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Agriculture in Antebellum America
(1840 to 1861)


In this era, American farmers embraced mechanization, and purchased machinery to replace the labor of humans. Obed Hussey patented a horse-drawn reaper in 1833, and Cyrus McCormick patented a model in 1834.  The inventors did not perfect their machines until the 1840s, and increasing numbers of farmers purchased reapers.   Western lands in the states of Texas and Arkansas, and the territories of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas opened for settlement.  Settlers traveled to the far west on trails such as the Oregon and Mormon.  Corn and wheat production boomed, but economic panics occasionally caused the collapse of markets. The Crimean War in Europe provided an excellent outlet for surplus American wheat, but the Panic of 1857 resulted in a market downturn.  

Systems for transportation and regulation became further institutionalized.  A group of grain merchants established The Chicago Board of Trade, and the city became America's primary grain hub.   Innovations in cotton production allowed farmers in Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas to extend the cottonbelt and slavery to the west.

....more details to follow. 

Primary Accounts

New England
         Reports on New England Agriculture for the Year 1850
         Reports on Maize Grown in New England in 1854


         Reports on Maize Grown in the American South in 1854


Reports on Midwestern Agriculture for the Year 1850
Reports on Maize Grown in the Midwest in 1854
Pacific Northwest
Reports from Oregon Territory