Seed dropping planting machines

Often it is very instructive to deep in history to know the origin of things, as the case of the basic idea of modern planting machines: the regular drop of seeds inside the ground.

As described in the article «A New Way To Plant Seeds» by Thomas Insights, part of Thomasnet.com: “A free man of color, Henry Blair by name, has invented a machine called the corn-planter, which is now exhibited in the capital of Washington,” announced the August 1836 edition of The Mechanics’ Magazine. Shaped a little like a wheelbarrow, the planter had a seed compartment that dropped corn at regular intervals, and rakes that dragged behind the device to cover the corn with soil. It allowed farmers to plant as quickly as the animal pulling the machine could move, an innovation at the time.

Henry Blair seed planter – ilustration from Today in Science

Living in rural Maryland, Blair had patented his corn planter in October of 1834, signing the patent paperwork with an “X” in lieu of his name.

The Mechanics’ Magazine (1836)

Notes and Notices

Corn and Planting Machine – A free man of colour, Henry Blair by name, has invented a machine called the corn-planter, which is now exhibiting in the capital of Washington. It is described as a very simple and ingenious machine, which, as moved by a horse, opens the furrow, drops (at proper intervals, and in an exact and suitable quantity,) the corn, covers it, and levels the earth, so as, in fact, to plant the corn as rapidly as a horse can draw a plough over the ground. The inventor thinks it will save the labour of eight men. He is about to make some alterations in it to adapt it to the planting of cotton. – New York Paper.

Blair’s patent for a cotton planter with a similar design came the same month as the announcement in The Mechanics’ Magazine. The cotton planter had two blades that made furrows for the seed to drop into, after which it was covered up again.

It can be read the corn planter patent description, with draws, in The patent text and drawings for the Seed-Planter from Today in Science. Also, it can be read the original text in page 320 of Mechanics magazine