machines: The threshing machine knocked out
the grain from the ears of corn.
This could then be bagged and marketed, leaving the straw as a separate
by-product to be used as livestock litter. When carried out by traditional
hand methods using an implement called the flail, threshing was a slow,
unpleasant and laborious process that could occupy farm labourers for
months over the winter period. Threshing machines first appeared, in small
numbers, in the later years of the eighteenth century. They encountered
some, and at times strong, resistance from the farm workers who saw their
source of winter livelihood threatened. From the 1840s onwards, with improvements
in design and efficiency, threshing machines became progressively more
common and the hand flail was gradually consigned to history. The machines
could be driven by wind or water power, or by horses, but the steam powered
thresher became the most familiar sight. They were eventually replaced
in the middle decades of the twentieth century by the combine harvester
which both harvests and threshes the crop in the field in a single operation.