The Algona Upper Des Moines from Algona, Iowa on February 6, 1968 · Page 36
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The Algona Upper Des Moines from Algona, Iowa · Page 36

Algona, Iowa
Issue Date:
Tuesday, February 6, 1968
Page 36
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-George Washington was one of the first citizens of the world. Nevertheless, his greatest love was centered around the farm of Mount Vernon, where, between conflicts and governmental duties, he exhibited another side of his nature by inventing and developing several pieces of farm machinery. Washington's first venture into the world of invention began in March of 1760. At this time, unsatisfied with the types of plows currently in use, he undertook the task of making a better plow. Not surprisingly, his attempt was successful. Craftsmen were as plentiful as farmed acres at Mount Vernon, consequently, when Washington began his efforts to improve the plow, he found all the required help needed. Beginning his first venture in inventing, he called upon his blacksmith. Together, like two men with a purpose, they traveled to a neighboring field. There, with the smith's help and Washington's thinking, they put together parts Washington's experimental many-sided barn, on Dogue Run Farm GEORGE WASHINGTON FARMER AND INVENTORY by John C. Vitale of a "two-eyed" plow with other parts of a "duck-bill" plow. Not being a man to delay anything, Washington put the new type of plow to the test immediately. For two hours, he watched intently as the plow was employed, making minor adjustments as it turned the soil with a new efficiency. Later that night, according to the practice of the period, he entered the following statement into his journal: "Spent the greater part of the day making a new plow of my own invention, and found that it answered my purpose very well." Although his first plow was successful, Washington's most important invention, and certainly the one in which he took the greatest pride, was a type of "drill", which he called a "barrel plow". At the time, at Mount Vernon and elsewhere, all seeds that were sown were scattered by hand, and then covered over with a hoe or with a harrow. This tedious and time-wasting process prompted Washington to improve the old method of sowing. Basically, Washington's "barrel plow" consisted of a wooden barrel mounted upon a wheeled plow. When the plow moved, the barrel turned. Holes were cut into the barrel and tubes placed into the holes. When in operation, the "barrel plow" deposited the seed into the ground, and a drag, placed behind the drill, covered the seed as the plow moved along. Writing of his "barrel plow", Washington explained to a friend "that it would not work to good effect in land that is full of stumps, stones, or large clods; but, where the ground is tolerably free from these and in good tilth, I am certain you will find it equal to your most sanguine expectations, for Indian corn, wheat, barley, pease, or any other tolerably round grain, that you may wish to sow or plant in this manner." Understandably, Washington made use of his new drill type of "barrel plow" where- ever possible. Besides sowing seed of many varieties, he even tried planting turnips with it. In the summer of 1786, in fact, he wrote proudly in his diary of sowing turnips with his plow. "Having fixed a roller to the tail of my drill plow," he wrote with pride, "and a brush between it and the barrel, I sent it to Muddy Hole and sowed turnips in the intervals of corn". Washington's thinking, and his pronounced talent for creative invention, soon led him into the direction of architecture. In fact, he planned and drew up specifications for all the barns and other farm buildings which were erected on his vast estate. One of his most outstanding accomplishments as an inventive architect was his 16-sided barn. This many- sided brick structure was once described by one of his neighbors as "the best and most conveniently arranged barn on this side of the Atlantic". Included in the novel barn was a specially designed threshing floor, containing cracks through which the grain, when trodden out, dropped to a second and perfectly clean surface. Immediately the 16-sided barn became the talk of the country, adding new luster to the already glowing fame of George Washington. Threshing machines became Washington's next great passion as a farm machinery inventor. In 1797, he employed William Booker, the American inventor who had introduced the threshing machine, to come to Mount Vernon and to set up the machine. But only disappointment followed. The thresher, at the beginning, threshed only some 40 bushels a day. Later its output dropped to 25, and it broke down completely before it had threshed a total of 500 bushels. The following April, Washington wrote to Booker and stated that the thresher "has by no means answered your expectations or mine". Although the Booker thresher had failed to come up to Washington's expectations, he did not give up the hope of developing a machine on his own. Corresponding at great length, with both English and French agriculturalists, he soon devised a new type of thresher, based on the best points of the Booker machine and the latest European models. This thresher, although not totally perfect, served the needs of Mount Vernon for many seasons. As a farmer and inventor, Washington's achievements cannot be measured with any degree of certainty, since, as it were, his time was called upon by his country so frequently. However, despite this fact, he did leave his mark, demonstrating to the world and future generations his ability as an inventor. V;. ;i II A painting by Thomas P. Roasiter showing Washington as a farmer at Mount Vernon, his home showing in the background and the Potomac far O" to the left

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