Original Document
Original Document
Premiums offered by the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, 1800


The Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, was formed in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty five, by some citizens, only a few of whom were actually engaged in husbandry, but who were convinced of its necessity; and of the assistance which such an association, properly attended to, would afford to the interests of agriculture. The society continued to meet regularly, for several years;–and published numerous communications from practical men, in the news papers of the day, on various interesting subjects; and thereby contributed to diffuse the knowledge of many improvements in agriculture; the general adoption whereof, has visibly tended to increase the product, and to improve the qualities of the soil of Pennsylvania.

The continuance of a long war with Great Britain had effectually precluded all friendly intercourse, and prevented the receipt of all information from that country, (in a language generally understood here) not only of the improvements in agriculture there existing, but of those in other European countries, wherein the practice and principles of good husbandry are universally attended to. The system generally pursued here at that time, was bad in the extreme. It consisted in a series of exhausting grain crops, with scarcely any interruption, for several years; after which, the land was abandoned to weeds and natural grass, under the fallacious idea of rest; and, when completely worn out, new land was cleared, and the same wretched system pursued. A natural meadow, or one artificially watered, supplied more or less of hay; but where these resources were wanting, the purchase of winter fodder was made from the hard earnings and savings in other products; or the poor animals fed on straw, and the scanty pickings in the fields.–Since the introduction of red clover, and other artificial grasses, a great and obvious change has taken place; and the most beneficial consequences have followed. The comforts of the farmer are greatly increased, and abundant supplies of summer and winter food for all domestic animals, are furnished. Thus, by the manure obtained, ample means are afforded, of renewing the original strength of the soil. Among other measures tending to produce this happy alteration, the general use of gypsum may be mentioned, as one of the most important: for although this substance had been introduced many years before the date of our institution, yet its use was chiefly confined to the vicinity of Philadelphia. The society reflect with patriotic pleasure, upon their agency in diffusing more extensively the knowledge of its effects upon land; and in assisting to dispel the prejudices which unfortunately prevailed against it, by the publication of the communications of practical men, containing the result of their experience with that valuable substance.

Premiums were also proposed and conferred, for the elucidation of subjects upon which information was required, for the adoption of approved systems and modes of European culture, and practices, and for the improvement of certain articles of domestic manufacture. Among the latter, cheese may be mentioned; for the best sample of which, and greatest quantity, a gold medal was presented to Mr. Mathewson of Rhode Island, in the year 1790; the consequence of this distinction by the society, was a laudable competition among dairy men, and an increased demand, owing to the striking improvement, in the quality of the article, and a rise in price, so as amply to reward, and extend the manufacture, and in a great degree, preclude the necessity of importation. At the present day no occasion exists, for the importation of cheese from Europe, for general consumption, or as an indispensable supply. Importations on a less scale, continue to be made, but these are in a small proportion to the quantity produced, and manufactured from our own dairies.

After several years of active exertions, the society was unfortunately permitted to fall into a long sleep; but was again revived, in the winter of 1804, and now holds regular meetings. New subjects for premiums have been proposed, as will be seen by the present volume, and have been several months in circulation: numerous communications have been received; from which those now published, are a selection; and some papers before published are added; as being thought worthy of preservation, in our collection. As it is the wish of the society to pursue its labours, with all the zeal due to the importance of the object, for which it was instituted, the communications of all practical agriculturists, upon whose support the usefulness of the Society will in a great measure depend, are earnestly solicited. The example being once set, will be followed by others; and thus, a body of information will be collected; which may essentially benefit the country. The pursuits of the industrious farmer, being more of a practical than a literary nature, he may be induced to think that he is not qualified to give a written account of his improvements, but let not such be backward. The Society are in want of facts, and they care not in what stile of language they are communicated. Criticism is missapplied, and out of place, on such occasions. The communications of philosophical and literary characters, on any points contributory to the elucidation of subjects connected with agriculture, will be highly beneficial and gratifying. ...

Premiums Proposed by the Philadelphia Society

The rotation of crops having been found in England constantly to improve the soil instead of exhausting it–and the society being persuaded, that to this management alone is to be attributed the great comparative products of that country–they esteem it of the first importance to America to gain a knowledge of the theory and practice of so admirable a system.–Within the limits of this article, it is impossible to state, with any useful degree of precision, principles, which, after all, must vary with circumstances–but knowing that some farmers, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, have already made themselves acquainted with this mode of husbandry, and that it is as much the interest, as it is within the power of all to obtain the necessary knowledge–the society, without attempting to lay down any particular directions, offer–For the best experiment of a five years course of crops–a piece of plate, of the value of two hundred dollars, inscribed with the name and the occasion; and for the experiment made of a like course of crops, next in merit–a piece of plate, likewise inscribed, of the value of one hundred dollars.

II. The importance of complete farm or fold-yards, for sheltering and folding cattle–and of the best method of conducting the same, so as to procure the greatest quantities of compost, or mixed dung and manure, from within the farm, induces the society to give for the best design of such a yard, and method of managing it, practicable by common farmers–a gold medal. and for the second best–a silver medal.

III. For the best method of raising hogs, from the pig, in pens or sties, from experience; their sometimes running in a lot or field not totally excluded, if preferred–a gold medal; and for the second best–a silver medal.

IV. For the best method of recovering worn out fields to a more hearty state, within the power of common farmers, without dear or far-fetched manures; but by judicious culture, and the application of materials common to the generality of farms; founded in experience–a gold medal; and for the second best–a silver medal.

V. For the best information, the result of actual experience, for preventing damage to crops by insects; especially the Hessian-fly, the wheat-fly, or fly-weevil, the pea-bug, and the com chinch-bug or fly–a gold medal; a silver medal for the second best.

Vl. For the best comparative experiments on the culture of wheat, by sowing it in the common broad-cast way, by drilling it, and by setting the grain, with a machine, equidistant; the quantities of seed and produce proportioned to the ground, being noticed–a gold medal; for the second best–a silver medal.

VII. For an account of a vegetable food that may be easily procured and preserved, and that best increases milk in cows and ewes, in March and April, founded on experiment–a gold medal; for the second best–a silver medal.

VIII. For the greatest quantity of ground, not less than one acre, well fenced, producing locust trees, growing in 1791, from seed sown after April 5th, 1785; the trees to be of the sort used for posts and trunnels, and not fewer than 1500 per acre–a gold medal; for the second–a silver medal.

IX. The society believing that very important advantages would be derived from the general use of oxen, instead of horses, in husbandry and other services; and being desirous of facilitating their introduction into all these states; persuaded also, that the comparative value of oxen and cows must very much depend on the qualities of their sires and dams; and that by a careful attention to the subject, an improved breed may be obtained; they propose a gold medal for the best essay, the result of experience, on the breeding, feeding, and management of cattle, for the purpose of rendering them most profitable for the dairy, and for beef, and most docile and useful for the draught; and for the next best–a silver medal.

N. B. Among other things the essay should notice the different breeds of cattle, and their comparative qualities; as their sizes, strength, facility in fattening, quantity of milk, &c.

X. It is a generally received opinion, that horses in a team travel much faster than oxen; yet some European writers on husbandry mention many instances, in which it appeared, not only that oxen would plough as much ground as an equal number of horses, but also travel as fast with a loaded carriage: particularly when, instead of yokes and bows, they were geared in horse-harness, with such variations as were necessary to adapt it to their different shape. To ascertain the powers of oxen in these particulars, and the expence of maintaining them, the society deem matters of very great moment; and are therefore induced to offer a gold medal for the best set of experiments, undertaken with that view; and for the next best, a silver medal. In relating these experiments, it will be proper to describe the age and size of the oxen, their plight, the kinds and quantities of their food, the occasions, manner, and expence of shoeing them; in travelling, the kinds of carriages used, and weight of their loads, and seasons of the year, and the length and quality of the roads: and, in ploughing, the size and fashion of the plough, the quality of the soil, the depth of the furrows, and the quantities ploughed: and, in every operation, the time expended, and number and sorts of hands employed in performing it; with any other circumstances which may more fully elucidate the subject. These experiments will enable the essayist to determine what will be the best form and construction of yokes and bows, and what of ox-harness, to enable oxen, with the best carriage of their bodies and heads, the most ease, and quickest step, to draw the heaviest loads, a description of each of which sort of gears, explained on mechanical principles, must be subjoined to the account of experiments.

Xl. For the best method, within the power of common farmers, of recovering old gullied fields to an hearty state, and such uniformity, or evenness of surface, as will again render them fit for tillage; or where the gullies are so deep and numerous as tO render such recovery impracticable, for the best method of improving them, by planting trees, or otherwise, so as to yield the improver a reasonable profit for his expences therein, founded on experiment–a gold medal; and for the next best–a silver medal.

Xll. For the best cheese, not less than five hundred pounds weight, made on one farm within the United States, and which shall be produced to the society by the first day of January, 1792–a gold medal–and for the next greatest quantity, not less than two hundred and fifiy pounds weight, of equal quality–a silver medal.

Xlll. The society believing that the culture of hemp on some of the low rich lands in the neighbourhood of this city, may be attempted with advantage, do hereby offer a gold medal for the greatest quantity of hemp raised within ten miles of the city of Philadelphia. The quantity not to be less than three ton; for the second greatest quantity–a silver medal.

It will be left to the choice of those successful candidates for prizes, who may be entitled to the plate or gold medals, to receive the same either in plate or medals, or the equivalent in money.

The claim of every candidate for a premium is to be accompanied with, and supported by, certificates of respectable persons of competent knowledge of the subject. And it is required, that the matters, for which premiums are offered, be delivered in without names, or any intimation t6o whom they belong; that each particular thing be marked in what manner the claimant thinks fit; such claimant sending with it a paper sealed up, having on the outside a corresponding mark, and on the inside the claimant's name and address.

Respecting experiments on the products of land, the circumstance of the previous and subsequent state of the ground, particular culture given, general state of the weather, will be proper to be in the account exhibited. Indeed in all experiments and reports of facts, it will be well to particularize the circumstances attending them. It is recommended that reasoning be not mixed with the facts; after stating the latter, the former may be added, and will be acceptable.

Although the society reserve to themselves the power of giving, in every case, either one or the other of the prizes, (or premiums) as the performance shall be adjudged to deserve, or of withholding both, if there be no merit, yet the candidates may be assured, that the society will always judge liberally of their several claims.

Credit: Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, Memoirs, Philadelphia, 1800.
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