History of Soybeans and the Great Agricultural Revolution (1874-2021)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-40-3

Publication Date: 2021 June 12

Number of References in Bibliography: 1395

Earliest Reference: 1874

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Soybean Production Machinery and Implements

Overview: Agricultural historian Wayne D. Rasmussen (1962) has argued that “there were two major revolutions in American Agriculture: one occurred when horses and mules replaced hand tools and human muscle, and a second one when engines replaced equine muscle.”

The Agricultural Revolution of the 20th Century, the title of a book by Don and Philip Paarlberg (published in 2000 by Iowa State University Press; 154 pages) identifies clearly the main development for agriculture in our time.

The Preface lists some of the remarkable changes to agriculture that this revolution brought during the 20th century.

"From horse to tractor and from buggy to automobile. "From the 10-horsepower to the more than 400-horsepower tractor.

"From hoe to herbicide.

"From genetic mythology to bioengineering [biotechnology, genetic engineering].

"From lead arsenate to biodegradable chemicals. "From a national average of 21 to 121 bushels of corn per acre.

"From husking hook to corn combine...

"From carrying water to turning the kitchen faucet.

"From backhouse [outhouse] to indoor toilet…

"From mud roads to paved highways.

"From kerosene lamp to electric lights...

"From Rural Free Delivery to the World Wide Web...

"From a labor-intensive to a capital-intensive [and fossil fuel energy-intensive] operation...

"From poverty to virtual income equivalence with nonfarm people."

Part of the revolution, starting in the 1960s, was organically grown crops.

“Of all the farm implements, the tractor has had the greatest impact on rural life.” “In one generation between 1920 and 1950, most farms in the United States changed from dependence on draft animals to dependence on mechanical power.” Clearly one of the most important machines developed in the twentieth century, the tractor played a pivotal role in the “great migration from the countryside to the cities that began in the 1920s and continued through the 1950s – a time when farm production increased despite a decrease in the supply of farm labor.”

The early tractors were powered by steam from an external fire source; thus they could be called “external combustion engines.” Many were used primarily as a source of power for threshing grains. They were large and unwieldy, but by the earl 1880s most were self-propelled. In about 1863, Henry Ford, at the age of 12 encountered such a steam traction engine on a road near Detroit. It changed his life – and the history of the tractor – for he was determined to improve on it.

Surprisingly it was World War I that sparked the rise of the farm tractor in America. The European War caused an enormous drain on America's supply of horses, mules, and farm labor.

By prodigious exertion, U.S. tractor makers rolled out 62,742 units in 1917. That same year, Henry Ford launched the Fordson tractor – the first tractor produced by automobile-style mass-production assembly line methods.

Ford's big competitor was International Harvester (IH), whose main product was tractors. In the end, I.H. won. By 1928, Ford had discontinued building the Fordson in North America, and virtually withdrew from the tractor industry.

………………….

1769 – James Watt, a Scottish inventor, is granted a patent on a steam engine that makes use of a separate condenser. He made steam engines from 1774 to 1800, when his patents expired. Watt’s contributions were so significant that he is frequently referred to as the inventor of the steam engine (Gray 1975, p. 2).

1837 – John Deere builds the first self-scouring steel plow – in his blacksmith shop in Grand Detour, Illinois (ASABE website).

1870 – "By 1870 farming was becoming an industry in which more and more power was needed. In that year more than 2,000 establishments were manufacturing farm machines valued at $48,000,000” (Gray 1870, p. 2-4)..

1874 May – The word “thrasher” is first used (in English) in connection with machinery used for soybean production (J.N. Stribling).

1880 March – The words “drill,” “grain drill” and “smoothing harrow” are first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Country Gentleman).

1892 Nov. – The word “reaper” (self-rake reaper”) is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Rural New-Yorker).

1894 July 10 – The word “harrowed” (“harrowed down”) is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Hartford Daily Courant {Connecticut}).

1894 Nov. 8 – The term “fanning mill” is first used in connection with soybean production (Statesville Record and Landmark {Statesville, North Carolina}).

1895 Nov. 9 – The word “planter” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (C.C. Georgeson).

1896 April 30 – The word “mower” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Normand Smith).

1896 May 30 – The words “cultivator” and “plow” are first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (J.H. Hale).

1897 March – The terms “concaves” and “machine” (“thrashing machine”) are first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Thomas A. Williams).

1897 Oct. 2 – The word “harrow” (“use a light harrow”) is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Farm, Field and Fireside {Chicago, Illinois}).

1898 Feb. 19 – The words “horses” and “separator” are first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Rural New-Yorker).

1898 April 23 – The terms “harvester” (“bean harvester”) and “two-horse cultivator” are first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (C.C. Georgeson).

1898 April – The terms “disc harrow, “horserake” or “horserake” and “thresher” are first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (F.C. Burtis).

1899 June – The term “binder” (“common binder”) is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Robert Morris).

1900 Jan. 3 – The term “common grain separator” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (W.H. Stoddard).

1900 March 3 – The word “weeder” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (A. Mackellar).

1900 – The term “smoothing harrow” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Wm. Saunders).

1903 July – The term “twine binder” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (B.T. Galloway).

1904 – The term “self-binder” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (R.A. Moore).

1905 – The term “plough” (“scooter or V-shaped plough”) is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Joseph Burtt-Davy).

1906 – The word “tractor: is coined to replace the longer term “gasoline traction engine.” The new word “is commonly attributed to Chas. W. Hart and Chas. H. Parr of Charles City, Iowa, who are credited with having built the first successful internal combustion engine tractor and founding the gasoline tractor industry...” (Gray 1975, p. 23).

1906 – International Harvester introduces a tractor with a 20 horsepower, 240 r.p.m. single-cylinder engine (Gray 1975, p. 25).

1907 Dec. – The American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) is founded at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

1910 Aug. 5 – The Gordon Pea Thresher and Harvester, made in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, starts to be advertised. The first of its kind, made by L.S. Gordon, it is an early, greatly simplified version of the combine.

1912 Feb. – The term “self-raking reaper” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (C.G. Williams, et al).

1912 Feb. – The term “side-delivery reaper” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Edward R. Minns).

1915 April 6 – The term “weeder” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (T.A. Kiesselbach).

1915 May 27 – The term “equipment” (“ordinary farm equipment”) is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Port Gibson Reveille {Port Gibson, Mississippi}).

1916 June 3 – The term “combination harvester and thresher” is first used in connection with the combine (George Dacy).

1917 Feb. – The term “cutter bar” is first used in connection with the combine (Nickolas Schmitz).

1917 Aug. 18 – The “Pritchard Bean Harvester” starts to be advertised by the Pritchard Bean Harvester Co. of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The ad states: “This is a successful Soy Bean Harvester that by repeated tests has proven it will harvest 25 per cent more beans to the acre than any other machine. It will gather beans drilled with corn without removing corn stalks (Progressive Farmer {Raleigh, North Carolina}).

1918 June 1 – The term “rotary hoe” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (W.E. Riegel).

1918 Aug. 3 – The Little Giant Bean Harvester is first mentioned in a letter by W.J. Morse (R.A. Oakley).

1918 – The term “tillage” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (American Mutual Seed Co.).

1919 May 17 – The term “viner” (“pea viner”) is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (William C. Smith).

1919 June – The term “reap hook” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (V.R. Herman).

1919 July 30 – The term “tractor” is first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (Madison Survey {Madison, Tennessee}).

1919 Aug. 8 – The terms “windrower” and “sweeprake” are first used in connection with machinery used for soybean production (J.L. Justice).

1919 is the peak year for the number of horses on U.S. farms. Thereafter they are increasingly replaced by machines such as tractors (Graeme Quick, 1998).

1923 April – The term “combined harvester and thresher” is first used in connection with the combine (L.E. Thatcher).

1923 – Bert R. Benjamin invents the first successful row crop tractor in Illinois (ASABE website).

1924 Nov. 11 – The term “reaper-Thresher” and the word “Combine” are first used in connection the combine and harvesting soybeans. This letter of thanks from the Garwood Brothers to Massey-Harris Harvester Co., St. Louis, Missouri, begins:

“The reaper-Thresher which we purchased from you to harvest our beans was a complete success as a bean harvester. We harvested 212 acres of beans with a great saving of time, labor and money. We figure that we saved at least $4.00 per acre over the old method of cutting with a binder. We intend to harvest our wheat, oats and clover seed, also with this machine. Most everyone who saw the machine work seemed to think it was a great success. We were well pleased with the way your Company got behind the proposition and with the men you sent to help us make a go of it. There is no doubt in our minds but what the Combine is a coming machine in Illinois. We know it is a winner for harvesting beans. We harvested 60 acres of weedy beans that we could not have saved otherwise.”

1924 Nov. 20 – A prophetic editorial (in Farm Implement News) regarding a revolutionary new method of harvesting soybeans begins:

“Recent tests of a combined harvester in Illinois in harvesting soy beans may prove a milestone in the extension of the use of this great labor-saving machine from the comparatively dry grain growing sections of the west to the eastern part of the country more blessed with rainfall.”

1926 Aug. – The term “combine-harvester” is first used in connection with the combine (John T. Smith).

1926 Sept. – The term “combined harvester-thresher” is first used in connection with the combine (H.W. Mumford).

1926 Oct. – The word “reel” is first used in connection with the combine (Power Farming).

1928 March – The word “header” is first used in connection with the combine (Present status of “combine” harvesting).

1929 Aug. – The term “cultivation equipment” is first used in connection with soybean production (Charles L. Meharry, et al.).

1929 Dec. – The term “tillage machinery” is first used in connection with soybean production (F.B. Swingle).

1936 Oct. – The term “auger” is first used in connection with the combine (Hurst & Humphries).

1938 – Massey-Harris Co. starts to sell the Massey-Harris No. 20, the world’s first commercially-successful self-propelled combine. The chief engineer was Thomas Carroll (ASABE website).

1941 Sept. 15 – The term “technological uses” is first used in connection with soybean production (Time magazine).

1945 July – The term “wheat harvester” is first used in connection with soybean production (Harry C. Smith).

1950 – Shipments of pull-type combines (usually pulled by a tractor) were about 95,000 whereas self-propelled combines were approximately 9,000. By 1963, just 13 years later, pull-type combines were only 3,000 but self-propelled machines had increased to 28,000 (Soybean Digest, 1964, p. 52)

1954 April – The term “technology” (“modern technology has evolved”) is first used in connection with soybean production (E.P. Sylwester).

1954 – The number of tractors on U.S. farms exceeds the number of horses and mules for the first time (ASABE website).

1958 July – The term “cutterbar” (one word) is first used in connection with the combine (Joseph Park, et al.; Lehman et al.).

1960s-1980s – Mathematical models start to be used in designing agricultural machines. By the 1970s most models are software on computers.

1970 Feb. – The term “floating cutterbar” is first used in connection with the combine (Byg & Johnson).

1972 – The terms “Pickup reel” and “reciprocating cutterbar” are first used in connection with the combine (Graeme Ross Quick).

1984 Dec. – Grant Mangold, editor, starts a new column titled “Bytes & beans” in Soybean Digest, devoted to practical ways of using computers on the farm. Personal computers are becoming ever more popular.

1987 Jan. – The terms “precision agriculture” and “global positioning system” first appear in Soybean Digest (p. 20d+).

1987 – The book Fordson, Farmall, and Poppin' Johnny: A History of the Farm Tractor and its Impact on America, by Robert C. Williams, is published by the University of Illinois (232 p.) – with many unforgettable photographs of early, huge steam tractors.

1997 – Monsanto Co. introduces Roundup-Ready® soybeans which have been genetically engineered by introducing a gene from another species into their genome.

1998 Jan. – The word “coulters” and “coulter” are first used in connection with a combine harvesting soybeans (John Deere).

2005 July – The name of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) is changed to the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE).

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Soybeans and the Great Agricultural Revolution (1874-2021)