From The American Agriculturist, June 1875.
The employment of steam upon the farm, is yet in its infancy. In the mechanic arts there is scarcely anything produced without the employment of steam as the motive power; it is strange that in agriculture, the industry which employs more laborers and more capital than any other, the employment of steam should be very exceptional and rare. Horsepower is almost the only dependence of the farmer; but it is not so cheap as steam. It has been argued that if steam engines are used upon farms, the horses will stand idle, and the breeding of these animals become unprofitable. The same argument was strongly urged within the memory of many of our readers, as an objection against railroads. It was said that horses would become useless for want of work. Experience has shown that the wonderful expansion of the railroad system has so stimulated every industry, that horses are in greater demand than ever before, and in some countries their exportation is forbidden by law. The same effect must necessarily follow the cheapening of labor on the farm, by the use of steam. If the threshing, cutting and preparing of feed, and other stationary work of the farm is done by steam-power, there will be more time in which to plow and harrow, and more land can be brought under cultivation, and this will set in motion more work again for horses, as well as steam engines in other ways.
Steam-power is cheaper in its first cost than horse-power. The power of a dozen horses can be purchased for $1,200, and it practically lasts indefinitely; never tires, never stops for sickness, and never dies; besides this, and it is a most important consideration, it only consumes while it is working. The food and drink of a four-horse-power steam-engine, which will do the work of more than four horses, consists of 200 pounds of coal, and 200 gallons of water daily. The cost of such an engine and boiler complete, is about $700, at least that is the price at which the portable engine, such as we here illustrate, can be procured. A 10-horse-power engine of the same kind, costs $1,200. This is much less than the actual value of a corresponding force of horses. The engraving represents a new and greatly improved portable engine, by Messrs. Wood, Taber & Morse, of Eaton, Madison County, New York, made expressly for farm work. These engines are of two sizes, and called the 'Rubicon,' and the 'Hercules.' These names have been chosen to avoid the uncertainty which arises from the common denomination of 'horse-powers by different makers'; each of these two kinds of engines being all of exact stated sizes and dimensions. The Rubicon is intended to drive a separator to the utmost capacity of one gang of men in handling the grain and straw; the Hercules will do double that work. This is under moderate steam pressure, and is not the limit of their capacity by any means. The cost of the first is $950, and that of the latter $1,100. These engines are complete with strong but light trucks, smoke pipe, spark arrester, automatic lubricator, and every modern improvement that can be advantageously combined with them. For threshing, cutting and steaming feed, cutting wood, and doing the general mechanical work of the farm, hoisting, loading, or unloading, there can be no cheaper nor more effective power than this.