3. Peasants and Farmers
The Coming Of New Technology
(i) This dramatic expansion was made possible by new technology. Through the nineteenth century, as the settlers moved into new habitats and new lands, they modified their implements to meet their requirements.
(ii) The prairie was covered with a thick mat of grass with tough roots. To break the sod and turn the soil over, a variety of new ploughs were devised locally, By the early twentieth century, farmers in the Great Plains were breaking the ground with tractors and disk ploughs, clearing vast stretches for wheat cultivation.
In 1831, Cyrus McCormick invented the first mechanical reaper which could cut in one day as much as five men could cut with cradles and 16 men with sickles. By the early twentieth century, most farmers were using combined harvesters to cut grain. With one of these machines, 500 acres of wheat could be harvested in two weeks.
(iii) For the big farmers of the Great Plains these machines had many attractions. The prices of wheat were high and the demand seemed limitless.
(iv) With power-driven machinery, four men could plough, seed and harvest 2,000 to 4,000 acres of wheat in a season.