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The combined harvesters used in the United States are restricted by climate to the Pacific coast, and may be divided into two classes on the basis of the power used, whether animal or steam. In the work and operation of these two classes of machines, there is, in the main, only a difference in capacity. The standard horse-power machine cuts a swath from 16 to 20 feet wide; is drawn by 24 to 40 horses; harvests from 25 to 45 acres of wheat per day; and requires four men to operate it. It requires a machine man to regulate the cutting bar and look after the machine in general; a steersman, a man to manipulate the sacks and tie them, and a driver. This is the most advantageous harvester to use on the smaller farms, those having less than 3,000 acres. It was used successfully before 1880, but its sale and manufacture in a commercial way did not begin until 1885.
The Steam Harvester has a cutting bar from 24 to 42 feet long, requires eight men to operate it, and harvests from 75 to 125 acres per day at a cost of from 30 to 50 cents per acre, which is the cost of the mere twine with which the sheaves are bound when the wheat is harvested with a binder. The traction engine or motive power is independent of the harvester proper. An auxiliary engine is mounted on the frame of the harvester. Steam conveyed to this engine from the boiler of the traction engine constitutes the driving power for running the cylinder, separator, header, and recleaner, “the effect being a steady and uniform motion of all parts at all times and in all conditions of the grain and at any speed at which the harvester may be traveling.'
The traction engine is 110 horse-power, has double engines, and nine to 12-inch cylinders. The driving or carrying wheels are eight feet in diameter, and have a width of 32, 40 or 60 inches, according to the nature of the ground on which the machine is to be operated. This style of outfit is used very largely on the reclaimed tule lands. The separator has a cylinder from 26 to 40 inches in length. The mechanism of the machine is so perfected that the feeder, cylinder, grain carrier, shoe, and all cleaning devices remain in a level position upon uneven land and no matter how the machine is set. Thus under all conditions the machine does substantially the same work as upon a dead level.
The greatest width machine that was ever put out was an experimental one of 52 feet. It was built by a farmer, and was not a success on account of its construction. While successful machines with a width of 40 and 42 feet have been turned out, there are two standard large size machines, both smaller. One cuts a width of 25 feet, while the other consists of a 22-foot header with a 12-foot extension, making 34 feet in all. The machines of a greater width can scarcely be considered as a single machine. They consist of a regular cut of about 16 feet, with an addition of about 12 feet, making 28 feet for the machine proper. Then an independent header pushed by borses delivers to the outer canvas, thus making the 42 feet. Such an outfit is used only in the very lightest crop, and its exceptional cut is of advantage, not only in covering more ground, but also in keeping the thresher and cleaner sufficiently supplied with grain to insure the best work. The manufacturers claim that “the steam harvester can handle grain in almost any condition, whether it is standing, lodged, tangled or overgrown with weeds."
A Complete Outfit for thus harvesting grain consists of traction engine, auxiliary engine, thresher, header, water-tank wagon and cook-house. The average price of such an outfit is about $7,500. The great expense and capacity of these machines make them suitable only for the larger farms, those containing from 3,000 to 20,000 acres of land. The steam combined harvester was put on the market in a commercial way in 1892. The average life of the machine is from 8 to 15 years. The great advantages of this machine are economy in time and power on account of combining so many operations in one, the rapid" ty with which grain may be marketed after it is ripe, the small amount of human labor required, the diminution of risk from fire, and the waste of grain which is avoided.
It is a Pacific coast production and its sale is at present confined almost exclusively to that section of the world. It is the typical machine of the “Inland Empire,” a name applied to all of the Pacific northwest east of the Cascades and Sierras. At least two-thirds of the wheat of California is reaped with the combined harvester. It is a novel, interesting and picturesque valley scene to see this ponderous harvester sweeping through miles upon miles of ripened wheat, devouring swaths from 16 to
42 feet in width, raising its cloud of yellow dust, and leaving behind a long train of sacked grain, ready to be hauled to the warehouse, railroad, or mill. It is estimated that 3,000 combined harvesters were operated on the Pacific coast in 1903.
Threshing is the operation of separating the grain from the chaff and straw. It is perhaps an entirely safe proposition to say that this has been accomplished in every imaginable manner. Perels states that the oldest method of threshing was by utilizing animals in tramping out the grain, but the flail, according to the same author, was known in grayest antiquity in a form similar to that of the present day. Both methods have been used in modern times. It is more probable that the first grain was shelled by hand, and that the first advance was to an auxiliary implement, a staff or rod with which the heads were pounded. The heads were also whipped across sticks or poles. The flail was early invented by attaching a club to the staff. The wind was the first fanning mill, the grain being thrown up so that the chaff would be blown away. The same forces, gravity and a current of air, are still utilized. The only improvements have been in the manner in which they are applied and in the addition of the screen.
Horses were used to tramp out the grain in early times in the United States, or a great roller with large wooden pins was dragged over the grain. These methods were still used in this country in 1835 or 1840. From 23 to 30 bushels per day for three horses, a man and a boy were the usual results. This method is still often used in Russia, where, in cleaning the wheat, the “shovel and wind” plan is utilized for the chaff, and a sieve 3 or 4 feet in diameter is used for removing weed seeds and grading the grain. In Spain and Syria, the threshing is also frequently accomplished by driving oxen or horses over the grain. The same method is occasionally found in remote parts of Argentina. Even in New Mexico one could find grain reaped with the sickle and threshed by the trampling of goats as late as 1899.
The Flail.—Where this implement was used, threshing was the chief farm work of winter. The flail was not rare in
the United States as late as 1830, was common in Great Britain until 1850, and was still used in Germany in 1872. It is used now in parts of Europe where the holdings are very small or the peasants poor, notably in Russia. From 8 to 12 bushels of wheat was considered a good average day's work.
The Second Method of Applying Animal Power to threshing was by drawing over the grain an implement made rough on the bottom. It has been used in Egypt from ancient to present times, and consists of a wooden frame with three cross bars or axles on which are fixed circular iron plates. In ancient times the grain was usually at the circumference of the circle over which the machine was drawn, but now it is stacked in the center. It was called the noreg, and another form was known as the charatz. The moreg of the Hebrews was a similar device, and the old Roman devices corresponding to these inventions were the traka and tribula. Italy and some of the eastern countries still use substantially the same implement. A knifeboard construction known as the trilla is used in Spain.
The Evolution of Modern Threshing Machines.—During the eighteenth century three Scotchmen made separate inventions that led up to the modern threshing machine. Michael Menzies came first (1732). He contrived to drive a large number of flails by water power. It was called a “wonderful invention,” "capable of giving 1,320 strokes per minute, as many as 33 men threshing briskly,” and as “moved by a great water wheel and triddles.' Its only contribution was to demonstrate the impracticability of the flail motion. About 1758 a Scotch farmer named Lackie invented a rotary machine which could thresh dry oats, but in wheat it merely knocked off the heads. Its value lay in showing the superiority of the rotary motion, and it was the first suggestion of the modern cylinder. The first machine of the modern type was invented by Andrew Meikle in 1786, patented in 1788, and completed in 1800 by the addition of a fanning mill. This was the first machine to thresh, clean, and deliver the grain in ne operation.
The early machines were driven by water, or worked by horses, though wind power was also used. “Cider mill” horsepowers were most frequently used at first. Tread or railway powers came next, and soon afterward, the sweep powers. A)] of the early threshers were stationary. The first threshing by
steam was in 1803. The first machines to be successfully placed upon the market were open-cylinder threshers, known under various names, as “chaff-pilers,'' “bob-tails, "groundhogs, ” and “bull-threshers.” They simply threshed the grain and did not clean or separate it. H. A. Pitts (1834) successfully combined the “ground-hog” with the common fanning mill in portable form. He and his brother patented (1837) the original of the great type of “endless apron” or “great belt” separators.
Threshing machines were first brought into general use in Great Britain. Many were introduced from 1810 to 1820. In the southern counties of England, the machines were the object of popular attack, and in many districts the farmers were obliged to abandon such as had been erected. Pusey wrote in 1851: “Open air threshing may appear visionary; but it is quite common with the new machinery.” The coal burnt by the best engines per horse power per hour was 28 pounds in 1847. Four years later it was less than one-fourth as much. Steam was soon universally used for threshing in England. The first “bull-threshers” were used in the United States about 1825. They spread rapidly until 1835, when separating devices had been added. Five years later little threshing was done by other means. Horse power was used exclusively, and it was not until about 1876 that steam power began to come into use.
In Germany there were many lever “hand threshing machines” in use in 1850. Two men worked the lever, and a third fed the grain, but these three laborers could thresh more grain with less labor by using the flail, while the machine also cut up the straw and wheat. By 1872 steam threshing had well begun to drive out other methods of threshing in Germany. In 1854 a steam engine of three-horse power threshed 160 bushels of wheat in a day. Similar engines up to nine-horse power existed, and they threshed more grain. An American machine threshed 25 bushels per hour in the early sixties. In 1876 a steam thresher operated by 18 hands threshed well 2,000 bushels of wheat in one day. The bulk of the grain was always quite easily threshed from the straw. The great difficulty was to save the little that was usually left. It was estimated that from 5 to 10 per cent of the wheat was left in the straw by hand threshing.
1 Perels, Bedeutung des Maschinenwesens, pp. 25-27.