Agricultural Inventions During the Industrial Revolution

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

You may tend to think of smokestacks and factories when it comes to the Industrial Revolution. However, the Industrial Revolution also brought massive changes to the countryside. This lesson will examine those changes.

Changing the Countryside

Chances are that when you think of the Industrial Revolution, you think of factories, smokestacks, and, very possibly, mistreated workers. However, part of what made the Industrial Revolution so revolutionary was how it changed everyday life all throughout society. Nowhere was this more true than in the countryside. As odd as it may seem, the Industrial Revolution completely revolutionized life on the farm. In this lesson, we're going to take a look at a number of inventions that came from the Industrial Revolution and helped change farming. Some of them are famous, while some you've probably never heard of.

The Cotton Gin

Perhaps the most famous invention that changed the countryside during the Industrial Revolution was the cotton gin. The cotton gin allowed for seeds to be separated from cotton fibers, a process that was extremely laborious when done by hand. This invention also allowed slavery to continue in the American south, a human cost cannot be ignored. Suddenly, growing cotton became very profitable. Seeds could now be easily separated from the fibers, leaving a marketable product. All that was needed for Southern farmers to start growing cotton was having slaves to pick it.

From a purely industrial perspective, the cotton gin turned cotton production into one of the most profitable industries in the United States. Later versions of this machine would be huge, operated by steam power. In short, the cotton gin was one of the most important inventions of its time.

The cotton gin was one of the most famous agricultural inventions of the Industrial Revolution
Cotton Gin

Reapers and Threshers

Cotton gins certainly raised the productivity of cotton farming, but what about the crops that we eat? If you've ever seen wheat in a field, you'll immediately know that it is difficult to harvest by hand. For thousands of years, humans had cut the stalks and then threshed them to knock off the wheat seeds, which would eventually be turned into flour. Surely, there had to be a better way to do this.

Reapers and threshers changed that. A reaper allowed a smaller number of people to physically cut the wheat stalks much faster than someone with just a sickle. A thresher then allowed a smaller team to thresh the grains from the stalks of a much larger quantity of wheat. As a result, farm productively increased greatly.

Wheat being fed into a reaper

A thresher in action

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