THE STEAM REAPER

article image

The following are excerpts from the Harvester, a publication of
the Deseret Museum of Science and Industry, Box 11052, Salt Lake
City, Utah 84147. The original article was written by Beethovan A.
Williams, Librarian, The Sharon D. Ansted-Williams Memorial
Library, a branch of Deseret Museum of Science and Industry.

The Universal Exposition was held at Paris, France, in 1878.
Recognizing that agricultural technology and practice was widely
different from that of countries in Europe, many companies in the
United States did not enter this exposition. The Centennial
Exposition had been held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1876,
and its success would over shadow the Paris exposition.

The grand prize was awarded to Cyrus H. McCormick of Chicago,
Illinois, for the Binding Reaper. Gold medals would go to J. 1.
Case, D. M. Osborne, Johnston Harvester Company, Mitchell Warder
Company, Walter A. Wood Company and William Anson Wood Company for
their harvesters. The William Deering Company was not present at
this exposition.

Credit for the invention of the reaper is given to Cyrus Hall
McCormick in 1834. The French newspapers during the exposition did
not allow it to be forgotten that the reaping machine was first
made and used in Gaul, in 79 A.D. The British were also quick to
point out that the Rev. Patrick Bell also had invented a reaper in
1828. It was also thought that using a steam traction engine to
pull or drag a machine over the ground was not efficient because
too much energy of the engine would be consumed just in the process
of moving the device.

The following excerpts are from the ‘La France’
May 28, 1878.

‘It was the Gauls, our fathers who, says Palladius, made the
first reaper. The description given by him indicates a sort of cart
furnished with two wheels; an ox in the reverse direction in the
shafts pushed the machine like a wheelbarrow against the wheat. The
edge of the cart was armed with a comb having long teeth, where the
ears caught and were cut off by the edges of the knives and tumbled
into the body of the cart. The straw remained after the ears were
removed, and was either left in the field or gathered later. The
reaper set up in the American section of the Exposition was made by
Messrs. Case, of Wisconsin, and is the Gallic reaper, perfected it
is true, but based on the same agricultural system pursued for ages
in some portions of China, where they reap by two operations, first
with a sickle to gather the wheat and then with a scythe to save
the straw. The machine of Messrs. Case, of Wisconsin, disturbs all
our ideas of progress in harvesting by machinery. We have carefully
examined it in the shed where they have carefully hidden, along the
Avenue Suffren, the magnificent American and English agricultural
machines as if they did not merit a place of prominence in the
Exposition. We cannot, however, neglect rendering our homage to the
truth declaring that it is to this side of the Exposition grounds
that agriculturists and manufacturers should turn their
attention.’

The term ‘Gaul’ was, in the days of Pliny, who first
described the Gallic reaper, rather an indefinite geographical
expression, and the district in which Pliny describes the machine
as working, 1800 years ago, was Rhaetia, and the ‘plains’
upon which it was used were probably those of the Adige, a part of
that marvelously fertile tract between the Italian Alps and the
head of the Adriatica land whose celebrity in the earliest historic
times for wool, wine, and racehorses indicates the variety of its
climates and the advanced character of its productions, and whose
valor in attack recalled the Brennus of the Senonian Gauls from the
pillage of Rome to the defense of their pleasant homes on the
Mincio and Lago Garda.

The Case reaper was not shown at the trials, but was a very
different thing from the crude reaper of the Venetii, which
resembled our clover-headers. It had, however, the two points upon
which the journalist insists it was pushed by the team and the comb
in advance stripped the heads of the standing crop and saved
them.

The field trials for the reapers were held on July 22, 1878 at
the ‘Field of Marmont’ near Paris. The following account
was produced by Mr. Edward H. Knight, Agricultural Commissioner for
the United States Secretary of State, and is offered here in its
complete text.

The Sharon D. Ansted-Williams Memorial Library of the Deseret
Museum of Science and Industry is dedicated to the preservation of
the history and innovative achievements of America’s past. The
library is interested in the acquisition of books and literature
from America’s past. Comments may be addressed to the Sharon D.
Ansted-Williams Memorial Library at P.O. Box 11052, Salt Lake City,
Utah 84147.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment