The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Universal Exposition of 1878 at Paris. Plan of the farm, workshops, etc. of Mons. M. Decauville, at Petit-Bourg.

The Field of Petit-Bourg: The Plow and Cultivator Trials

At the Paris Universal Exposition in 1878 one segment of demonstration and trial included plows and cultivators. In the SFJ Archive we own a hard cover edition of Volume V of the reports of the United States Commissioners copyrighted 1880. The many engravers cuts of the plows shown in 1878 on the farm of Mons. M. Decauville at Petit-Bourg give clear evidence of that moment in agricultural history when industrial process, efficiency, and the empty soul of artless engineering first entered the room. Filagree, curvature, elegance, balance and artfulness are everywhere apparent in the old world European designs. The extent to which they fell down in efficiency comparisons to the bland American plows all spoke to engineering issues which could have been addressed without departing elegance. But the die was cast and the cause of artful design began its slow death those days in 1878.

The reprinted text which follows came from a presentation in 1880 made by and for U.S. consumption. Please consider the implications and tone accordingly.

Being an opinionated student of the evolution of these implements I have felt a certain unexplainable relief at having discovered the evidence of Petit Bourg. Being an artist I can only hope that giving some light to the history might have a small influence on artisan design issues in the future and perhaps light a Baroque fire in the mind’s eye of a young farmer pirate or two. We hope you find some value in this presentation. LRM

Considering their common origin, there is a marked difference between the plows of England, the United States, and France. Southern Europe has plows still more primitive, resembling those shown on coins of the period of the Greek occupation of Sicily. It is not easy from the specimens shown at the French Exposition to determine what may be the ordinary plows of Denmark and Sweden, as the plows from those countries are all of iron and copies of the English.

…I proceed to consider what the Paris Exposition showed of novelty combined with merit, and to describe the implements competing for the special prizes at Petit-Bourg (Seine-et-Oise), France, July 29, 1878.

The trials were ordered by M. Teisserenc du Bort, the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, in conformity with the Reglement Generale, dated December 1, 1876. Much opposition was made by the secretary of the British Commission, who in fact had charge of the British sections, but the French authorities eventually decided to pursue the course first marked out.

The exhibitors at the field trials of July 29 were: French, 24; Italian, 2; American, 5; Hungarian, 1.

The English, with the exception of the steam-plow manufacturers, declined the competition, as did also the Swedish, Danish, and Spanish.

The steam plows and cultivators were tested on two occasions.

The dynamometrical tests of plows were made at Petit-Bourg, August 6.

Entries at the plow trials.

The following is a list of the competitors in the plow trials at Petit-Bourg, (Seine-et- Oise), July 29, 1878:

  • Biggi, Piacenza, Italy: 1 ox-plow.
  • Boitel, Soissons (Aisne), France: 3 Brabant plows.
  • Bosselet, Fontenay-Ies-Louvres (Seine-et-Oise): 1 stubble plow.
  • Candelier, Bucquoy (Pas-de-Calais): 1 Brabant double plow, (The double plow is capable of changing to turn a furrow in either direction; otherwise called a swing-plow, turning plow, hillside plow, etc.) 1 Brabant trisoc, 1 Brabant bisoc. (Bisoc and trisoc are plows with two or three shares and moldboards, respectively–i.e., gang-plows with two or with three bodies.)
  • Coutelet, Etrepilly (Seine-et-Marne): 1 plow.
  • David, Sarlat (Dordogne): 1 plow.
  • Debains, Saint-Remy (Seine-et-Oise): 1 steam plow.
  • Decauville, Petit-Bourg (Seine-et-Oise): Steam-plows.
  • Deere & Co., Moline, Ill., U.S.: 1 gang-plow, 1 plow, 1 sulky-plow.
  • Depoix, Chapelle-en-Serval (Oise): 1 iron plow.
  • Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt (Oise): 1 Brabant double plow, 1 Brabant plow, 1 bisoc, 1 quatresoc, 1 draining plow, 1 stubble plow, 1 trisoc, 1 ditching plow.
  • Durand, Montereau (Seine-et-Marne): 1 Brabant plow, 1 plow.
  • Foret-Collin, Guide (Aisne): Brabant double plows.
  • Gale & Co., Albion, Mich., U.S.: 2 plows.
  • Garnier, Redon (Ille-et-Vilaine): 1 plow, 1 ditching plow.
  • Henry Freres, Dury-les-Amiens (Somme): 1 Brabant plow, 1 plow (0.25 meter depth), 1 trisoc.
  • Ladislas-Gubiez, Buda-Pest, Hungary: Plows.
  • Lemaire, Auger, & Amiot, Bresles (Oise): Brabant plows, Brabant plows a bascule.
  • Marechaux, Montmorillon (Vienne): 1 plow, 1 ditching plow.
  • Meixmoron de Dombasle, Nancy (Meurthe-et-Moselle): 1 swing-plow, 1 subsoil plow, 1 plow (avant-train), bisocs, 1 ridging plow.
  • Meugniot Aine, Dijon (Cote d’Or): 1 plow, 1 bisoc.
  • Nicod Freres, Eternoz (Doubs): lows.
  • Normand-Gourdain, Villers-au-Flos (Pas-de-Calais): 1 Brabant double plow.
  • Parquin, Paris: 1 Parquin plow.
  • Randolph, Morristown, N. J., U.S.: Ditching machine.
  • Renault-Gouin, Sainte-Maure (Indre-et-Loire): 1 vineyard plow, 1 ridging plow, 1 ditching plow.
  • Rousselet, Tancrou (Seine-et-Marne): 1 stubble plow.
  • Simond, la Baume (Doubs): 1 plow.
  • Speer & Sons, Pittsburgh, Pa., U.S.: Plows.
  • Valck-Virey, Saint-Die (Vosges): 1 double-moldboard plow.
  • Vernhes, Saint-Izaire (Aveyron): 1 plow.
  • Wateliez-Delattre, Emmerin (Nord): Plows.
  • (And many others not entered on the printed programme.)


To render the account more clear the plows will be divided into groups as follows:

  1. Single.
  2. Turning-moldboard.
  3. Subsoil.
  4. Draining.
  5. Ridging.
  6. Clearing.
  7. Sulky.
  8. Gang.
  9. Root-diggers.


The variety of styles and sizes of plows in France is greater than in the United States. Some makers have as many as ten different sizes of a peculiar line of plow. France is not so homogeneous a nation as our own, and the influence of the old provincial divisions of Flanders, Normandy, Alsace, Languedoc, Provence, Gascony, etc., is visible in the implements and methods as well as in the persons and language of the peoples. French plow manufacturers who aim at a national reputation and clientele have to bear in mind the prejudices or, perhaps we may say, habits of the different section; and this increases the variety of the stock in trade, somewhat as in our own case, where the right-hand and the left-hand plows respectively have their admirers. The customs of Central and Southern Ohio and of the South generally differ in this respect from Michigan, the line of the Lakes, and the Eastern States. There is more difference, for instance, between the “Dombasle” plow, made at Nancy, in the old Lorraine, and the Brabant double, built at Lian court or at Rennes, than is to be found between any single-furrow plows built in the United States or between any varieties made in England.

It will not answer the present purpose to show the crude country plows which are still so common in all part of France, although one may trace the original features in many of the most improved present forms. It is only designed to show those that have merit, and in which certain features of novelty are to be found, which may possibly be suggestive to those engaged in the manufacture of farming implements. Even when the specimen selected for illustration may look more curious than useful, it will be rash to condemn at first sight, for the French are excellent, carefully, and successful farmers, and La Belle France is no misnomer, for the country is probably the richest, most prosperous, and most beautiful in the world. The farming implements of such a nation, especially when so large a majority of the people is engaged in rural pursuits, cannot but be worthy of attention.

Plow Trials

The trials of plows at Petit-Bourg took place on the farm of M. Decauville, an area of several hundred acres being placed at the disposal of M. Eugene Tisserand, the Inspector-General of Agriculture of France and director of the trials.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 1 – French wooden-moldboard plow.

1. Single plows

The French still adhere to a wooden moldboard for certain sandy soils. Such plows weigh from 80 to 240 pounds, according to size. While in England plows have generally two wheels to gage the depth, it is by no means so universal in France, and the cheaper forms of wooden-beam plows are frequently wheelless. The French catalogues divide them into “without wheels,” “with one wheel,” “with two unequal wheels.”

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 2 – Charrue á chaîne. P. Durand, Montereau, France.

The charrue a chaine (Fig. 2) has two equal-sized wheels, and preserves the general form of the Normandy plow, in which the beam is set at a considerable angle and rests in a seat on the frame of the high fore-carriage (avant-train). The double-tree is hitched to the axle of the avant-train, and the latter has a draft-chain to the beam. The implement has a loose and rattling appearance to us, who have more compact arrangements, but it does very good work and maintains its place.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 3 – Plow mounted with avant-train. Meixmoron de Dombasle, Nancy, France.

The mode of mounting the plow on the avant-train shown in Fig. 3 is one found in the long series of plows manufactured by Meixmoron de Dombasle, of Nancy. The nose of the plow is pivoted to the avant-train instead of simply resting upon it and being drawn by a chain. The adjustment for depth of furrow is by the vertical screw, which has a handle above the bridge.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 4 – Brabant simple. P. Durand, Montereau, France.

Another step and we approximate more nearly to the English style – Durand’s Brabant simple, as distinguished from the double, which has a turning moldboard (tourne oreille), a left hand and a right hand, so as to plow back and forth, returning in the last-made furrow, the near and the off horse alternately in the furrow.

In this plow the avant-train simply sustains the beam; the draft is by a rod. In the circular handed to the spectators at the trial it is described as “intended for depths either ordinary or deep. It replaces with great advantage all the ancient models of plows. It will travel alone upon the earth, without need of holding the handles.”

For the purpose of illustrating the French method of manufacture, it will be as well to dissect one plow. If our people may have the idea of suppling France with plows to the same extent that they now furnish that country with harvesters, the detail may not be thrown away.

Durand’s plow bodies are made applicable to any system of plows as well as the Brabant simple. The firm also supplies the parts of the body, which can be mounted on any plow by local shops, according to the custom of the country. They are made either in cast iron or chilled, and in 12 different sizes, from those adapted for 1 horse to those for 12 horses.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 5 – Durand’s plow body. View on the moldboard side.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 6 – View on the land side.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 7 – View of the separate pieces of the body, minus the moldboard.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 8 – View under the body of the plow.

In Figs. 5 to 8 the portions of the plow body are shown. A is the standard; B the sole; C the corner piece; D the share; E the breast covering the front of the standard; F is the heel-piece to prevent wear of the moldboard; G is the rear standard; and H the helicoidal moldboard.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 9 – One-wheeled plow. E. Bodin, Rennes, France.

The one-wheeled plow of Bodin, of Trois-Croix (Figure 9), dispenses with the avant-train, the standard of the gage-wheel passing through a mortise in the beam. The quadrant-clevis permits adjustment for land, and the screw through which the draft-rod passes is the gage for depth. It is very closely on the British model. The French plows in a set, otherwise similar except as to size, are classed, by the length of the moldboard, short, medium, and long (versoir court, versoir mixte, versoir allonge). Figs 9 and 10 show the versoir allonge. The mode of fastening the colter by a yoke, shown in Fig. 9, is becoming quite common in several countries. The implement is all of iron. The smallest size is intended for one horse in sandy ground.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 10 – Large two-wheeled plow with jointer. E. Bodin, Rennes, France.

Fig. 10 is made in three sizes. Bodin’s large-sized plow (Figure 10), with two wheels and a jointer, is designed to plow to a depth of 35 centimeters (14″) when drawn by 6 horses or oxen. It is used in opening furrows for draining. The skim-colter – the first appearance of which in this country is believed to have been about 30 years ago in the implement known as the “double Michigan plow” – is now becoming quite common in England and France.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 11 – Two-wheeled plow. Lowcock & Barr, Shrewsbury, England.

The plow (Fig. 11) exhibited by Lowcock & Barr, of Shrewsbury, England, only differs from that of Bodin, of Rennes, in some of the details. The moldboard has the wedge shape and long rearward extension familiar in the Scotch plows. It has one feature by no means common, a means of adjusting the inclination of the moldboard by a lever or brace operated by a hand screw.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 12 – “Bridle” pattern wheel plow. Richard Horsby & Sons, Grantham, England.

The plows made by Hornsby & Sons, Grantham, England, are of numerous patterns, with or without the draft-rod, with or without gage wheels, and the swing plows are destitute of the jointer. The moldboard has a peculiar convex shape much insisted upon by this firm, which appears to have been the first to introduce it. The shares are of cast chilled metal and made self-sharpening. The colter-fastening admits of any rake being given to the colter without holes in the beam. This yoke-fastening is also used largely in the United States upon the Collins plows and others. The frame is of wrought iron. These plows have long been favorites with farmers, and may be taken as the best exemplars of their order and country.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 13 – Revolving moldboard plow. Corbett & Peele, Shrewsbury, England.

The English plows were not shown at the field trial ordered by the Exposition authorities. The reasons for their avoiding the competition can only be guessed at. The opportunity was afforded by a very singular mode of classification, which gave an exhibitor the right to enter his machine in Class 51, for agricultural machinery not in motion or in Class 76 which included agricultural implements in motion.

The French and Americans entered in class 76, the English in Class 51. Each class had its jury and worked independently, viewing the same machines and making reports recommending medals. Much duplication of awards ensued, and some curious differences of estimation of the devices by the respective juries.

An English plow with a skim-colter was exhibited by Corbett & Peele, of Shrewsbury, England, but this plow has a still more distinguishing peculiarity in its revolving moldboard. This was introduced from the United States into England in 1870, where it appears to meet with some favor though little of it is seen in the U.S.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 14 – Michigan rod-beam plow. Gale Manufacturing Company, Albion, Mi.

The only American plow which had the skim-colter or small paring share in advance, known also as a jointer, and in France as a rasette, was the plow exhibited by the Gale Manufacturing Company of Albion, Michigan. This was one of the plows which was exhibited in operation at Petit-Bourg and was remarkable for the completeness with which it buried the stubble (Fig 14). The plow has a peculiar appearance and contains all the adjustments for land and depth in the beam. By loosening the nuts on the rods where they join the standard, the front end of the beam may be pitched downward or upward, towards the land or away from it, and so give the required set. A colter may be substituted for the jointer, and, being attached to the standard and not to the beam, maintains its adjustment at all times.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 15 – Movable-point plow. C. Guilleux, Segré, France.

Fig. 15, a plow exhibited by Guilleux, of Segré, France, shows another specialty. It has a movable point, which may be thrust forward as it wears. The plow beam riding in a socket on the axle of the avant train (gage wheel) and attached by a draft chain is another illustration of the persistent form so popular in France. The long bar to be shifted forward as it wears, to form a plow point, was shown at the Centennial in a native plow from Berar, India.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 16 – Single plow (monosoc). Meixmoron de Dombasle, Nancy, France.

Fig. 16 shows the two-wheeled single plow made by the firm of Meixmoron de Dombasle, of Nancy, France. It has a frame entirely of iron and an ordinary size weighs 132 lbs. It is a very good and cheap implement and does excellent work. Its clevis arrangement is good, both for draft and depth, and the draft chain is likewise commendable. The arrangement of the two wheels follow the English form, but the lever is French and is used to lift the front end and tilt up the point, so that the team will draw it out of the ground at the end of the furrow – a very good arrangement, and used also on the gangplows of France and England, the plowman always walking at work.

So far, all the plows (with the exception of the wooden moldboard plow) have been those with avant train or gage wheels for depth of furrow. The wheelless plow, however, or swing plow, as it is called in England, is more common in the United States, and in fact is sold in Europe as the American plow.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 17 – Iron-beam plow. Deere & Co., Moline, Ill.

At the head of the swing plows at the Petit Bourg trials was that exhibited by Deere & Co. of Moline, Illinois (Fig. 17). They are made right or left hand, and of 22 different styles. The high curved beam gives great clearance at the throat. The rolling colter bar is fastened to the beam by means of a yoke.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 18 – Center-lever plow. Alexander Speer & Sons, Pittsburgh, Pa.

A differently appearing implement, with wooden beam and standing colter, was the center-lever plow of A. Speer & Sons of Pittsburgh, PA (Fig. 18).

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 19 – Reese combination plow. A.B. Farquhar, York, Pa.

The Reese combination plow, exhibited by A. B. Farquhar, of York, PA., is a tool which might seem to be well adapted to French methods and needs. The system of making a number of optional tools, each of which is capable of being attached to a common stock, is familiar to the French in the case of their vineyard implements, though none so varied in their lines of effectiveness as that shown by Farquhar.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 20 – French tourne-oreille (charrue Wasse). Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 21 – Shifting socket-piece and moldboard of tourne-oreille.

2. Turning moldboard plows

The term hill-side plow is generally applied in this country to this description of plow, which, by an adjustment, is capable of turning a furrow to the right or to the left hand; the appropriateness of our term consists in its being used by us only for plowing hill-sides which are so steep that the furrow can only be turned down hill. The plow having arrived at the end of its course, turning a furrow to the left, the adjustment of the plow is made to enable it to turn a furrow to the right, and the off horse in returning takes the last-made furrow.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 22 – Tourne-oreille. Meixmoron de Dombasle, Nancy, France.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 23 – Turning-moldboard plow. Bruel Fréres, Moulins, France.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 24 – Hillside plow. A. Speer & Sons, Pittsburgh, Pa.

The most important of the series of turning-moldboard plows is known in France as the Brabant double. This plow is meeting with great success, and not on account of its convenience for throwing the soil down hill, but principally, as it would seem, on account of its permitting the plowman to commence at one side of a field and work furrow after furrow clear across it. The English and American practice is to plow in lands; the English lands are generally narrower that with us, as the climate is more moist and the ground more apt to be water-logged.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 25 – Brabant double. C. Gilleux, Segré, France.

The Brabant double is made in great variety of structure and sizes, all, however, possessing the feature of having a pair of moldboards, one above the other, and either brought into effective position for a right or left hand furrow, respectively. The plow (Fig. 25) was exhibited by M. Guillleux of Segre’ (Maine-et-Loire).

They are made of sizes from 1 horse to 16 horses, by Delahaie-Tailleur, of Liancourt (Oise), who appears to have been the original constructor of France.

The depth of plowing is regulated by means of a hand-screw on the avant-train, which raises or lowers the beam.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 26 – Brabant double, with skim colter. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac.

When at the end of a furrow and desiring to return, the plowman leans on the lever which projects at the rear and unlocks the beam, which is free to turn on its axis, making half a revolution and bringing the other plow to the ground changing it from a right to a left hand plow, or vice versa. The width of furrow is regulated at the clevis in front, the regulating-screw letting the plow take more or less land. The gage-wheels are of equal diameter, as they are alternately in the furrow.

The deep plowing by the Delahaie-Tailleur, large size Brabant double, is designed to be 0.70 meter land, 0.60 meter depth; drawn by 8 or 10 horses, or 14 to 16 oxen.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 27 – Brabant double, with subsoil talons. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.

The same firm exhibited the Brabant double with claws or talons, which tear up the bottom of the furrow, acting as a subsoil attachment. (Figure 27).

Another form of the implement for deep plowing has a skim-share for rolling up the stubble into a little ridge, to be deeply buried by the plow on its next round. These shares are placed in the rear of the principal share and projecting laterally in such a way as to act upon the land not yet touched by the main body of the plow, but preparing the surface ready for the next course.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 28 – Brabant double, with skim shares.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 29 – Skim shares.

When the skim-share (Fig. 29) is used, the skim-colter – shown as attached in Fig. 28 – is detached; the duty of each is the same, and the use optional.

The deepest plowing done at Petit-Bourg was by Brabant double plows. None other sent to the competitive trials were calculated for so great depth of plowing, for none others were strong enough; we may make an exception in favor of the Italian, which were simply immense, and might have been drawn by elephants. One or more of the Brabant double plow, drawn by 10 oxen, reached a depth of 50 centimeters (19.69”), and when the wire rope of the steam-plow was attached it plowed 21.65” deep, with a breadth of about 30”. The usual plowing depth is from 0.16 to 0.33 meter, say from 6 ½” to 13”. The latter is not commonly attained, but the writer believes it to be much more frequent in France than in the United States, and can name one field in France plowed 20” deep. This cannot be profitably done without steam-tackle.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 30 – Subsoil-plow. J.M. Garnier, Redon, France.

3. Subsoil plows

Subsoil plows were shown in considerable variety. The customary form is one in which the hardpan at the bottom of the furrow is broken up and allowed to fall back again – not brought to the surface. It is usually very imprudent to change the natural relative positions of the soil and sub-soil, though a portion may be mixed with the soil by plowing a little deeper year after year, within reasonable limits.

Garnier’s subsoil plow has a share in front and sloping plates at the sides to lift the soil, which then falls back again into the furrow. It has the gate-wheel and clevis arrangements for land and for depth.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 31 – Brabant subsoiler.

Still another form of the Brabant double plow has the skim-plow, colter, and plow on one side of the beam, and scarifier, shares, or tines on the other side; the use of one side or the other is optional or alternate. In the latter case the plow, for ordinary culture, goes to a depth of 15 centimeters, and, the implement being reversed, the bottom of the furrows is torn up an additional 15 centimeters, making a total depth of culture of 0.30 meter.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 32 – Subsoil plow. E. Bodin, Rennes, France.

The subsoil plow (Fig. 32) is also designed to follow in the wake of an ordinary plow, and break up the hard pan or bottom of the furrow. It is not designed to bring the subsoil to the surface, but to open it to allow it to be penetrated by moisture and ameliorated by the air and by manure. The whole frame is of iron, and the lever adjusts the depth of penetration of the shares or withdraws them entirely. The shares are left, middle, and right, and occupy the whole width of the furrow. The weight is 115 kilos.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 33 – Subsoil plow. C. Guilleux, Segré, France.

The subsoil plow of Guilleux, of Segré, has the three shares similarly arranged, but, instead of a gage-wheel, it has a runner whose standard is attached by a yoke to the beam. This exact device is used for the same purpose on the crude wooden plows of the Chinese and the Malays of Java, as shown in their respective sections at the Exposition.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 34 – Sayn’s scarifier. C.L. Bourdin, Paris.

The implement shown in Fig. 34 is described as for digging and improving land; presumably wet and compact soils. It was exhibited by Bourdin, of Paris. It has a flat, deep standard, a share, a cutting-head, for dividing roots, and several serrated lateral plates, for cutting roots and making fissures in the soil. The implement has two pairs of wheels, fore and aft, and, by the manipulation of the levers, may be made to ride free of the ground or be set to any depth required, the usual working limit being a depth of 0.6 meter, about 24”. The levers act practically as a parallel motion, and the sole is always horizontal.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 35 – Meixmoron de Dombasle’s mole-plow.

4. Draining plows

Draining plows in France, as elsewhere, are upon either of two principles – to excavate an open drain, or to make an underground passage for the water. The latter is called by us a mole-plow, from the round, tunnel-like channel which it makes in the ground. It is termed in France a charrue sous-sol, or underground plow and is frequently employed in the track of an ordinary plow as a subsoiler, breaking up the hard-pan forming the bottom of the furrow. The depth of working is usually 30 centimeters below the same depth made by the ordinary plow.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 36 – Mole-plow. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.

The mole-plow exhibited by Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, of Liancourt (Oise) has the ordinary French avant-train and a plate which form the standard, carrying the long, round share 9 centimeters in diameter. In its passage through the ground it leaves a conduit of its own diameter for carrying off the water.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 37 – Draining plow. Meixmoron de Dombasle, Nancy, France.

Another class of draining plows is that which follows the track of an ordinary plow and lifts the subsoil to the surface, forming an open drain. In practice the subsoil to a depth of 45 to 55 centimeters is raised, and is thrown out upon the earth raised by the precedent plow. The lower portion of the plow occupies the first furrow, and the sloping moldboard pushes the soil onto the surface of the ground clear of the edge of the ditch.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 38 – Billot’s trenching plow.

Billot’s trenching plow is intended for cutting drains in natural prairies. The sloping cutter and the curved share cut the sod, which is lifted and thrown two equal portions on each side of the ditch. The plow has an ordinary avant-train, not shown in the figure.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 39 – Ridging plow. C. Guilleux, Segré, France.

5. Ridging plows

Double moldboard plows (buttoirs), for throwing right and left furrows at the same time, are much used in England, and, judging by the display and the ridge system so nearly universal in beet culture, still more common in France. They were shown stocked in wood and in iron. Figure 39 is one exhibited by Guilleux, of Segre’ (Maine-et-Loire), and made in three sizes, respectively 40, 50 and 60 fr.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 39A – Ridging plow. E. Bodin, Rennes, France.

The double-moldboard plow made by Bodin, of Trois-Croix, Renens, is stocked in iron, and when made with one wheel is sold in two sizes; the implements, respectively, weighing 100 and 90 kilos. Made with two gage-wheels in front, specially adapted to make the ridges on which beet-root seed is sown.

On the same stock may be attached an ordinary plow body or a potato-digger.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 40 – Clearing plow. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.

6. Clearing plow

Of plows especially adapted to clearing in woody or rooty ground but few implements were shown. Incidentally, many of the heavy plows are calculated for such work as it may occur. Others, like our prairie-breakers, are for stubborn sod, wild-grass meadows, and low situations with patches of willow or hazel, brambles or rose bushes, as the case may be. Some statements to this effect have been made in reference to plows previously referred to. See ante, passim.

The de’boiseuse, or clearing plow, of Delahaie-Tailleur, is designed evidently for clearing ground which has grown up in thickets or copses. It is made with 2, 3, 4, 5 or 8 cutters in advance of the plow proper. Each cuts into the land below the preceding one, so that a de’boiseuse of 5 cutters will divide the roots to an ordinary plow depth.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 41 – Gilpin sulky-plow. Deere & Co., Moline, Ill.

7. Sulky plow

The sulky or riding plow is a curiosity in Europe. But one was shown in Paris, and it alone of its class was at the Petit-Bourg trials. It was exhibited by Deere & Co., of Moline, Ill., and the quality of the material and the finish of the work were the subjects of general remark. It has the rolling-colter, adjustment for depth and land, and means for withdrawing it from the soil, in turning or traveling, by a single lever.

8. Gang-plows

There is a growing tendency in England and France, as well as in the United States, to the use of the gang-plow as a saving of the labor of men. Lord Somersville’s “double-furrow plow,” invented about 1799, had a beam bent for the attachment of two plow bodies, the left-hand one placed laterally and to the rear of the forward one, both being right-handed according to the custom of the country. This was, perhaps, not the first gang-plow, however, for Mr. Duckel, of Esper, in England, had one in 1797, drawn by four horses. These were, however, a little in advance of the times. Now they are popular.

At Petit-Bourg the gang-plows alone were tested with the dynamometer, and of those shown in the contest two representative implements were chosen for this honor, those of Meixmoron de Dombasle, of Nancy (Meurthe-et-Moselle), France, and Deere & Co., of Moline, Ill., United States.

A number of English gang-plows were shown at the Exposition, but not at the competitive trails. The French gang-plows at the trial were numerous.

In the gang plow trials each implement was required to plow a tract of equal size, the two lots lying alongside of each other and the plows being started simultaneously. Each plow was drawn by four horses and the teams were changed in the middle of the trial. The length of course was 160 meters.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 42 – Bisoc. Meixmoron de Dombasle, Nancy, France.

The construction of the Meixmoron de Dombasle bisoc is easily understood by the assistance of the engraving (Fig. 42). Speaking in general terms, it consists of two plows of equal size, attached at a regulated distance apart, one a little behind the other, so that its furrow-slice shall not touch the plow in advance, and the two beams attached to a single draft arrangement.

The plow is supported in front upon a pair of wheels whose bent axle is rotatable by means of a lever so as to elevate or depress the front end, and thereby determine the depth to which the shares shall penetrate. The lever moves in a vertical slotted guide, and a pin above the lever, passing through holes in the guide, maintains the plow at the required adjustment. It is necessary, also, to adjust the draft-chain at the clevis to raise the point of traction for deep plowing and depress it for shallow. The test of adjustment is when the shares penetrate to the right depth with a very light pressure upon the wheels, so that they leave but a faint trace of their passage.

The furrow is equalized between the two plows by means of turning in one or the other direction the screw placed on the long beam. In plowing the last furrow of a field, when but a single furrow remains, the horizontal screw is turned to the left, so that the right-hand plow runs in the preceding furrow.

These plows are made strong enough for 8 or 10 horses for extra-deep plowing or braking new ground.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 44 – Gang-plow. Deere & Co., Moline, Ill.

The Deere gang-plow is a more compact arrangement, and is a riding plow. This latter feature is a novelty in Europe. While the implement of Meixmoron de Dombasle consists of two plows with gage-wheels in front, and drawn by means of a single broad clevis, to which the noses of the plows are attached, the Deere plow follow the American “sulky” system, a wheeled carriage, which has a tongue for the horse, a seat for the driver, and a point of attachment for the plows, which are braced and adjusted permanently for relative distance, and controlled by a single lever, which regulates the depth or withdraws the plows from the ground. It opens up the first furrow and finishes the land by moving the lever from one notch to another, the plows maintaining a level position at all depths; and, by pressing the same lever outward until it locks into a lug on the hub, the plows are carried clear of the ground by a half revolution of the wheel.

It is all of iron and steel.

As to the general question of the economy of carrying the driver, it is contended that the method of carrying the weight of the plow and furrow-slice on wheels more that counterbalances the addition to the draft due to the weight of the driver.

While questions of corn cultivation do not much concern the French farmer, it is nevertheless a very important service performed by the sharp rolling-colters in cutting the corn stalks of the previous season in advance of the plow-share.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 45 – Bisoc. E. Bodin, Rennes, France.

The charrue bisoc exhibited by Bodin, of Trois-Croix, Rennes, has tow plow bodies, with long moldboards, with two unequal wheels, one to run in the furrow and the other on the land. The plows are right-handed, as seems universal in Europe, and the rear plow alone has stilts for the plowman, the beam of the forward plow being rigged out from the longer beam of the other plow. The wrought-iron frame is very well constructed. It is intended, according to the nature of the ground, for 3 horses or 4 oxen, with ordinarily light land.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 46 – Bisoc. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.

The bisoc of Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, of Liancourt (Oise), has a very different style of frame, and the avant-train on the model of the Brabant pattern, made in such very extensive variety of style and size by this firm.

The English implement-makers exhibited a number of gang-plows, double and triple, but did not bring them to the trials at Petit-Bourg. It may be as well, however, to show these implements to afford means of comparison, as they do not lose all interest in consequence of the want of enterprise of their owners or agents.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 47 – Double-furrow plow. Ransomes, Sims, & Head, Ipswich, England.

Ransomes, Sims, & Head, of Ipswich, England, exhibited double-furrow plows of two varieties, one in which the weight is thrown upon three wheels, the depth regulated adjustment in front; the other style, in which the implement consists of a pair of plows yoked together. Each has a gage-wheel for depth.

Fig. 47 shows the first mentioned kind, which has a quadrilateral frame supported on a bent axle under the control of a lever, whose position at nay adjustment is maintained by a set-pin in a quadrant-bar.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 48 – Double-furrow plow. Ransomes, Sims, & Head, Ipswich, England.

The other plow is shown in Fig. 48 in two positions, one the working position, the other turning. In the latter the plow is thrown over to the left so as to rest upon the hemispherical land-wheel and a stirrup at the near side of the beam, which acts as a runner on which the plow drags.

These plows have beams adjustable or fixed as to relative distance, as may be required. With fixed beams two furrows are turned, each 23 centimeters deep, as may be determined by the clevis and gage-wheel adjustments. With adjustable beams the width of furrows is regulated at from 18 to 27 centimeters an depth 5 to 20 centimeters.

A furrow-wheel running behind the rear plow, in the angle of the furrow, is an aid in regulating depth and is a substitute for a long sole. It is a feature used in England as far back as 1819.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 49 – Bisoc double. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.

The Brabant double is also rigged as a bisoc. The example shown was by the firm of Delahaie-Tailleur. It has the same adjustments for depth and for land, and the same method of inverting the plow body in order to convert it from a right to a left hand plow, and vice versa.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 50 – Charrue á trois socs. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.

The same firm exhibited the three-plow gang, which has a triangular frame and a third or supplementary wheel for lifting the plow frame and causing the plows to slip up out of the ground as the team advances. This is the position in which the implement shown.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 51 – Three-furrow plow (position at work). Ransomes, Sims, & Head, Ipswich, England.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 52 – Three-furrow plow (position out of the ground, in turning). Ransomes, Sims, & Head, Ipswich, England.

Ransomes, Sims, & Head’s three-furrow plow has the same general appearance. The two engravings (Figs. 51 and 52) require but little explanation. With the first round the three furrows will not be of quite equal depth, but when a leading furrow is opened and the gage-wheel in the furrow set to the required depth, the work is regular, the depth being determined by the set of the three wheels, the one in front and the two at the sides, the latter regulated by the lever and quadrant.

Hornsby showed admirable examples of multifurrow plows, as did also Corbett & Peale, but the list need not be prolonged. Deere & Co., of Moline, Ill., did not exhibit their triple gang-plow.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 53 – Leveling implement with five plows. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.

An implement with five plows was exhibited by Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, designed for leveling ridges made in the beet or potato culture, and to leave the ground flat for sowing in wheat or to clover. The shares are thrown into or out of the soil by a single lever, and their working depth is regulated by the two rear levers, which actuate the bent axles of the hind wheels so that the plows may be let into the ground any required depth, or, as in the engraving, lifted entirely clear of the soil for traveling from place to place.

The extent of ridge culture in France makes such an implement desirable there, and the introduction of beet culture into the United States may give it some value with us, to plow down the ridges preparatory to replowing, or level the soil for other crops for which flat culture alone is suitable, as for those which are cut by the reaper or mower. The implement straddles a ridge from 0.90 to 1.50 meter in width and the forward plows remove a slice from each side, each of the next pair of plows pares off another slice, and the fifth or middle plow splits the remainder, throwing it equally to each side.

The implement is also used for plowing in wheat.

9. Root-diggers

Consistently with the importance of the root crops in the agriculture of France, the machines for digging potatoes or pulling beets were shown in considerable numbers and variety. The potato-diggers affect a larger area of country, but the beet cultivation is in the hands of the most advanced agriculturists, who can appreciate and purchase special tools for the time when work is most laborious and pressing. Speaking for the north and middle of France, it may be said that while the operations in the beet-root sugar and alcohol factories may extend for a period of three months, the roots must be pulled in a few weeks, and those not worked at once stored in pits or silos.

Potato-diggers were shown by three nations – France, England, and the United States.

The French implements generally follow one type, but are single or double acting – simple et double effet.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 54 – Potato-digger (simple effet).

Fig. 54 has a share with fingers trailing upward and backward; it lifts the earth and the tubers, and the friable soil falling between the bars leaves the tubers to fall over the rear of the grid or through the larger interstices, so as to lie above the soil, to be readily seen and gathered by those who follow to pick them up.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 55 – Potato-digger (double effet).

The arracheur de pommes de terre, double effet, Fig. 55, has a second grid which repeats and completes the operation.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 56 – Potato-digger. Penney & Co., Lincoln, England.

Penney & Co., of Lincoln, England, exhibited a potato digger drawn by two horses. The share roots out the tubers and a revolving disk with forks throws them against a grating which prevents their being scattered.

By means of a lever the machine is raised or lowered or the movement of the forks entirely stopped. The work performed is three to four acres per day.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 57 – Potato-digger. Alexander Speer & Sons, Pittsburgh, Pa.

One American potato digger was shown in the exhibit of Alexander Speer & Sons, of Pittsburgh, Pa. It is operated by one person and two horses. the share lifts the earth and tubers and they fall together on to the hinged grid, which is lifted up and down by a star wheel which comes in contact with the ground beneath the grid.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 58 – Beet-puller.

The culture of the beet, which is so widespread and important in France, Belgium, Germany, and Austria, has suggested quite a large number of special implements – plows which turn up the soil to a depth of 15″; subsoilers which pulversize a farther depth of 6″ on the bottom of the first furrow; lights plows for throwing the soil alternately to and from the plants in the process of tending the crop; double moldboard plows for throwing the earth against both rows while passing once down the balk; machine for tearing the roots out of the ground and leaving them on the surface to be picked up.

The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 59 – Beet-root puller. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 60 – 1. Fork of beet-puller. 2. Share of potato-digger.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 61 – Beet-root digger. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.
The Field of Petit-Bourg The Plow and Cultivator Trials
Fig. 62 – Beet-root puller. Delahaie-Tailleur & Bajac, Liancourt, France.