The Agricultural Revolution

Introduction to the Agricultural Revolution

American farmers - 1880
American farmers - 1880. LOC

Between the eighth century and the eighteenth, the tools of farming basically stayed the same and few advancements in technology were made.

The farmers of George Washington's day had no better tools than had the farmers of Julius Caesar's day; in fact, early Roman plows were superior to those in general use in America eighteen centuries later.

What Was the Agricultural Revolution?

The agricultural revolution was a period of agricultural development between the 18th century and the end of the 19th century, which saw a massive and rapid increase in agricultural productivity and vast improvements in farm technology.

Listed below are many of the inventions that were created or greatly improved during the agricultural revolution.

Plow & Moldboard

By definition a plow (also spelled plough) is a farm tool with one or more heavy blades that breaks the soil and cut a furrow (small ditch) for sowing seeds. A moldboard is the wedge formed by the curved part of a steel plow blade that turns the furrow.

Seed Drills

Seed drills sow seeds, before drills were invented seeding was done by hand. The basic ideas in drills for seeding small grains were successfully developed in Great Britain, and many British drills were sold in the United States before one was manufactured in the States. American manufacture of these drills began about 1840. Seed planters for corn came somewhat later, as machines to plant wheat successfully were unsuited for corn planting. In 1701, Jethro Tull invented his seed drill and is perhaps the best known inventor of a mechanical planter.

Machines That Harvest - Sickles, Reapers, & Harvesters

By definition a sickle is a curved, hand-held agricultural tool used for harvesting grain crops.
Horse drawn mechanical reapers later replaced sickles for harvesting grains. Reapers developed into and was replaced by the reaper-binder (cuts grain and binds it in sheaves), which was in turn was replaced by the swather and then the combine harvester. The combine harvester is a machine that heads, threshes and cleans grain while moving across the field.

The decade of the Civil War serves as a landmark to mark the passing of one period in American life and the beginning of another; especially in agriculture and technology.

The United States which fought the Civil War was vastly different from the United States which fronted the world at the close of the Revolution. The scant four million people of 1790 had grown to thirty-one and a half million. This growth had come chiefly by natural increase, but also by immigration, conquest, and annexation.

Settlement had reached the Pacific Ocean, though there were great stretches of almost uninhabited territory between the settlements on the Pacific and those just beyond the Mississippi.

Textile Industry Flourishes in the North

The cotton gin had turned the whole South toward the cultivation of cotton. The South was not manufacturing any considerable proportion of the cotton it grew, but the textile industry was flourishing in North. A whole series of machines similar to those used in Great Britain, but not identical, had been invented in America. American mills paid higher wages than British and in quantity production were far ahead of the British mills, in proportion to hands employed, which meant being ahead of the rest of the world.

Wages in America

Wages in America, measured by the world standard, were high. There was a good supply of free land, or land that was practically free. The wages paid were high enough to attract laborers who could save enough to buy their own land. Workers in textile mills often worked only a few years to save money, buy a farm, or to enter some business or profession.

Advances in Transportion Lines

The steamboat, and the railroad, offered transportation to the West. Steamboats travelled all the larger rivers and the lakes. The railroad was growing rapidly. Its lines had extended to more than thirty thousand miles. Construction went on during the war, and the transcontinental railway was in sight. The locomotive had approached standardization, and the American railway was comfortable for passengers, with Pullman sleeping cars, the dining cars, and the automatic air brake of George Westinghouse being invented.