We can be grateful for author, Michael Partridge's early interest in the techniques of farming, for it has led to a most readable and informative book.
'Farm Tools Through the Ages' does exactly what its name indicates it takes a look at implements used by farmers down through the ages.
The book is arranged under 10 headings; land drainage, cultivating the soil, steam cultivation, sowing and planting, harvesting crops, processing crops, barn machinery, tools for use with livestock, motive power, and the farm dairy.
The sections then describe how tools evolved to handle the various tasks that confronted farmers throughout the centuries. We are struck anew with respect for these hardy tillers who sowed and cultivated, and reaped and kept the human race going. A special debt is owed to those innovative few who found better ways of doing things and who persevered until their new methods and implements were adopted.
The book describes numerous implements and tools such as the potato dibber, the turnip chopper, the hacking stick, the waddle hurdle, the flax brake and of course, many, many more.
Iron-Men Album readers, however, are probably most interested in the section on steam cultivation. In these 17 pages Partridge discusses the development of the use of steam in farming. The text is larded with some splendid illustrations. These include a picture of John Heathcote's steam plough, 1836; a diagram of John Fowler's plowing system; views of the Savage plowing engine and an illustration of the single-engine system of plowing with a Savage engine; a picture of Rickett's cultivator, 1858, and more.
In 1770 Richard Lovell Edgeworth patented a steam engine that traveled upon an 'endless railway system.' Flat bearers were attached to the wheels of the engine to support its weight on soft ground. The method was not considered successful until the Boydell patent in 1846.
In 1810 a Major Pratt patented a steam haulage system in which the plow was dragged on the end of a rope. A steam engine was stationed at one end of a field and an anchor cart with a horizontal pulley was set at the other end. A winding drum beneath the engine's boiler turned an endless rope around the anchor pulley, alternately playing it out and winding it back onto the drum. The plow, attached to the rope, moved between engine and anchor.
Among other plow pioneers were John T. Osborn and Lord Willoughby d'Eres by.
John howler was the first to show that cable cultivation could be profitable. His apparatus used three systems; single engine, double engine, and roundabout. His idea of using a stationary steam engine to wind in a rope and draw a mole plow won a prize in 1854 offered by the Royal Agricultural Society in England.
Although Fowler died at the age of 38, his factory already employed over 1,000 workers early in the 1860s. Partridge says Fowler's plowing system formed the 'basic pattern for cable haulage until they were totally replaced by tractor-drawn plows in this present century.'
This steam cultivation section of the book also contains data on steam digging and the rotary hoe, both of which should interest our readers.
Farmers and steam engine fans will enjoy this book. It is well written and well designed. The author has studied at the Royal College of Art in London and his own sketches contribute much to understanding the text.
If you are interested in the history of farming or want to know how your ancestors scratched a living from the soil with primitive, yet effective tools, get this book. Michael Partridge knows his subject. He writes well and draws well and has put together a worthwhile volume of 240 pages containing 260 illustrations.
We come away from this book with an increased admiration for the farmers and craftsmen of earlier days and for the inventors who made things easier and more productive. We join in the author's hope that somehow country crafts be kept alive, perhaps on some working farms.
This book, 'Farm Tools Through the Ages,' is priced at $6.75 postpaid. Order from Steam gas Publishing Company, Box 328, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17604.