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Leaders in Innovation

4 Inventors Who Advanced American Agriculture

Each year on Oct. 12, National Farmer’s Day is observed to honor and show gratitude to America’s farmers. This is also a great day to thank the many innovators who have contributed to agricultural progress and supported the essential work of farmers across the country.

Read on to meet four visionary National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductees who have made an impact in agriculture.


Cyrus McCormick

Hall of Famer Cyrus McCormick invented the mechanical reaper. This invention combined all the functions of earlier harvesting machines into one and allowed farmers to save time while more than doubling their crop size.

Born in Virginia in 1809, McCormick shared an interest in invention with his father, who had patented several improved farming implements but had been unsuccessful in perfecting a mechanical reaper. When the younger McCormick achieved this goal and created a model reaper, he patented the invention in 1834 and began to manufacture it in 1837. Six year later, he started to license its manufacture in other parts of the country. McCormick then established a factory in Chicago in 1874, founding what became one of the greatest industrial establishments in the United States.


John Deere

John Deere, one of the most recognizable names in agricultural innovation, was inducted into NIHF for his innovations in plows.

Deere, who was born in Vermont in 1804, developed the first successful self-scouring steel plow in 1837. To address the problems of plows being used by pioneer farmers cumbersome, ineffective cast iron models — he designed a plow made of cast steel that could efficiently cut through heavy soil. This plow was so successful that by 1846, almost 1,000 were being sold each year. In 1868, in Moline, Illinois, Deere’s business was incorporated as Deere & Co., now a leading manufacturer of agricultural and forest machinery, diesel engines, drivetrains for heavy equipment and lawn care equipment.


Harriet Strong

NIHF Inductee Harriet Strong, who invented a system of dams and reservoirs for water storage and flood control, was an authority on water conservation and irrigation, as well as an important figure in the movement for women’s rights.

Strong was born in 1844. She became the sole owner of her family’s 220-acre ranch, Rancho del Fuerte, following the death of her husband in 1883. She had four young daughters at the time, and she needed to make agriculture at her ranch a success. So after planting walnuts across 150 acres of her ranch, she invented a sophisticated irrigation and water control system that used a series of ascending dams to store water, with each dam reinforcing one dam above it.

In 1887, Strong earned the first of her five patents on inventions for dam and reservoir construction and irrigation systems. Because of her innovations in water conservation, walnut crops began to thrive in Southern California, and Strong’s walnut farm became the largest in the U.S. within just five years.


Benjamin Holt

Hall of Famer Benjamin Holt invented the track-type tractor, opening up the modern era of mechanized farming while also making an impact in road building, earthmoving, logging and military operations.

Born in 1849 in New Hampshire, Holt wanted to help farmers whose heavy equipment would often sink in soft soil. Because wheels were ineffective, Holt created a track-laying system to disperse the weight of machinery. He invented the first practical track-type tractor known as the Caterpillar® and commercialized its use in 1904. He then introduced gasoline-powered tractors in 1908, achieving more efficient operation. Holt Manufacturing merged with C.L. Best Tractor Co. in 1925 and formed the Caterpillar Tractor Co., which later became the modern-day Caterpillar Inc.


Meet More Inspiring Hall of Famers

For more stories of NIHF Inductees who have contributed to the success of farming and many more industries across the world, we encourage you to visit our blog.

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