In reviewing man's adaptations to environment the most conspicuous act that stands out is the wide disparity between the best knowledge of what should be done and the common practices. During the period of beginnings of farming in the upper Kansas valley a number of basic practices were rather well recognized as necessary to success; early, deep plowing, both spring and fall, for corn and for wheat respectively, early planting of both crops, drilling of wheat east and west rather than broadcasting. The practice evidently fell far short of ideal. Each year comments can be found admonishing farmers that the experience of the current year had demonstrated the necessity of certain or all of these better practices; each year comments can be found recording that farmers were not going to be late with plowing and sowing ,this year, but the next year and the next, the same was repeated. There can be no statistical determination of how many did follow the practices recognized as best, or how many improved their performance each year on the basis of experience, but there can be no doubt that in general improvement, however short of ideal, was more or less continuous. [1]

     There was little discussion in the papers of the exact requirements for good plowing or of the types of plows used. T. C. Henry used a 20-inch plow when he began operations in 1873. A formal discussion of plowing in a farmers' institute of the agricultural college January 16, 1878, brought out the consensus among leading farmers participating that deep plowing had limitations; sod-breaking should be about four inches deep; thereafter it was agreed that each year the land might be plowed an inch deeper until a maximum of eight inches was reached, this bringing up the subsoil gradually. A Dickinson county farmer "preferred a sixteen- or eighteen-inch plow to one that cuts less, from the fact that these fail to cover up the weeds and stubble." Marlatt of Riley county, used a sixteen-inch sulky plow pulled by three common horses. [2] This complete coverage of all trash and an excessive use of the harrow were not challenged during this period, but


60 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

possibly the slovenly "pioneer farming" so frequently condemned was in this respect more of a virtue in windy Kansas than the good farmers were willing to concede. The most realistic but certainly an inadequate precaution to retard blowing was the admonition to, harrow or drill east and west, leaving the ridging crosswise to the prevailing wind. There is no question that the tillage methods contributed to the annual dust storms occurring in every dry year, to the blowing out of the ground root and all of wheat and corn, and to the conditions described so vividly in the locals:

Late sown wheat fields and corn fields that had the stalks raked off were robbed of about three inches of soil and drifted into the hedges and ravines like huge snow drifts. This should be warning to farmers not to rake their field in winter or to do any fall plowing without seeding to wheat early. [3]

     One woman estimated the dust fall in her house at 190 pounds from one storm and another report gave nearly an inch in several houses during a later storm. [4]

     Plows were little discussed, but on occasion the merits of different types found their way into the papers if only as advertisements. In the spring of 1871 the leading implement firm of junction City featured an assortment of plows listed as breaking, stirring, corn, subsoil, double Michigan, road, grubbing and gang plows. [5] In 1872 a gang plow equipped with a three-horse equalizing evener was displayed at Wakefield. The observer reported that one man with this plow could do as much as two men, teams and plows. [6] Most frequently gang plow advertisements showed two teams hitched tandem. In 1879 the grange store sponsored a competition between a Hapgood sulky 16-inch plow and a 14-inch walking plow, the draft being measured with a dynamometer, with the results certified in favor of the sulky, of course. [7]

     The Buckeye drill was advertised in Leavenworth in 1865, but the first drill advertisements in the upper Kansas valley papers appeared in 1871 without the maker's name. In the mid-seventies the most widely advertised drill was the D. and H. Rentchlers' IXL hoe drill but later the Buckeye and Hoosier drills were popular. [8] Van Brunt seeders (not drills) were advertised also. They broadcasted the seed by machine. In 1877 the large-scale impor-

Adaptation of Machinery 61

tation of drills was a feature of the season, the press recording receipts of dealers by the car load. By August 250 drills were unloaded at Abilene, 100 more were on the way, and at Solomon three to four carloads were received. [9] The competition was between two types, the hoe and the shoe devices for opening a furrow to receive the seed. The hoe drills were equipped with wood break pins or spring trip to prevent breakage. Other brands of drills listed during the late seventies were Dowagic, Lancaster, Triumph, Sucker State, McSherry, Eagle, Superior, Willoughby, Hagerstown and Farmers' Friend. [10] In 1877 the state board of agriculture attempted to compile information as to the use of the drill, but Dickinson and Saline counties did not report. Riley county reported 60 percent to 80 percent drilled and Geary (Davis) 75 percent to 90 percent drilled. [11]

     The problem of plows and drills aroused much less interest during the wheat boom than harvesting machinery. In the early years the hand-rake or self-rake reapers and the Marsh type harvesters were in general use. The reaper delivered the cut grain in piles on the ground to be bound into bundles by men following the machine. Marsh type harvesters delivered it to a platform where a man riding the machine bound it by hand. In the early seventies the Buckeye, McCormick, and Walter A. Wood's reapers were advertised in junction City. [12] The self-rake device was featured by all these makers. By 1874 volume sales were emphasized in advertising, one firm announcing that by early June the fourth carload of reapers had been ordered. That firm sold the Buckeye, Wood and Marsh makes. [13] In 1875 it was announced that the Marsh harvester would be available with a self-binder, although by mid-June a sample had not arrived but was expected in a few days. [14] In 1876 the announcement was made that 55 carloads of reapers and mowers would be distributed from Junction City that spring, and Marsh and Wood harvesters, with self-binders were featured in advertisements, the latter make being introduced for the first time. [15] By late June, 1877, four Salina firms were credited with sales of all classes of harvesting machines as follows: 65, 75, 40, 100. [16] These first self-binders used wire

62 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

bands, but in 1877 a trial of a twine self--binder was announced the device to be attached to a Beloit harvester. [17] Apparently the test was premature because the twine binders did not appear regularly until the Marsh gave farmers their choice in 1880, and the Wood and Osborne twine binders gave it competition the next year. [18] In the meantime the farmers in Salina territory, and much the same was true elsewhere, had seven makes of self-binders to choose from. [19] In 1879 only self-binders were advertised in the reaper-harvester class. The list of makes which appear in the newspapers of the four counties during this period included the Buckeye, Wood, Marsh, McCormick, Osborn, Haines, Illinois, Locke, Beloit, Adams and French, Deering, Minneapolis, Edwards, and Champion.


     Contrary to the traditions and the historians it was not the reapers, harvesters and binders that made wheat history on the Western prairie and plains. It was the header that should always be identified with the Plains region. In 1874 there were three headers in use in Saline county, and during that season one or more were sold in Dickinson county. [20] Evidence is not available when they were first introduced. The first identification of a header by make was the Haines Illinois Header, manufactured by P. Weyhrich, Pekin, Illinois, and therefore frequently referred to by the maker's name. [21] Combinations by which one machine might serve two purposes appeared in 1876 when advertisements announced that Haines Harvesters and Harvester Kings might be equipped as headers. Under such an arrangement the machine would be started early as a harvester cutting relatively green wheat and later changed to a header when the wheat was dead ripe and shattered badly in handling, or it could be saved in this way when it was too short to bind into bundles. [22] However plausible the theory of combination machines might be, the idea did not take hold until later and then only as a binder attachment on the header as the basic machine. Still later in the 1920's the mechanical power-driven combine was the union of the thresher and the header making a single machine.

Adaptation of Machinery 63

     The Randolph header was the principal competitor of the Haines in the early days, the Abilene dealer claiming to have sold over 120 in 1877, but others were the Hodge and the Stickle, and the Lewis chain drive put in its appearance during the header boom. [23] The first year of volume header sales in the area seems to have been 1877.

     The advantages urged for the header in early years were that it did not have side draft, would cut over rough ground, cut a wider swath, allowed direct stacking and saved a cent per bushel in threshing operations. The one disadvantage admitted was the danger of sweating in the stack. It is evident that these arguments were derived in part from use of the machine in humid regions, Illinois in particular, where it was early manufactured and used. In a dry climate there need be little fear of sweating in the stack unless the wheat was thin on the ground and weedy in consequence. The compelling reasons for using the header were the necessity for speed in cutting the grain which ripened quickly in the dry climate and for which the wide swath was the answer, and the shortness of the wheat for which heading was the only solution. Cheaper operation and saving of hired labor operations were important when a money crop in contrast with subsistence farming was a necessity in farm operations.

     In 1874 the wheat ripened suddenly on account of the drouth and heat emphasizing in the early stages of the winter-wheat boom the true significance of the header. In 1877 the situation was somewhat similar and again attention was focused upon the header.

     The summer of 1879 had a wet harvest in spite of being rated a dry year, and drew the comment that "there will be a great deal of damaged wheat in market this fall, a great many put their wheat up with the header and put it up when wet, but we must all live and learn." [24]

     Whatever mistakes have been made in the learning process, the dry years 1880, 1881, confirmed fully the dominant position of the header as the necessary Plains harvesting machine. The drouth caused the wheat to head close to the ground, too short

64 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

to bind, so the rush for headers began in May, 1880. Some wheat was reported to be so short that it was necessary to mow it. By the third week in May one firm in Salina had sold forty headers, another two carloads in two weeks and the cry was for more. One dealer in Abilene sold fourteen in one week. As harvest time arrived farmers were reported frantic. At Lindsborg one report said that the constable had to be called to maintain order. In Salina, "several farmers watched the trains, and when a load came in there was difficulty in getting them up town to set up." From the Fairview neighborhood, field after field was reported to be dead ripe and no headers available to cut them. One farmer visited nine different header men but could get no one to harvest his wheat. He would just have to wait and hope. One farmer cut his field with an old self-rake reaper then picked up the bundles in a header barge and stacked them. He saved his wheat at the rate of six to eight acres per day instead of some thirty acres-if he had had a header. From Lyon's creek it was reported that a number of farmers turned their self-binders and harvesters into headers - typical examples of resourcefulness in devising home-made substitutes so characteristic of Plains farmers. [25] The next season a number of second--hand harvesters, with and without binders, were offered at half price or less, having cut only ten to thirty acres. [26] Toward the close of harvest in 1881 the remark was made that "Dickinson county would have a big elephant on her hands if she undertook to harvest her large fields of wheat without the aid of the header." [27] The minimum standard header crew for a 12-foot cut machine operating with two barges was four horses on the header and two each on the wagons, and if operating with one barge six horses were sufficient, the manpower being six in the first instance and three in the latter. The prevailing sizes of headers used by small farmers were probably 8-foot and 10-foot machines in these early years. The dealers' advertising emphasized that the 8--foot header could be pulled by two horses, and a rural correspondent contrasted the 6-foot binder with a 10-foot header for the same horsepower. [28]

Adaptation of Machinery 65

     The thresher problems did not present factors of such general interest as some other machines because the threshing was a custom operation. Horses provided the power for early threshers, but portable engines were mentioned in 1876 and 1877. Nichols and Shepard and Aultman-Taylor steam tractor-powered threshers attracted attention in 1883. The principal makes were J. I. Case, Nichols and Shepard Vibrators, Buffalo Pitts', Champion and Aultman-Taylor; the volume of sales rising with the wheat acreage, 45 machines being sold at Salina alone in 1882. [29]

     The possibilities of mechanical power for farm equipment had long intrigued the imagination. With the advent of the wire self- binder in 1876, E. W. Hoch saw it at work, the operator riding under the protection of a canvas cover, and was inspired to write a review of the evolution of harvesting machinery; the reaping hook, the cradle, the reaper, the harvester, and finally the self-binder. These represented the past, but in the future, "will not steam, or perchance Keeler's motor, propel the ideal machine of the future, and deliver sacks of grain where it now deposits bundles?" [30] The wheat boom induced an experiment with a steam plow. Credited with being the first to be introduced into Kansas it was built and shipped from Kokomo, Indiana, June 12, to R. Huncheon in the upper Kansas valley. The claim was made that it would plow one acre per hour and would operate day or night:

The revolutions which steam has wrought in transportation, both by water and land, in the utilization of our timber, iron, cotton, etc., is really the history of the growth and development of our country; and now that it grapples with the soil itself, we may reasonably expect results as marked as follow its use in other fields. [31]

     This anticipation of the era of power farming is interesting, but not important, as the evolution of mechanical efficiency required still another half-century for success.

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1. Go ahead and plant as though you never saw a hopper, Junction City Union, September 23, 1876; late sowing and wind damage, Abilene Chronicle, October 27, 1876; drill wheat, Salina Herald, February 24, 1877; drilled wheat worth twice as much as broadcast, Abilene Chronile, May 18, 1877; properly seeded wheat never fails, Salina Herald, May 19, 1877; seeding at the right time, Abilene Chronicle, June 8, 1877; drill east and west, Junction City Tribune, July 19, 1877; proven by experience that wheat should be put in in season, Abilene Chronicle, July 20, 1877; deep plowing and drouth, The Nationalist, Manhattan, January 25, 1878; plow and sow on time, Salina Herald, July 20, 1878; many planted late, Ibid., November 16, 18.8; plowing early, not to be caught this year, Abilene Chronicle, June 27, 18-9; wide range of yields, plow early, Abilene Gazette, June 6, 1879; no two failures in succession, plant early cast and west, Ibid., August 22, 1879; late corn almost a total failure, junction City Union, September 6, 1879; sowing early to profit by last year's experience, Salina Herald, September 20, 1879; sowing completed, Ibid., September 20, 1879; late sown wheat poor, Ibid., January 31, 1880; late sown wheat coming up, Junction City Union, March 6, 188o; value of early plowing and sowing demonstrated, Abilene Chronicle, March 12, 1880; plow early not too sleep, Ibid., June 25, 1880; plowing mostly done, Salina Herald, August 14, 1880; deep plowing for corn not approved, Ibid., April 6, 1882.
2. The Nationalist, Manhattan, January 25, 1878
3. Abilene Chronicle, April 9, 1880.
4. The Nationalist, Manhattan, April 23, 1880, Ogden items; Salina Herald, April 24, 1880, Poheta items.
5 Junction City Union, March 11, 1871.
6. Ibid., April 13, 1872.
7. Ibid., August 9, 1879.
8. Ibid., May 15, 1875; July 29, 18,6; Salina Herald, May 13, 1876.
9. Abilene Chronicle, July 20, August 10, October 26, 1877.
10. ]bid., August 10, October 26, 1877; August 1, 1879; Abilene Gazette, June 28, August 23, 1878; Junction City Union, September 7, 1878; September 6, 18-19.
11. Monthly Reports of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture .. . November and December, 1877, pp. 17-23.
12. Junction City Union, July 15, 1871; April 13, 1872; May 24, June 14, 1873. When these machines first were used in this vicinity is not known, but the sale was not sufficient apparently to induce the dealers to advertise much at an earlier date. At St. Mary's mission McCormick and other leading makes of tools were used even prior to the organization of Kansas.
13. Junction City Union, June 13, 1874.
14. Ibid., May 15, June 12, 1875,
15. Ibid, April 29, June 10, 1876; Abilene Chronicle, July 14, 1876, June 1, 1871. The McCormick self-binder was advertised for sale in Abilene in the spring of 18-6 and was demonstrated at Wichita, in June, 1876. Ibid., April 21, 1876; June 8, 1877., testimonial on Wichita demonstration.
16. Salina Herald, June 23, 1877.
17. Ibid.
18. Abilene Chronicle, April 2, 1880; May 20, 1681; The Nationalist, Manhattan, May 19, 1881; Junction City Union, June 4, 1881. The Deering was first mentioned in 1882, Ibid., July 1, 1882.
19. Salina Herald, June 1, 1878.
20. Western Home Journal, Lawrence, July 16, 1874, a report from Saline county. Junction City Union, June 20, 1874, a report front Dickinson county. The leading jobbing house in Atchison had been selling Haines headers in Kansas for some years.-Atchison Weekly Champion and Press, January 14, 1871.
21. Junction City Union, June 10, 1876; Abileuc Chronicle, June 8, 29, 1877; May 10, 1878, referring to sales there years earlier; April 2, 1880; T. C. Henry, "The Story of a Fenceless Winter-Wheat Field," The Kansas Historical Collections, 9: 502-506.
22. Junction City Union, June t0, 1876; Salina Herald, July 7, 1877. An illustration of the Marsh Harvester Header is found in the Newton Kansan, May 25, 1876.
23. Abilene Chronicle, June 29, 1877; May 20, 1881; May 9, 1884; Junction City Union, June 15, 1878; May 28, 1881; July 1, 1882.
24. Abilene Chronicle, June 27, July 1S, 1879, "Aroma Items."
25. Ibid., May 78, June 4, 18, 25, July 2, 1880; Salina Herald, May 22, June 19, 1880; Junction City Union, June I9, 1880.
26. Abilene Gazette, June l0, 1880.
27. Abilene Chronicle, July 15, 1881.
28. Saline County Journal, Salina, May 22, 18-9; McPherson Independent, February 7, 1883
29. Junction City Union, June 3, 10, 1876; May 20, 1882; Salina Herald, January 20, June 16, July 14, 18-7; August 3, 1882; Abilene Chronicle, July 13, 1877; June 21, 1878; June 29, July 13, 1883.
30. The Marion County Record, Marion Centre, June 30, 1876.
31. Junction City Union, June 23, 1877, from the Kansas City (Missouri) Times.