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Flail Thrashing Machine

Threshing, also spelled thrashing, is the process used to separate the chaff, the protective covering around the grain, and the kernel of grain we use for food, from a plant’s stalk. During the nineteenth century, farmers used a variety of methods to remove the chaff and grain from the stalk and to crack open the chaff. Some used flails, others used hand-powered machines such as this, and still others used animal-powered machines. Today, farmers thresh primarily with gasoline-powered machines.  

 

Woman Operating Three Hinman Units

Companies that made agricultural equipment often stressed how efficient their machines were. This photograph from a trade catalog demonstrates that by using the company’s milking machine, one woman can do the work of three milkers.

Milk Pans

During the nineteenth century, the woman of the household was usually responsible for making cheese and butter. She would set milk out in pans to separate the cream from the milk. The thick cream would rise to the top of the pan, and she would skim it off. The cream was used to make butter.

Combine — Patented 1879

In order to harvest grain and process it to be used for food, farmers must cut the grain from the field and separate the grain from the plant. Cutting the grain in the field is known has harvesting or reaping. Separating the grain from the plant is known as threshing. Harvesting and threshing were two separate jobs, but machines called “combines” save farmers time by both cutting and threshing in one step.

This combine was patented in 1879. Notice the machine was powered by steam, but the farmer still relied on horses to move the machine through the fields.

Grain Cradle

To harvest grain, the crop was usually first cut, then the grain was separated from the stalk or body of the crop. Grain cradles were used for cutting and gathering the crops. The long wooden “fingers” of the cradle gathered the straw as it was cut and deposited it in piles. The cradle was an improvement on a single blade because the fingers acted as extensions of the farmer’s arms and made harvesting a little easier.

Chopping Knife

Blacksmiths often made or repaired items that farmers used in their homes. A blacksmith made the metal blade on this chopping knife and attached a wooden handle as well.

Harrow

After plowing, the large clumps of dirt needed to be broken up in order to level the field. To do this, a farmer would have used a harrow like this. The harrow would have been pulled by a strong horse or a pair of oxen. This harrow is called a folding A-frame harrow because of its shape. It has a wooden frame and metal teeth. These “teeth” did the work of breaking up the clumps of soil.

Diary of Marshall Fairbanks – October 29, 1878

From the years 1878 until 1888, if not longer, Marshall Fairbanks kept a daily account of life on his farm in Evans (Erie County), New York, including his accounts of the weather, money coming in and out, and any other events of interest. He wrote about driving into Buffalo to sell crops and about laborers that came to the farm to work for a few months at a time. According to the census in 1875, Marshall’s farm had expanded to 126 acres.

OCTOBER 29.
Cool and clowdy snowed and rained some with a west wind Webster and Frank husked corn I helped Jennie in the house
Frank finished working for me by the month

Diary of Marshall Fairbanks — October 28, 1878

From the years 1878 until 1888, if not longer, Marshall Fairbanks kept a daily account of life on his farm in Evans (Erie County), New York, including his accounts of the weather, money coming in and out, and any other events of interest. He wrote about driving into Buffalo to sell crops and about laborers that came to the farm to work for a few months at a time. According to the census in 1875, Marshall’s farm had expanded to 126 acres.

OCTOBER 28.
Cool and clowdy with a west wind rained and snowed some last night. I helped Jennie wash and chored around Frank cribed 54 bushels of corn and plowed part of the day Webster went to Buffalo To cash paid for preaching at the Corners $1.00 Webster came home
To cash received for five bushels of wheat $5.00

Diary of Marshall Fairbanks – July 16, 1878

From the years 1878 until 1888, if not longer, Marshall Fairbanks kept a daily account of life on his farm in Evans (Erie County), New York, including his accounts of the weather, money coming in and out, and any other events of interest. He wrote about driving into Buffalo to sell crops and about laborers that came to the farm to work for a few months at a time. According to the census in 1875, Marshall’s farm had expanded to 126 acres.

JULY 16.
Very hot weather with a west wind We drew in 4 loads of hay riged the machine in to a reaper and cut some winter wheat and bound some