Internal combustion tractor

Internal combustion tractor.

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This is the third internal combustion tractor made by Hart-Parr around 1903, and it is part of 'The Changing American Farm' exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History until November 1. Photograph courtesy of the National Museum of American History.

The role of machinery in farm progress is shown very effectively in an exhibit on The Changing American Farm, on view in Washington, D.C., through November 1.

Visitors can see very early implements, such as the John Deere 'singing plow' of 1837 and a Texas cotton planter of the 1840s, as well as more modern engines which brought one breakthrough after another in increasing productivity.

The show was made possible by a grant from International Harvester, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Cyrus McCormick's invention of the reaper in 1831.

John T. Schlebecker, well known to many of our readers as an outstanding authority in this field, served as curator for the exhibit, which is at the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Institution.

Schlebecker, a native of Montana, also wrote the catalog, in itself a work of art that we think our readers would treasure.

The visitor can find many farm engines in this exhibit, or near it on the same floor in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian. One is a full-scale replica of the first successful model of a tractor made by John Forelich in Iowa in 1892. Another is a 1903 Hart-Parr, the third internal combustion tractor ever made, and the second of this firm. A Fordson tractor is also within easy range.

An innovation is scored with large photographic dioramas of farming technology in each of the four seasons. One of these shows wheat being harvested near Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, by an International Harvester Axial-Flow combine, which can harvest 100 acres of wheat or 50 acres of corn in a day. The 1831 McCormick reaper could harvest 8 acres a day. In the diorama, Ken Zurin is the operator, Tim Schoon took the original color transparency.

Deborah Bretzfelder designed the exhibit. We would have liked to see more space devoted to the show, but we will agree that every inch has been utilized to the fullest.

Noting the rise in productivity, Schlebecker writes that '150 years ago one United States farm worker produced enough food and goods to supply four people. Today's farmer produces enough food for 68 people -a 17-fold increase.'

He discusses animal and steam power, and the way in which the internal combustion engine brought a new burst of energy in World War I days.

'Unlike the horse,' he comments, 'the tractor never grew tired or made itself sick eating poisonous weeds. It would not bolt or stampede and it never fouled the grain with its droppings.'

Looking ahead, he predicts that 'farmers of the future may largely abandon plowing as minimum tillage farming gains in popularity.'

To obtain a copy of the liberally illustrated catalog which traces farm history, send $1.50 to Stemgas Publishing Company, Box 328, Lancaster, PA 17603. We have obtained these for resale from the Smithsonian.