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Two important inventions that revolutionized agriculture

For the young United States to grow and prosper, it took people of courage and conviction who were willing to risk their reputations, fortunes and more. The signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were such individuals.
But aside from the folks who were instrumental in getting the relatively new country off and running from a governmental point of view, there were also those who sometimes risked ridicule by inventing various types of conveniences that helped America begin to assert itself as an independent nation.
The United States depended primarily upon an agriculture economy before the beginning of the industrial age. Cotton was an important crop in the southern United States, but separating the seed from the cotton fiber was a slow, labor intensive process.
Along came a man named Eli Whitney. Whitney, after seeing the work necessary to produce a pound of cotton, came up with an ingenious solution. After experimenting, he created a device that would separate the seeds from the fiber thousands of times faster than by hand. With his invention, the cotton gin, Whitney revolutionized the processing of cotton and laid the foundation for cotton growers to increase their income tremendously.
Although America was somewhat slow in becoming industrialized, factories began to spring up in the northern cities and a larger and constant flow of cotton enabled those factories to increase production.
My desk encyclopedia notes that Eli Whitney was born in Westborough, Massachusetts in 1765. He died in 1825. His cotton gin was invented in 1793. He later came up with the idea of producing interchangeable parts for machinery which also reduced labor and made possible faster manufacturing.
I know writing about cotton is unusual here in Johnson County, since it’s not a cash crop here and never has been. But, it was and now is a very important crop in other parts of our nation. As a matter of fact, I’ve only seen one crop of cotton in bloom in my life. That was when I was in an Army convoy traveling from Fort Eustis, Virginia, to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We were going to Fort Bragg to take part in Operation Swift Strike, a training exercise.
I have just enough room in this column to write about another of what I consider a very important invention that changed agriculture in a big way. Those of us who have either used a grain cradle or seen one being used, can attest to the fact that using those simple machines is a slow, arduous method of harvesting grain. Thanks to a man named Cyrus Hall McCormick, harvesting grain became much faster and easier when he invented the mechanical reaper in 1831. That reaper was crude compared to the mighty machines that roar through the fields today, but it was a start on the way to simplify and speed up the harvesting of grain. The original reaper was a horse drawn mechanical machine used for harvesting grain or other small crops. Of course many improvements have been made in farm machinery over the years.
McCormick was born February 15, 1809 in Rockbridge County, Maryland. He died May 13, 1884.
As I’ve written before, I believe we owe a great debt to those who have helped ease our burdens; whether it be in the field of farming or some other occupation. Some of them made a lot of money but some of them realized little or no monitory gain. Whitney and McCormick contributed greatly to the progress of agriculture. Down through the years their inventions and the improvements to them have made a great difference on the farms of this great nation.