The History of the Combine Harvester

Back in the old days, the cereals and bread we eat today were the result of people breaking their backs and working from sun up to sundown to remove the grain from the chaff. Unlike potatoes, an acre of wheat took days, if not weeks to harvest. This manual process was slow, making some parts drier than most. However, when the Industrial Revolution came into full swing, machines started making lives easier, products cheaper, and agriculture faster. Gone are the days when we had to forage for food, or hire teams of reapers to remove one part of the cereal to another. One machine is the combine harvester. The combine harvester is an automated machine that removes the grain from the chaff, making it easier to grind and make into flour. Combine harvesters are specially made tractors for harvesting grains. How did these machines come about?

  • First Designs - The first design of the combine harvester was made in 1836. This now-primitive machine quite revolutionized the agriculture industry. It was drawn by 16 horses with the straw from the chaff fueling a boiler that moved it. However, this design wasn't popular and didn't catch on as its inventor, Hiran Moore, would have expected.
  • McCormick Harvester - The McCormick Harvester was made by Cyrus Hall McCormick. The first machine was tested on a neighboring farm and worked well. However, the machine was noisy and scared the horses, making it needed for another hand to be beside them to calm the horses down. This machine worked well and Cyrus McCormick made the McCormick reaper available. In sixty years, the harvester was selling 4,000 units a day, making McCormick and his company very rich. He then merged with other combine harvesting companies and created the International Harvester Company.
  • Axial Flow Combines - Since grain was the only crop that the other harvesters could reap, the Axial-Flow combine made by the International Harvester Co. was a radical departure from the old combines. It was able to harvest not only grain, but other kinds of cereals as well. The best thing about the axial-flow combine was that it was able to adapt to rye, grain or anything that it was fed and did it well. The reason for this was International Harvester company's low sales in North America. With this, they boosted their sales and made it possible for them to boost sales. However, a greater part of this was the innovation by the makers. A field could be planted with different kinds of cereals whilst using just one tractor.
  • Present - The combine of today is quite large and comfortable. Unlike before where the only luxury was a chair, the present combine has air conditioning, music and a plush and comfortable seat. It is also sealed tight and pressurized, making it unable for dust to get in. A modern combine can harvest more than thrice the area in a day than the primitive ones. It is also equipped with GPS and an on-board computer, which calculates the amount of grain that has been harvested.

The combine as we know it has gone through many radical changes. However, its purpose is still clear. To be able to harvest any time of cereal quickly and easily to be made into a variety of products, the cereals we eat in the morning to the dinner breads at night. Thanks to the ingenuity of McCormick and Moore, feeding millions of people has never become so easy.


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