Early History of Farming in the U.S.

old farmInformation provided by USDA

Following our email this week, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the early agricultural developments in the U.S. as we celebrate Independence Day.

18th century Oxen and horses for power, crude wooden plows, all sowing by hand, cultivating by hoe, hay and grain cutting with sickle, and threshing with flail
1790’s Cradle and scythe introduced
1797 Charles Newbold patented first cast-iron plow
1819 Jethro Wood patented iron plow with interchangeable parts 1819-25 U.S. food canning industry established
1830 About 250-300 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with walking plow, brush harrow, hand broadcast of seed, sickle, and flail
1834 McCormick reaper patented, John Lane began to manufacture plows with steel saw blades 1837 John Deere & Leonard Andrus manufactured steel plows, threshing machine patented 1840’s The growing use of factory-made agricultural machinery increased farmers’ need for cash, birthing commercial farming
1842 First grain elevator, Buffalo, NY 1844 Practical mowing machine patented
1849 Mixed chemical fertilizers sold commercially
1850 About 75-90 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels of corn (2-1/2 acres) with walking plow, harrow, and hand planting
1854 Self-governing windmill perfected
1868 Steam tractors were tried out
1870’s Silos came into use, and deep-well drilling first widely used
1874 Glidden barbed wire patented, fencing of rangeland ending unrestricted, open-range grazing
1880 William Deering put 3,000 twine binders on the market
1884-90 Horse-drawn combine used in Pacific coast wheat areas
1890-95 Cream separators came into wide use
1890-99 Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 1,845,900 tons
1890 35-40 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2-1/2 acres) of corn with 2-bottom gang plow, disk and peg-tooth harrow, and 2-row planter, but 40-50 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with gang plow, seeder, harrow, binder, thresher, wagons, and horses
1900-1910 George Washington Carver, director of agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute, pioneered in finding new uses for peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans, thus helping to diversify southern agriculture.
1910-15 Big open-geared gas tractors came into use in areas of extensive farming
1910-19 Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 6,116,700 tons
1915-20 Enclosed gears developed for tractor
1920-29 Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 6,845,800 tons
1920-40 Gradual increase in farm production resulted from expanded use of mechanized power 1926 Successful light tractor developed
1930-39 Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 6,599,913 tons
1930’s All-purpose, rubber-tired tractor with complementary machinery came into wide use 1930 One farmer supplied 9.8 persons in the United States and abroad
1930 15-20 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2-1/2 acres) of corn with 2-bottom gang plow, 7-foot tandem disk, 4-section harrow, and 2-row planters, cultivators, and pickers 1940-49 Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 13,590,466 tons
1940 One farmer supplied 10.7 persons in the United States and abroad
1941-45 Frozen foods popularized
1942 Spindle cotton picker produced
1945-70 Change from horses to tractors and the adoption of a group of technological practices characterized the second American agriculture agricultural revolution
1945 10-14 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2 acres) of corn with tractor, 3-bottom plow, 10-foot tandem disk, 4-section harrow, 4-row planters and cultivators, and 2-row picker
1950-59 Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 22,340,666 tons
1954 Number of tractors on farms exceeded the number of horses and mules for first time

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