Stories from PA History
Story Details
Agriculture and Rural Life
Once the breadbasket of North America, Pennsylvania for centuries has been a center of agricultural production and innovation. Blessed with a mild climate, abundant land, and rich soils, "the best poor man's country" witnessed the rise of scientific agriculture and regionally specialized farming that continues to be one of the state's most important industries.

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Overview: Agriculture and Rural Life
Chapter One: Grown in Pennsylvania
Chapter Two: The Pennsylvania Farm
Chapter Three: Changes in Rural Life
Chapter Four: The Transformation of Agriculture

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon Adams County (Adams) marker icon Benjamin Smith Barton (1766 -1815) (Philadelphia)
marker icon Chester County (Chester White) (Chester) marker icon Conestoga Wagon (Lancaster)
marker icon Crawford County (Crawford) marker icon Cumberland County (Cumberland)
marker icon Daniel H. Hastings (Clinton) marker icon Dietrick Lamade (Lycoming)
marker icon Doylestown Agricultural Works (Bucks) marker icon Eagle Grange #1 (Lycoming)
marker icon Edward Hicks [Agriculture] (Bucks) marker icon Evan Pugh, Ph.D. (Chester)
marker icon First Pinchot Road (York) marker icon Fisher House (Berks)
marker icon Flora Black (Somerset) marker icon Frederick Watts (Cumberland)
marker icon Galusha Grow (Susquehanna) marker icon Henry J. Heinz (Allegheny)
marker icon Honey Hollow Watershed (Bucks) marker icon Hopewell Historic District (Chester)
marker icon John Bartram (Philadelphia) marker icon John Beale Bordley (Chester)
marker icon Johnny Appleseed (Venango) marker icon Lancaster County (Lancaster)
marker icon Landis Valley Farm Museum (Lancaster) marker icon Laughlin Mill (Cumberland)
marker icon Lightfoot Mill (Mill at Anselma) (Chester) marker icon Lorenzo L. Langstroth (Philadelphia)
marker icon Market Square (Dauphin) marker icon Minguannan Indian Town (Chester)
marker icon Neshannock Potato (Lawrence) marker icon New Sweden (Delaware)
marker icon Northkill Amish (Berks) marker icon Pennsylvania Farm Show (Dauphin)
marker icon Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women (Montgomery) marker icon Pennsylvania State University [Education] (Centre)
marker icon Pennsylvania State University, [Agriculture] (Centre) marker icon Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike (Chester)
marker icon Potter County (Potter) marker icon Rachel Carson (Allegheny)
marker icon Ralston Thresher (Washington) marker icon Rural Electrification, Adams County (Adams)
marker icon Rural Electrification, Crawford County (Crawford) marker icon Rural Electrification, Tioga County (Tioga)
marker icon Rural Free Delivery (Westmoreland) marker icon Somerset County (Somerset)
marker icon The Woodlands (Philadelphia) marker icon Thomas Massey House (Delaware)
marker icon W. Atlee Burpee (Bucks) marker icon Williams Grove [Agriculture] (Cumberland)
marker icon York Imperial Apple (York) marker icon York Inter-State Fair (York)

Lesson Plans for this Story
Take your students back in history with these discussions and activities for the classroom

Story Bibliography

Original Documents
icon full text Thomas Budd on the Land and Climate of the Pennsylvania Colony, 1685.
icon full text Sale of a Pennsylvania Farm, 1792
icon full text Premiums offered by the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, 1800
icon full text John Bordley, from Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs, 1801
icon full text Sally Monro, on Farm Life in Sylvania, PA, 1830
icon full text The Homestead Act, May 20, 1862
icon full text The Pennsylvania Farm School, 1862
icon full text Francis F. Cable's Farm Diary, 1877-1884
icon full text Editorial in Praise of the Pennsylvania Grange, 1907.
icon full text "W. Atlee Burpee & Co,"  1915.
icon full text “The Seed Industry: Its History and Development,” The Courier, Bristol, PA, 1915.
icon full text Excerpts of Interviews with Migrant Workers, 1975

1000 Circa 1000 AD, Lenape and other Native Americans are raising beans, corn, and squash
1609 The Dutch claim the Delaware Valley as part of New Netherland and begin to establish trading posts
1638 The Swedes claim the Delaware Valley as New Sweden and establish farms and trading posts
1681 William Penn receives the charter for Pennsylvania
1765 First York Fair, the oldest county fair in America
1782 Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture established by John Beale Bordley and others
1790 1790s: Grain cradle and scythe replacing sickle to harvest grain and hay in Pennsylvania
1792 John Chapman travels to the western Pennsylvania frontier to become an itinerant nurseryman
1795 Lancaster turnpike improves transportation from Philadelphia to the farms of Lancaster County
1797 Neshannock potato first cultivated by John Gilkey
1797 Philadelphia businessman Charles Newbold patents the first cast iron plow
1809 Pennsylvania Society for Improving the Breeds of Cattle organized, the United States" first livestock improvement association.
1819 Jethro Wood of Scipio, New York patents an iron plow with interchangeable parts
1819 - 1825 Food canning industry begins in the United States
1820 1820s: York Imperial Apple developed by nurseryman Jonathan Jessup
1827 Pennsylvania Horticultural Society formed; today the oldest in the United States
1834 Virginian Cyrus McCormick patents his horse-drawn mechanical reaper
1837 John Deere begins to manufacture steel plows
1841 Moses and Samuel Pennock of Kennett Square patent their version of a seed drill
1849 Mixed chemical fertilizers introduced
1851 Frederick Watts becomes first president of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society
1855 Founding of the Pennsylvania Farmers" High School (today's Penn State University)
1858 Lancaster County mechanic Joseph W. Fawkes patents the first steam plow
1859 Evan Pugh becomes president of Pennsylvania's Farmers" High School
1862 Homestead Act and the Morrill Land Grant Act passed by Congress
1865 - 1875 Gang plows and sulky plows appear on American farms
1871 Eagle Grange #1, Pennsylvania's first local Grange formed
1873 Pennsylvania State Grange organized
1874 Pennsylvania Grange holds its first picnic at Williams Grove
1876 Creation of the Pennsylvania State Board of Agriculture, the first separate state agency for the administration of the agricultural laws of the Commonwealth
1876 H. J. Heinz Company introduces its own brand of ketchup
1878 W. Atlee Burpee founds company to sell seeds through the mail
1879 First state law to protect farmers against fraud and misrepresentation in the manufacture and sale of fertilizer
1882 Dietrick Lamade first publishes The Grit in Williamsport
1884 - 1890 Horse-drawn combines introduced in Pennsylvania
1895 Pennsylvania State Department of Agriculture and State Livestock Sanitary Board created
1896 First Rural Free Delivery routes in the nation are established in Pennsylvania
1898 - 1914 American agriculture enjoys renewed prosperity
1910 - 1915 Open-geared gasoline powered tractors introduced
1910 Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women established
1914 Flora Black organizes the Society of Farm Women of Pennsylvania
1915 - 1920 Enclosed geared tractors in use
1917 First Pennsylvania Farm Show held in Harrisburg
1925 Lancaster Sure Crop corn, a hybrid, emerges as the leading parent corn in the nation
1930 1930s: All-purpose, rubber tire tractors with complementary machinery in use
1931 Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot inaugurates rural road building program "to get farmers out of the mud"
1936 Pennsylvania's Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative places its first pole in Crawford County
1939 Honey Hollow Watershed conservation area created
1940 1940s: DDT introduced as pesticide
1941 - 1945 Frozen foods introduced by Clarence Birdseye becoming popular
1953 Henry and George Landis deed their farm and museum collection to the State of Pennsylvania
1989 Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board created
Edward Hicks paints "An Indian Summer View of the Farm and Stock of James C. Cornell"
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