Agricultural Engineering

“Agricultural mechanisation emerged from the Industrial Revolution and is the process by which farm workers and draught animals are replaced by machines. The first tractor was employed in the Netherlands at the end of the 19th century. Agricultural mechanisation took off in the Netherlands during the first half of the 20th century with, among others, the introduction of the horse-drawn hay rake”, explains Dicky.

Dicky’s brief overview of the mechanisation of agriculture focuses on advertising and other images of agricultural equipment suppliers. It provides an interesting glimpse into a bygone age and reveals how manpower was still needed to keep the machines running.

Dicky Chef's special: A Tast of the Collections

Lanz Bulldog tractor

Lanz Bulldog tractor

[photos of Lanz Bulldog types]; s.n., n.d.

This undated photo book provides an overview of the different vehicles built by Lanz for various agricultural work. The first Lanz Bulldogs were equipped with a hot-bulb engine, a self-igniting combustion engine. It was not dependent on fuels like petroleum and diesel, but could also run on vegetable oil pressed from seeds or, for example, whale oil. It was also a very robust machine. In 1956, the John Deere company acquired the majority shareholding of Lanz, and the last tractor was produced under the name Lanz Bulldog in 1957. The company continued to operate under the name John Deere-Lanz AG from 1960. After 1967, the Lanz name disappeared completely and the company continued as John Deere.

The first mechanical reaper, mid-19th century

De eerste mechanische maaimachine, midden 19e eeuw

McCormick Harvesting Machine Company (Chicago). Amerikaansche Photographieën; McCormick: Chicago, 1900.

The photo is from a photo album that dates to around 1900 and includes images of the company’s production halls and employees at work. It reveals how mass production was possible even with limited resources. This is a photo of the first Reaper, a mechanical mower. Cyrus McCormick is seen as the inventor of this reaper, but in fact he co-developed it. With its mass production, factory layout and the attention for marketing, McCormick’s company was an example of the modern way to do business. McCormick merged with the Deering Harvester Company in 1902 and became the International Harvester Company.

Make the puzzle of the reaper!

Agricultural machinery in the 19th century Netherlands

Landbouwwerktuigen in Nederland in de 19e eeuw

Brinkman & Niemeijer (Zutphen / Dordrecht). Brinkmann & Niemeijer, Landbouwwerktuigen, Motoren; Brinkman & Niemeijer: Zutphen etc., 1920.

By the mid-19th century, it was no longer just the local blacksmith who made, modified or sold agricultural tools. The Netherlands now also counted a number of major trading companies that focused on agricultural mechanisation. For example, the firm of Weduwe J.C. Massee en Zn in Goes was founded as early as 1832. Other big names were Boeke & Huidekoper in Haarlem (who would later establish several branches around the country), Brinkmann & Niemeyer in Zutphen, and Louis Nagel in Arnhem.

The catalogues contain information about the various implements they imported, with an emphasis on increasing production, ease of use, suitability for Dutch soils and references to practical trials. Education, demonstrations of agricultural equipment and cooperation between manufacturers, dealers and farmers are also mentioned as important pillars to speed up the introduction of machinery and so increase production.

Threshing with the ‘locomobile’, around 1909

Dorsen met de locomobiel, circa 1909

Onze Landbouwwerktuigen; Goes, 1909.

The locomobile was a portable steam engine that drove the threshing machine. The locomobile, used here for threshing white mustard crops, is on the right in this photo.

Popular in the Netherlands: the Fordson

Popular in the Netherlands: the Fordson

Fordson was a brand name of tractors and trucks manufactured by Henry Ford & Son Inc, and later by Ford Motor Company from 1917 to 1964 in the US and after that in the UK. The tractors were first built in Detroit since 1920. Ford decided to reduce the price of the Fordson after sales had suffered from the depression of 1920-1921 and the competition of for example John Deere. Ford lowered the price from $625 to $395, which caused a real price war in the tractor industry, known as the ‘tractor wars’.


De Fordson: het eeuwfeest van een tractorlegende. Landbouwleven, January 2018.
Fordson. Wikipedia. Website visited on 3 March 2022. 

Machines or manual work?

Een proef met de bietendunlorrie uit 1955

Testing a beet thinner from 1955.

Despite the huge increase in the use of machines in agriculture, manual labour still remained essential for all kinds of work, as can be seen in this picture from 1955. The photo was taken by A. Moens and displays workers thinning beets on the farm of C.J. de Rijke in the Noord Oost Polder. The photo forms part of a large collection of photos of former Instituut voor Mechanisatie, Arbeid en Gebouwen (IMAG) (English: Institute for Mechanisation, Labour and Buildings). The photos were mostly taken by employees or photographers who were affiliated with the institute. The collection has more than 35,000 photos taken between 1950 and 1990, of which 168 by Prof. Adriaan Moens.

Agricultural Engineering

is part of

Chef’s Special: A Taste of the Collections

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