STEAM PLOWING


| March/April 1994



60 HP & 90 HP steam engines

Photo taken by Jack C. Norbeck at the Williams Grove Historical Steam Engine Association show, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Jack C. Norbeck

117 Ruch St., Coplay, Pennsylvania 18037.

This article was taken from The Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines.

At left, a Frick built in 1926, 60 HP, owned by Dean Deibert of Gratz, Pa., pulling a four disk IH plow. At right, a 90 HP A. D. Baker built in 1928, pulling a five bottom Oliver plow, owner Samuel Kolva Sr., Elizabethville, Pa.

In 1858, J. W. Fawkes of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, took his steam plow to Illinois and won most of the big prizes being offered at that time for a successful steam plow. The next year Mr. Fawkes went back to Illinois with a new model. He went over to Moline, Illinois, bought eight John Deere plows, then bolted them together to use with his steam traction plow for his winning demonstration in Chicago, against Mr. Waters of Detroit and Mr. Van Doren of Chicago in the famous U. S. Agricultural Society contest in 1859.

That same year, President Lincoln was invited to the Wisconsin State Fair to make the main address. He talked about the steam plow, what he thought it should be like, and the results to American agriculture that would follow its development. He said, 'The successful application of steam-power to farm work is a desideratum especially a steam plow. It is not enough that a machine operated by steam will really plow. To be successful, it must, all things considered, plow better than can be done by animal power. It must do all the work well, and cheaper, or more rapidly, so as to get through more perfectly in season; or in some way afford an advantage over plowing with animals, else it is no success.'

In 1860, an Illinois farm paper reported what it called, 'the first actual success in steam plowing in America.' The steam plow ran 23 minutes, stopped six minutes for wood, ran 13 minutes, stopped eight minutes for water, ran one minute. It plowed 2.63 acres in 72 minutes, using six of a gang of 13 plows. The crew consisted of a man and team to supply fuel and water, a fireman, two to manage the plows, and one of the inventors.