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Plow, Breaking
Plow, Breaking
Resource Typeimage
TitlePlow, Breaking
Coverage / Year1840 to 1860
DescriptionWood and wrought iron plow. Long, tapered, and slightly curved wooden beam with "V" shaped handles attached to the back of the beam. Long dished iron blade held in place with a forged iron screw and iron straps. The cutting blade is mounted to the beam and extends downwards to the tip of the blade. 132" long.
InterpretationThis Prairie Breaker plow is one of the most significant artifacts for the history of East Central Illinois. Farming was once the primary occupation for most people in central Illinois. The first farmers arrived before 1830 and tilled the soils in the savannah regions where the prairie met the woodlands. In these areas farmers could find wood for fuel and construction projects, but they also had access to the prairie for grazing animals. The soil near the woodlands was also easier to cultivate than on the open prairie. By the 1850s farmers began to cultivate the very rich, but also very wet open prairies. Huge prairie breaker plows like this one were pulled by six or eight teams of oxen and ripped open the prairie sod. The plows were expensive to buy, and plow owners charged about $1.50 an acre to plow the land (at a time when land itself cost $1.25 an acre to buy!). This added expense meant that over a third of farmers in the area could not afford unplowed land, but instead rented plowed land from a wealthy farmer. Once the sod was broken, smoother steel plows perfected by John Deere and other blacksmiths made it possible to work the wet ground without "clogging" as earlier plows did. With the arrival of the railroad, farms continued to get bigger as it was now possible to sell farm produce to large markets as far away as Chicago and St. Louis. The number of acres under cultivation in Champaign County alone went from 23, 000 in 1850 to 170, 000 in 1860.
Lesson Plans / ThemesCommunities and Geography;
Learning Standards16 History; 14 Political Systems; 15 Economics; 17 Geography; 18 Social systems;
Author or CreatorEarly American Museum
Subject / KeywordsPlowing; Champaign County, Illinois; Farming; Farmers; Prairies; Agriculture; Illinois;
Collection PublisherEarly American Museum
Further InformationFor any further information related to this record, please contact the Collection Publisher. See http://images.library.uiuc.edu/projects/tdc for more information about this project.
Rights Management Statementhttp://images.library.uiuc.edu/projects/tdc/conditions.htm
Resource Identifier1968.003.0011
CONTENTdm file name21.jpg
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