Power on the Land is a history of 100 years of Britain's Agricultural Engineers Association. It was written by Robert Trow-Smith, formerly the editor of Farmer and Stockbreeder and a writer of several books on agricultural history.
The book is divided into three chapters. The first one deals with events from 1875 to 1900; the second from 1900 to 1945, and the third from 1945 to 1975.
The book has some 90 pages, about half of which are devoted to illustrations. It has a foreword written by Sir Henry Plumb, president of the National Farmers Union which, in the depression of the '30s, attacked the engineers group, blaming it for the high price of machinery and spare parts.
Although we never quite believed the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, there is no doubt that the many illustrations do add a lot to this book. The photos of early leaders of the association, for instance, show what appears to be a determined looking group.
Pictures of some old equipment add zest to the narrative of the early days. For example, there is a photo of what was probably the first hammer mill to be used in Scotland, and one of a side-delivery thresher made about 1870 and still being used in the 1950s.
One picture is said to be the earliest showing tractor power being fully utilized. It was taken in 1932 and shows a Case tractor pulling a five-furrow plow, followed by a three-furrow plow, behind which are a tare drill and harrows.
In the book's second chapter there are some very good illustrations of advertisements of some early award-winning tractors.
A picture near the end of the book even shows Queen Elizabeth as she and Prince Philip tour the Royal Show in 1963.
Iron-Men readers should be interested in a photograph of Fowler's steam plowing tackle breaking up a field during the first World War. In July of 1942 the same tackle broke hay stubble in the same place. The caption explains there was a saying that 'Fowler's steam engines worked forever.'
The Agricultural Engineers Association was officially formed on Tuesday, November 2, 1875. Its reported aim was to work for the interests of agricultural engineers. Trow-Smith suggests that 'agricultural and implement manufacturers' might have been a more accurate phase as the group's chief concern seemed to be commercial. Of course, profits do create a climate in which inventions and improvements can flourish and be promoted.
The author gives brief biographies of the first officers and describes some of the early problems.
The 1900-1945 chapter goes into the matter of war production, the imports of Fordson tractors from the U.S., the growing strength of farmer cooperatives and the growth of the farm machinery business into a major industry after World War I.
It tells about the 'lean' depression years when export trade was poor and reveals that British farms and machinery manufacturers made vital contributions to the efforts of World War II.
Chapter three reviews the growth of the association after World War II. During this period U.S. firms were encouraged to set up factories in Britain. Businesses such as International Harvester and Massey-Harris did so, and their executives assumed positions of leadership in the association.
The author notes that when the association started in 1875 it was chiefly concerned with foreign markets and trading conditions. For a time this took a back seat to other matters, now once again is on center stage along with an interest in service and maintenance standards for members' products.
In his foreword, Henry Plumb says the bond between the farmer and the engineer is today stronger than ever and that many machines on the market are the 'result of cooperation between the man in the field and the man in the workshop.'