History of Farm Mechanics


By Cody McClain



Agricultural education in the United States started when the country was the American Colonies. Much of the education for agricultural science took place at colleges throughout the colonies, and many of these colleges later became land-grant universities after the passage of the Morrill Act of 1862. In the mid-1800s, agricultural societies began to grow in each state providing publications to farmers that gave them the most recent agricultural practices. Many secondary school agriculture as part of their general arts and science courses. Agriculture was integrated into the chemistry, physics, and biology courses. In fact, there were 50 schools in secondary schools offering agricultural courses in 1915. The growth of agricultural education as its own subject in secondary schools began in 1917 when the Smith-Hughes Act was passed.

Back in the early 1990s, farm equipment was not as complex compared to modern day farming equipment. This was a time when homesteads and farm were lit with candles, the soil was tilled with a hoe or small plow, corn was being planted by hand, and grain was harvested with a sickle. The courses of study for agriculture education changed rapidly with the industrial revolution. Mechanical work on the farm shifted from simple tools like plows and rakes to tractors and electricity Because of this revolution, everyday job tasks on the farm in the 1920s changed dramatically. Because of this advancement, farm mechanics and technology became a critical component of the teaching of agricultural sciences. In the farm mechanic and shop classes, students learned some basic knowledge of farm machines such as levers, hoes, rakes, and spades. The teacher taught them the basic principles of these machines and demonstrated how to use them. It was common for students to first study the machine, and then take the machine apart and put it back together. Teachers wanted to provide students with the knowledge and skills that were essential for working on the farm.



 (Photo credits: C.S. Hutchison, The Ohio State University, Department of Agricultural Education, 1936)


Because of the growth in agricultural education in the in the 1920s, there became a greater need to research what topics were being taught in a farm mechanics course versus what topics should be taught. It was vital to understand what farmers were doing most on their farms and ensuring that this task was also being taught in the schools. Studies concluded that the most common tasks taking place on the farm included farm carpentry, harness repairing, painting, belt lacing, soldering, and blacksmithing. By teaching students how to perform these tasks, they were better prepared to work on the farm. Even though agricultural mechanics and technology have changed over the years, it continues to be a critical component to agricultural education, so that many young agriculturists have the necessary skills to be successful in doing mechanical work in an everyday task.



(Photo credits: C.S. Hutchison, The Ohio State University, Department of Agricultural Education, 1936)


Example of a farm shop in the 1930s: (Photo credits: C.S. Hutchison, The Ohio State University, Department of Agricultural Education, 1936)