Here are 5 planting and cultivating tools that were used from the late 1700s to the mid-1900s.
The metal side harrow with long wooden handles was used to prepare the soil for planting. The farmer hitched a horse or mule to the front and guided them as they dragged it over the loosened soil in the field. The five spikes broke up clods of dirt. Later in the season, he ran the harrow over the field to uproot the early weeds with their shallow roots.
The wooden antique planter may look simple in its construction, but its design shows great skill. Its wheel is made from solid wood. Attached to the axel is a metal arm that’s connected with a small board to parts in the seed hopper, the funnel-shaped wooden box in the middle. When the wheel turned, it moved the board, which turned the pointy metal fingers in the seed hopper so that they pushed the seed steadily out the slot in the bottom. In front, a small blade dug a narrow trench called a furrow for the seed, and a flat board behind pushed dirt back over it.
The red-handled fertilizer distributor held the fertilizer in the tall metal bucket between the handles. The farmer hitched his horse or mule to this tool and pulled it along the furrows in the field. The fertilizer fell from the bucket into the furrow. Then, the farmer had to unhitch from the fertilizer distributor, hitch up to a plow like the middlebuster, and go through the fields again to plow dirt back over the fertilizer. This kept it from being too close to the plants.
The large tool with the faded red wooden box enabled the farmer to do his work in half the time, because it fertilized and planted at the same time. A chain of square links runs from the metal front wheel to gears inside the box. When the farmer’s horse or mule pulled the planter and fertilizer forward, the wheel turned and moved the chain, which made the wheels in the box turn and let out a steady stream of seed and fertilizer. It was used in the early to mid-1900s and made to distribute sand-like commercial fertilizer.
The double-shovel plow is well named with its two small shovel-blades located in the back. Farmers used this tool mainly to cultivate the fields after the crops came up. The farmer had to have a horse or mule that knew where to walk, and both had to concentrate. They guided the plow twice down each balk between the crops, one way and then back again in the opposite direction. The blade that cut the ground in the middle of the back dug up the weeds, and then the outside blade pushed the loose dirt up against the plants to strengthen their roots.
Better tools, like the one that planted and fertilized at the same time, helped the farmer do more, but it was still hard work. In 1945, it took a farmer and two mules 42 hours of labor to produce 100 pounds of cotton fiber.