The Henry Ford
Henry Ford Museum Greenfield Village IMAX Theatre Benson Ford Research Center Ford Rouge Factory Tour
Explore & Learn

pic archive  

Model Harrow
A spring-tooth harrow patented by
Hench and Dromgold, York, PA, 1895
ID 00.4.2456

January 2004

Harrows and Much More: An Uncommon Collection of Common Things

“I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used.”

“When I went to our American history books to learn how our forefathers harrowed the lands, I learned that historians knew nothing of harrows. Yet our country depended more on harrows than guns or speeches. I thought that a history that excluded harrows and all the rest of daily life is bunk and I think so yet.”

-Henry Ford


MORE: Harrows and Much More: An Uncommon Collection of Common Things


When Henry Ford formally dedicated The Henry Ford in 1929, his collecting predated the opening of either Greenfield Village or the Edison Institute, as Henry Ford Museum was known at that time. Beginning in the 1910s, he collected objects that reflected his personal interests in American history. He often acquired the common items of American life, and this helped him establish what is now regarded as one of the greatest collections in America.

The technological history of farming proved to be one of Henry’s favorite topics. When later explaining what he meant by his often cited “History is bunk” quote he remarked that he thought history focused too much on politics and war. He believed the American people ought to study the material of everyday life, including the progress made with farm machinery. It is a collection that The Henry Ford continues to build. It spans eighteenth century plows to combines from the 1970s, and includes miniature harrows and twenty-ton steam engines. It reflects how we went from a nation of farm families to a country where less than one percent of the population produces America’s food.

So what is a harrow? Harrows consist of a frame with a set of wooden or metal teeth, though later models had rolling metal disks. The implement prepares the ground for planting and historically followed plowing. In the case of small grains such as wheat, harrows were used a second time to work the seed into the soil after planting. Also, harrows can be used to remove weeds from a field.

Today, The Henry Ford maintains a collection of fifteen full-size and two model harrows. One of the miniature models is on exhibit in Henry Ford Museum, but will temporarily move to an exhibit called Henry’s Attic installed to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Henry Ford. The exhibit will open in March 2004 in the lobby gallery of The Benson Ford Research Center. You may visit and see a range of materials from Henry Ford’s collecting era or artifacts acquired by the current curators of The Henry Ford. We hope you get inspired to learn about harrows, history, and a whole lot more.

print version

Leo E. Landis, Curator of Agriculture & Rural Life


Copyright © 2015 The Henry Ford
The Henry Ford is an AAM accredited institution. The complex is an independent, non-profit, educational
institution not affiliated with the Ford Motor Company or the Ford Foundation.