Threshing machine

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The thrashing machine, or, in modern spelling, threshing machine (or simply thresher), was a machine first invented by Scottish mechanical engineer Andrew Meikle for use in agriculture. It was invented (c.1784) for the separation of grain from stalks and husks. For thousands of years, grain was separated by hand with flails, and was very laborious and time consuming. Mechanization of this process took much of the drudgery out of farm labour.

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Early social impacts

The Swing Riots in the UK were partly a result of the threshing machine. Following years of war, high taxes and low wages, farm labourers finally revolted in 1830. These farm labourers had faced unemployment for a number of years due to the widespread introduction of the threshing machine and the policy of enclosing fields. No longer were thousands of men needed to tend the crops, a few would suffice. With fewer jobs, lower wages and no prospects of things improving for these workers the threshing machine was the final straw, the machine was to place them on the brink of starvation. The Swing Rioters smashed threshing machines and threatened farmers who had them.

The riots were dealt with very harshly. Nine of the rioters were hanged and a further 450 were transported to Australia.

Later adoption

Early threshing machines were hand-fed and horse-powered. They were small by today's standards and were about the size of an upright piano. Later machines were steam-powered, driven by a portable engine or traction engine. In 1834, John Avery and Hiram Abial Pitts devised significant improvements to a machine that automatically threshes and separates grain from chaff, freeing farmers from a slow and laborious process. Avery and Pitts were granted a patent in the United States on December 29, 1837.[1]

John Ridley, an Anglo-Australian inventor, also developed a threshing machine in South Australia in 1843.[2].

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