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This Aveling and Porter steam powered reaper built in Rochester, England was demonstrated near Mar-mount, France in the 1870s. This drawing appeared in a book entitled, Universal Exposition at Paris, 1878. This 10-foot reaper was pushed by a 12 HP steam engine at a rate of 2 miles per hour. The cutting bar, grain reel and endless canvass or apron was driven by an endless chain rotating from a sprocket wheel on the engine shaft. The crane which raised and lowered the reaper was also powered by the engine. Obviously, the use of a powerful and costly steam engine to operate a reaper, which could be pushed by four horses, proved impractical.
However, this experiment proves that the power take-off principle was known to engineers at least 50 years before the power take-off farm tractors appeared on the market in the early 1930s. Frequently there is a long time lag between the discovery of a mechanical innovation and its application for general use by the public.
Another example of the early use of the power take-off principle would be the manufacture of the huge steam traction engines built by Benjamin Holt and Daniel Best in California in the 1890s. These engines pulled combine harvesters in the grain fields. Here a hose carried the steam from the main engine boiler to a small auxiliary stationary steam engine bolted to a platform on the harvesters. Thus the steam from the big engine activated the small engine, which in turn drove the threshing machinery on the combine.