dishonesty. The expense of a fixed mill is from sixty to one hundred guineas [the guinea was 1 pound, 1 shilling, or 21 shillings, but it’s beyond my ability to translate that into today’s money]. It will thresh about fifteen quarters [a quarter is eight bushels] of wheat in eight or nine hours, and from fifteen to twenty quarters of barley, oats, peas, or beans. Barley is the hardest to thresh with a machine, but I have seen several that do it well, such as Mr. Asbey’s at Blyborough, Suffolk. His price for a fixed machine, 75 guineas, and for a moveable one, 120 guineas. The granary should always be located over the fixed mill that the grain may be drawn up at once, and lodged safe under the farmer’s key.

A European thresher

While this is a much later thresher than Andrew Meikle’s, it is an early 19th century horse-powered machine from Europe, probably French. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)



Straw was commonly used as cattle feed in Great Britain and Young alluded to this: For feeding cattle, fresh-threshed straw is better than old; for litter they are equal; but it is best for eating straw to cut it into chaff by the power of the threshing mill and to have the chaffhouse adjoining so it can be immediately stored. This house should have brick walls, so that fermentation does not set fire to anything, and then if water be thrown on the chaff, it ferments and is much more nutritious than when used in the common way. Mr. Young seems to have known a bit about silage.



SUBSCRIBE TO FARM COLLECTOR TODAY!

Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

Save Even More Money with our SQUARE-DEAL Plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our SQUARE-DEAL automatic renewal savings plan. You'll get 12 issues of Farm Collector for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Farm Collector for just $29.95.




Facebook Pinterest YouTube

Classifieds

click me