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Excerpts from American Agricultural Implements, c. 1894


The Reaper

[p.45]    ... American invention in this line, so far as there is any record, began with the patent issued to Richard French and T. J. Hawkins, of New Jersey, May 17, 1803. No reliable description of this machine seems to be extant. Five patents of no general importance were issued between that time and Feb. 13, 1822, when Jeremiah Bailey, of Pennsylvania, took out one for cutting grass or grain. This machine was supported on two wheels, one only being the driver; the horse walked to the side and front and the circular scythe frame projected into the grain. It was the first to indicate the principle contained in a flexible bar, as with the inequalities of the ground the scythe frame, shaft and trundlehead rise and fall. ...



[p.78]    MAKING hay — cutting and drying grass for fodder — was a familiar duty among ancient stock raisers. The process is frequently alluded to in the Bible, but the uses of hay are now nearly or quite forgotten in Palestine, straw and chaff having long ago supplied its place for fodder. From primitive times down to the present there has been no material change in the process of manual mowing. The scythe of the pre-historic Lacustrine inhabitant of Switzerland was curved, and was attached to a handle, forming an implement substantially the same as we now use, and that likewise, when swung into the grass or grain, described the segment of a circle in cutting; and so does the sickle. It was this natural primitive movement that the first constructors of both reapers and mowers tried to imitate or reproduce in their machines, and early American inventors of mowers persistently endeavored to make practically operative this original principle. Indeed, it was many years before the rotary or scythe-curve theory of cutting was abandoned.

    The idea of mowing grass by horse power was conceived in America and the first patent ostensibly covering a machine of that character was granted to Peter Gaillard, of Lancaster, Pa., Dec. 4, 1812; so according to the record he was the first inventor in this line. Previous to the date of this patent several crude reaping machines had been produced in England, but none of them had passed the experimental stage or been put up in practical form, and all were intended, as their construction and descriptions indicate, for cutting grain and not grass. The credit for the conception, therefore, of mowing grass with a machine propelled by other than man-power belongs to an American inventor, although, because reapers and mowers are usually classified together, writers on this subject speak of these old English reapers as mowing and reaping machines.

    Jeremiah Bailey, of Chester county, Pa., Feb. 13, 1822, patented a mower or grass-cutting machine which made considerable stir at the time, in England as well as in this country. The Mechanic's Magazine (British) [at page 145, of vol i]*, 1823, describes it as follows:

    "The mowing machine of which the above cut is a representation was invented by Jeremiah Bailey, of Chester county, United States, who has obtained a patent for the same.

    It has been extensively used and approved of during the last season in the neighborhood of the patentee, and promises to be of great public utility. It is understood that it will mow ten acres per day. The following description will explain its operation and show the skill and ingenuity of the inventor:

    "This machine is supported by two wheels on different axles. The left wheel is fixed to its axle, so that they revolve together. The right revolves on its axle like a common cart wheel, and is placed about a foot further back than the other. The left works within the frame, and has a circle of cogs screwed on the outside of the felloes, but of a less diameter, to keep them from the ground. These cogs work into a vertical cog wheel in front that turns an iron shaft extending horizontally toward the center of the machine; upon the inner end of this shaft is fixed a vertical face wheel, whose cogs turn a trundle-head on a vertical shaft. To the bottom of this shaft, near the ground, is fixed a circular horizontal framework, on the circumference of which is screwed the scythes in six parts, laid horizontally, with the edges turned outward, so as to form a complete circle. To keep the scythes at a proper distance from the ground the bottom of the shaft is supported on a piece of wood of the machine, secured by a tye from the tail, somewhat resembling a sled runner, in which it works in the manner of a gudgeon; with the inequalities of the ground the scythe frame shaft and trundle-head rise and fall.

    The edge of the scythe, in its revolution, passes under a whetstone fixed on an axis, and revolving with the scythe. To create friction this axis is more or less inclined to the line of the direction of the revolution, according to the friction required. This stone, by means of a sliding rod by which it is attached to the machine, rises and falls with the scythes.

    [To prevent too great a pressure of the trundle shaft and scythe frames on the ground, a lever, like a steel-yard, is fixed to the top of the shaft, extending into the tail of the machine, where it is weighed according to the nature of the ground or grass.]*

    The horse is put into shafts and walks in front of the left side of the machine, and always on the mowed ground after the first swath is cut.

    [By the increase of velocity the scythes revolve with great swiftness.]* The grass as it is cut is first thrown by the progressive motion against a rise in the scythe frame toward the center, and by the same motion is afterward thrown off in a regular row, following the center of the machine." ...


Bailey Mowing Machine


    Apparently the first conception of flexibility or automatic adjustability to the ground surface in the cutting apparatus was shown in the mower of Jeremiah Bailey, 1822. ...

From: "Mowers," American Agricultural Implements, by Robert L. Audrey, c.1894], pages 45, 78-79, 83, 86.

* Additional quotes from the Mechanic's Magazine inserted from Appendix to the specifications of English patents for reaping machines. (Comm. of patents), by Bennet Woodcroft, page 36, and illustration from Plate XIV shown below.

(source) as digitized by Google

Mower by Jeremiah Bailey shown in Mechanic's Magazine, 1923

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