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chronological list of milker patents patent decade chart return to article

Cow Milker Patents

During the last half of the 19th century, over 100 milking devices were patented in the United States. The earliest such devices were simple milking tubes, which, when inserted in the teat, held the sphincter muscle open. In the 1860's, development of both pressure and vacuum type milking machines drew considerable interest in both America and England.

The pressure machines were an attempt to emulate the action of the human hand in manipulating the teat. Such early machines had many drawbacks, including inability to adapt to different size teats and a tendency to force some of the milk backward. The early vacuum machines used a hand pump and applied a constant vacuum to the teat cups, or even to the entire udder, causing obvious problems of blood congestion and unsatisfactory milking. The claims made by most of the milker patents involved methods of solving the multitude of problems inherent in either of the two methods of mechanical milking. True progress was slow, despite the parade of “Rube Goldberg” type devices that passed through the patent office. Many of these milkers were actually marketed, and some successfully. L.O. Colvin worked hard both in this country and in England to establish the reputation of his milking machines. And, he won a great deal of press coverage and resulting sales of his machines. Roth also attained some degree of fame with one of his several early milkers illustrated and described favorably in an 1886 issue of the Scientific American. William Mehring’s famous foot treadle milker was marketed well into the 20th century and can still be ocassionally found at a country auction. While pipeline milking was flourishing on large farms in the early 20th century, there was still a market for a device to milk just one or two cows. One unique device, patented in 1910, was a vacuum milker wired to a battery, to cause the cow to let down her milk by means of an electric shock.

A Selection of Cow Milker Patent Drawings

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C.Knapp 1849 W.H. Whitman 1856 L.O. Colvin 1860 L.O. Colvin 1863
H.V. Belding 1864 L.T. Blake 1867 B.F. Graves 1868 S. Smith 1875
W.H. Pearson 1875 A. Baldwin 1879 R. Roth 1886 Beyer & Rohde 1886
A.A. Durand 1886 E.B. Douglass 1887 P.M. Hobbs 1887 H. Heitmann 1893
J. Westgarth 1893 L. Steenstrup 1893 W.M. Mehring 1896 R.D. Roth 1898
R.D. Roth 1900 H. Ohlhaver 1907 L. Holt 1909 R.D. Roth 1910

chronological list of milker patents patent decade chart return to article

© 1996, 1998, American Artifacts. Reprinted from SMMA issue 20.
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