Technology and Society: The Influence of Machines in the United States

By S. Mckee Rosen ; Laura Rosen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
AGRICULTURE

The Tractor

From the dawn of history men have attempted to wrest a livelihood from the land. Ever since Neolithic times, cultivation of the soil has been their primary concern. It is indeed a long step from the crude stone implements used by the earliest ancestors of present civilization to the Diesel‐ powered multi-purpose tractor of modern days. The struggle to subdue the soil has been a long and arduous one. Compared with the slow strides made in the thousands of years since Neolithic days, the mastery which men have acquired over nature during the last century is amazing. Interestingly enough, although the art of cultivation has had a long history, it is in America that major developments of machines applicable to agriculture have taken place.

While methods in Colonial days were crude and constituted largely the hand manipulation of rough tools, some few changes were made in old-time methods prior to the opening of the nineteenth century. As such, the introduction of the cotton gin and the grain cradle was significant. During the early part of the nineteenth century, the hay rake, the iron plow, and the first rude threshing machine also came into use. But such inventions were of minor significance as compared with those of Civil War days—the mowing machine, the tractor, the grain separator, and the reaper. 1 Of these, the tractor was destined to be outstanding among agricultural machinery.

Early Models.The tractor when first invented was equipped with a steam traction engine. This type of engine

____________________
1
McCrory, S. H., Hendrickson, R. F. and Committee, "Agriculture," in Technological Trends and National Policy, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., June 1937, p. 98.

-74-

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