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This month's Imaginative Invention addresses the problem of powering agricultural machines in the field. While stationary machines were readily adapted to the horsepower or treadmill, horse drawn field machines were generally ground driven. This required even small mowers to be quite heavy in order to provide adequate traction to the drive wheel.
The novel device illustrated here is a moving treadmill, invented by Louis Koch, of New York City, in 1859, as reported in the Scientific American of that year. Stepping on one of the bands, which were wrapped around a shaft, while pushing the machine forward caused the band to unwrap, thus turning the shaft. A spring loaded ratchet caused the band to recoil when the foot was lifted. Alternately stepping on each of the two bands while pushing the machine caused a continuous motion of the shaft, which was geared to rotating cutter blades for harvesting grain.
While horse-drawn reapers were fairly common in 1859 where grain fields were large and flat, many small and rocky plots were harvested with a cradle well into the 20th century. Human powered devices such as this were an attempt to bridge the gap between cradle and reaper.
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