Corn: Then and Now

It is amazing to see how corn used to be grown and how it is grown now!

"Corn was planted by hand, covered with a hoe, and cultivated with the shovel plow and the hoe. Hoeing was the special work of boys, and sometimes of the girls; and boy or girl would ride the horse hitched to the plow when the corn was high."
Martin Welker, 1892

Corn Planter
Changes in Planting Corn

Early farmers of Knox County plowed the land by hand or horse before planting corn. The seeds were planted by hand until the mid-1800's when two and four row planters were developed. Planters could attach to a horse and later to a steam engine or a tractor. By 1970 two row corn planters were replaced with twelve and sixteen row planters. These planters allowed farmer to plant much more corn than by hand in the same amount of time.

Corn Planter
Photo by Margana Dane

Corn GrowingChanges in Cultivating Corn

During the growing season farmers would cultivate their crops around four times to help keep bugs and weeds away. By the 1930's many new pieces of farm equipment had sprayers which would release chemicals onto the crops to keep bugs and weeds away.

Cultivating Corn
Man Cultivating Corn by Horse
Photo by Ben Shahn

Changes in Harvesting Corn

When early farmers harvested corn they would either pick the ears for shelling or shock the stalks and remove ears at a later time. After the corn was shelled it was put into the corn grinder and ground by hand to make feed for animals. By the 1890's most farmers had a corn binder which allowed them to harvest corn without having to cut the stalks by hand. The corn binder put the corn into sheaves and farmers would then put them into shocks. There is still evidence of this type of corn harvesting in Knox County:

"They'd cut the corn and put it in shocks. If you've been down around, anytime in the fall, around Millersburg where the Amish are, they do that now yet."
Alva Hall

Now corn is harvested by combines which pick the corn, separate it from the shell, and put it in a storage container in the combine. To learn more about harvesting corn click here.

Now do your own research! Find out how hay was made in the 1800's and how it is made today.

Take me back in time!

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