Farming Inventions of George Washington (Mar, 1932)

Farming Inventions of George Washington

George Washington, whose two hundredth birthday anniversary America will celebrate this year, was not only the father of his country, he was also the father of a number of noteworthy inventions.

George Washington’s favorite pursuit was farming, and in this, as in his many other undertakings, he was always intent upon improving the methods and implements with which he worked. And as farming machinery was crude and unsatisfactory at his time, he was finally driven to the necessity of inventing implements closer to his idea of what was required. “Drill Plow” Invented Out of Necessity As a result he invented a plow and a drill, changed the architecture of his barns and improved the method of threshing wheat on his Mount Vernon plantation.

In his diary he records that he made a plow of “my own invention” and that “it answered very well in the field in the lower pasture.”

Some years later he perfected a drill, which he called a “drill plow.” This drill was a wheeled plow carrying a barrel or hollow wooden cylinder, arranged so that as the plow went forward the barrel turned. The revolving barrel in which the holes had been bored, dropped the corn or any other seed into a hopper leading to a set of pipes that ran down to within a few inches of the ground. An accompanying drawing shows an artist’s conception of the arrangement of this plow.

Washington Devises Threshing Barn In 1797, several years before his death, Washington built his fifteen-sided brick barn, a distinct innovation for his day. In this structure he included a threshing floor, built with interstices through which the grain dropped upon a clean surface after being flailed out by the slaves on the threshing platform above. How this operation was conducted is demonstrated in the accompanying drawing.

Washington did not confine his interest in mechanical inventions to his own activities. James Rumsey, the real inventor of the steamboat, had Washington as one of his most enthusiastic backers, and it was Washington who was chiefly instrumental in securing for Rumsey the financial support which made it possible to demonstrate successfully the practicability of mechanical propulsion. This was years before Robert Fulton’s “Clermont.”

  1. Hirudinea says: October 31, 201110:12 am

    If he was so damned inventive why didn’t he invent freedom for his slaves? All men created equal my ass!

  2. dave says: October 31, 201111:10 am

    I’d hardly say that Washington perfected the seed drill since even the most modern examples still use Jethro Tull’s 1701 method for sowing seeds.

  3. dave says: October 31, 201111:13 am

    I will say that the Grain threshing barn is rather genius.

  4. Sean says: October 31, 201111:55 am

    @ Hirudinea:

    “If he was so damned inventive why didn’t he invent freedom for his slaves? All men created equal my ass!”

    He did. As he aged, Washington’s writings show that he became more and more troubled by slavery. For many years, this mainly manifested itself in treating his slaves well, refusing to break up families, allowing his slaves to retire from difficult work as they aged and supporting them in relative comfort, and refusing to sell slaves to the true hells of the sugar plantations in the Caribbean. More importantly, though, in his will, Washington actually did free his slaves.

    It’s not perfect, no. But you have to consider two things. The first is that Washington was born and raised at the very apex of a culture which didn’t even consider Africans to be human. To have come so far from such a starting place is pretty impressive. The second is that, for most of his life, had he done or said anything concrete on the subject, the South which was always afraid that northerners would attempt to end slavery and which stayed in the Union for those first few years largely because Washington, a Virginian, was in charge, might well have seceded at a time when the infant country could never have even thought of bringing them back in. Washington knew this and so kept quiet.

  5. Hirudinea says: October 31, 20115:33 pm

    @ Sean – Expediency doesn’t excuse hypocrisy it compounds it.

  6. George Washington says: November 1, 20117:54 am

    Dearest Hirudinea,

    A certain gentleman displays a remarkable naïveté in matters political. One is reminded of Proverbs 17:28. With prudence, begging it not be considered any small offense to repeat herewith, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”

    Yrs Sincerely,

    G Washington

  7. Ray says: November 1, 20118:36 am

    @Hirudinea – People live within the context of their time. At that time “men” were male land owners, generally white. It’s a tribute to the country’s founders that they expressed the framework of the state in such a way it could still be applied as the society progressed.

  8. Scott B. says: November 1, 20119:08 am

    Washington wasn’t perfect, true, but imagine how much more peaceful and progressive history would be if every world leader had followed his example. There is maybe a double-handful of great leaders in history. He’s one of them.

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