Historical Markers
Doylestown Agricultural Works Historical Marker
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Doylestown Agricultural Works

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
Ashland St. near Main, Doylestown

Dedication Date:
October 23, 2003

Behind the Marker

Etching of McCormicks reaper on the inside cover of "McCormick's Reaper and Mower", catalogue.
"McCormick's Reaper and Mower"
At the time of the American Revolution the tools that American farmers used to plant and harvest their crops were little changed from those used by farmers in the days of Julius Caesar. Planting and harvesting, the threshing of grain, and the mowing of hay were backbreaking work that required many hands working long hours.

After the end of the American Revolution, Americans applied their inventive genius to easing the work of farmers. During the agricultural revolution of the nineteenth century, Pennsylvania inventors and manufacturers would provide improved plows, mechanical reapers, harvesters, binders, manure spreaders, threshers, cutters, and other labor-saving equipment.
Catalog page
Catalog inside cover, "McCormick's Reaper and Mower," circa 1860....

Pennsylvania was the early center of America's wheat belt, so it was only natural that its farmers search for ways to grow and harvest more grain as efficiently and cheaply as possible. In 1790, the newly created U.S. Patent Office issued its seventh patent to Philadelphian Samuel Milliken for a threshing machine.

In the decades that followed other Pennsylvanians developed new mechanical equipment to assist local farmers. In 1822 Jeremiah Bailey of Chester County patented a horse-drawn reaper with six scythes attached to a revolving wheel for the cutting of hay. Cyrus McCormick is celebrated for inventing the reaper that revolutionized American agriculture. (In the mid 1800s his mechanical reaper increased the wheat a worker could harvest in a day from a half acre to more than two acres.) But few Pennsylvania farmers could afford his reaper. Local demand for better tools created endless opportunities for small rural foundries and machinery shops to fashion the farm equipment and tools that would contribute to the mechanization of agriculture.

Most of these foundries were small and short-lived operations, but some, such as the Frick and Geiser companies in Waynesboro, the markerMcClure factory in Hopewell, and the Doylestown Agriculture Works (DAG) became important regional enterprises. Incorporated in 1867, the Doylestown Agricultural Works had started in 1849 as a small shop in which horsepowers (stationary machinery powered by horses) and threshers were manufactured by hand. In the decades following the Civil War, the DAG manufactured a growing variety of farm equipment that included feed cutters, corn shellers, and sawing machines. A versatile machine that could thresh beans, peas, wheat, peanuts, and straw, the Doylestown Thresher won first prize at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876.
Black and white image of Doylestown Agricultural works with workers.
Doylestown Agricultural works with workers

Another Pennsylvania farm machine to win an award at the Centennial Exhibition was the "Eclipse" farm engine, a thresher manufactured in Waynesboro by George Frick, who had opened a factory for the manufacture of steam engines for power mills in 1853. Both the Frick Company and the DAG were early manufacturers of steam-powered farm equipment.

First introduced in the 1860s, heavy and expensive steam-driven tractors called "steamers," appeared in comparative small numbers on Pennsylvania farms in the late 1800s. Another manufacturer of steam-powered farm equipment also located in Waynesboro was started by Peter Geiser in 1860. Manufacturing threshing machines on land he purchased from Frick, Geiser later produced the popular "Peerless" steam engine, the steam-powered Peerless gang plow, the "New Peerless" threshing machines, and other farm and sawmill equipment.
Agricultural Implement Manufactory Lansdale, Montgomery County, Pa., Heebner and Sons.
Heebner and Sons Agricultural Implement Manufactory, Lansdale, Montgomery County,...

In the early 1900s, horse and steam-engine powered farm machinery were joined and eventually replaced by the gasoline-engine tractors and farm equipment that accelerated the mechanization of agriculture. Geiger developed its own gasoline tractor in 1910, and the DAG constructed what may have been the first automobile made in Pennsylvania. At this time, the DAG was Doylestown's largest and most important employer. More than fifty workers produced farm machines, steam engines, bicycles, and iron specialty items.

The DAG also produced wrought-iron grill work, iron benches, other specialty iron work that sold nationwide, and the bronze gates that surround the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In Waynesboro, Frick went on to specialize in the manufacture of sawmill machinery and refrigeration equipment before closing in 1968.
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