Crude and Curious Inventions at the Centennial Exhibition


(2.) Reaping, Thrashing, Grinding. — Having considered, in the previous article, implements for Lhe cultivation of the soil, we now come to those for gathering the crop of grain, and for preparing it for domestic use. A subsequent article will treat of implements used in the care and treatment of special crops.

In Africa and Asia inventive ambition seems to have been dead, or asleep, for two or three thousand years past. Similar tools to those which reaped the wheat in the time of Joseph are still used in the valley of the Nile; the culture of rice, which is the great food staple of tropical and semi-tropical Asia, is pursued in the same way that it was at the earliest historic period; the mode of thrashing in Syria is like that-practiced when Oman the Jcbusite had his thrashing-floor on the hill, and sold it to David for six hundred shekels of gold; the hand-mill used in Africa and Asia is like that with which Samson ground in the prison-house; the implement used for preparing food in Arabia is the same as that with which the tribes in the wilderness beat the manna in mortars, treating it as customary with grain to prepare it for baking in pans or in the ashes; the olive presses yet in vogue in Judea are unchanged since the time when Solomon agreed to give Hiram twenty thousand baths of oil in exchange for skilled labor upon his temple and palaces. The list might be readily extended.

The reaping tools we have to offer are but few. First, we may show an outlandish contrivance for cutting grass, though it looks much like what Samson might have wielded when he smote “heaps upon heaps” at Lehi. Figure 128 is a grass cutter, or reaping hook. made by a Caddo Indian from the lower jaw of an antelope (Antilocapra Americana). It is lashed to a bent sapling, and would make a reasonably good club after the harvest.

A still more primitive and much more agreeable mode of harvesting is pursued in Arancania, where the grain is gathered by hand, a young man and woman carrying a basket between them, plucking the ripe ears, and rubbing out the grains on the backs of the young man’s hands.

Taking Fiji on our way to Japan, we may state that the knife used in that country is a plate of tortoise-shell tied on to the end of a pole. The island yields no metal.

The rice sickles of Japan are shown in Figure 129, the blade of one beingset at a smaller angle with the handle than the other; one has a smooth edge, the other is a true sickle. They appear rather awkward to us, and less resemble our own sickle than the Angola tool (Figure 132). The Japanese sickle is grasped with the blade below the hand, just as represented on the Egyptian monuments ; so also was the Roman falx denticulata. A Hainault tool, used in Holland and Belgium at the present time, has a nearly rectangular presentation of the blade to the handle, as in the upper illustration of Figure 129. So the shape is both ancient and modern, was long ago used in Egypt, and is vet in Europe and Asia.

Figure 130 is a long-handled knife for cutting reeds which have their roots deep beneath the surface of the water. This enables the man to reach down and cut the stalks near the crown of the root. The Japanese exhibit showed the manner of weaving the reeds into matting.

Before leaving Japan we may mention — simply as a matter of curiosity, not for its crudeness — that the Japanese have a reaper, like what is known in this country as a “ header,” which sweeps along and gathers the heads of the grain, leaving the straw. A similar instrument, with a comb (vallum) in front of a cart (vehiculum), is described in Pliny’s Natural History, and by Palladius in his De Re Rustica, in the first and fourth centuries Anno Domini, respectively.

The Chinese use a crooked knife in the reaping of rice, which they dibble, six grains in each hole, and cultivate in stools that are cut singly.

Figure 131 is the Javanese reaping knife (ani-ani), a small instrument of peculiar shape, held in a particular manner. With it each individual ear of rice is cropped off separately. It is a slow operation. hut the natives persist in it for superstitious reasons. They told .Sir Stamford Raffles that future crops would otherwise be blasted.

The Singhalese reaping knife (guygoukopana-dakat) is a curved serrated sickle, straighter in the blade than our own, but immeasurably superior to the Javanese implement.

The grass cutter or sickle of Angola is shown in Figure 132, which represents one of a set of tools found in a miner’s camp when the Portuguese invaded the country; it is of steel, in a wooden handle, and was shown in the Portuguese colonies exhibit in the Agricultural Building.

The Roman stramentaria or falx mesSoria was nearly the shape of the modern reaping hook.

There are several crude modes of thrashing grain, and most of them were exhibited at the Centennial. We have illustrations from Japan, Tunis, Java, and China. The modes are the flail, the tramping of cuttle, the sled, and the comb; the beating with a rod, the rubbing with the hands, and the flogging of handfuls of the cut grain against a post are primitive enough and crude enough, but not sufficiently ingenious to merit or require illustrations.

The description in Isaiah xxviii. 27, 28, will apply just about as well to modern Syrian methods as to those of the time when the prophet wrote. Though the knowledge of the translators in respect to Eastern bread grain and methods was a little at fault, we can discover in the description the flail, the drag (traha, tribulum), the roller sled (plostellum Punicum), and the tramping by cattle.

Japan showed the flail: like the European and American instrument it consists of the hand-staff and the souple, connected by a piece of whang. The English implement, however, has one feature that neither the American nor the Japanese possesses : the souple of the English flail is connected to a swivel piece, called a hooding, on the end of the staff, and the thong is of eel-skin. The Romans used a rod or flail (pertica, fustis). Figure 133 shows the Japanese flail, and Figure 134 the mode of using it. A man is shown carrying the grain in baskets suspended from the neck-yoke which is so common all over Southern Asia for carrying burdens; to Speak correctly, he is just about to raise it to carry it in that manner.

The Wanyamuezi of Central Africa use for thrashing doura an implement made like the racket used in hall games in England and by the North American Indians.

The greater portion of the grain of the world is, however, tramped out by cattle. This is perhaps correct even of wheat; but the truth of the statement becomes very evident when we consider that rice is the food staple of nearly half the inhabitants of the world, and that it is more exclusively the food of its consumers than is wheat with those who use the latter. We have no room for a recapitulation of the names of the countries where the wheat and the rice are thrashed out by the tramping of cattle. The process is shown on the Egyptian monuments, is referred to in numerous places in the Hebrew law and history, and is almost universal throughout Asia.

The Malagasy thrash their rice by beating handfuls of the sheaves against a little mound of hard clay until the grain is broken from the straw.

The exhibit from Tunis showed an implement (Figure 135) which we might consider a remnant of the ages but that it is so common in Mediterranean countries, and has never been superseded there. It does not seem to have been changed in twenty-five hundred years. It is made of wooden boards turned up in front, and with spalls of flint set into the under surface. The sheaves of grain are opened and spread Upon the floor, and the implement — the mowrej of the Arabs, the tribuium of the ancient Romans— is dragged over the flooring of grain. Sharp pieces of lava are used instead of flint in Palestine. The effect is to grind the straw up into chaff, which is preserved for the forage of the animals; there is no hay in Syria. Isaiah refers to the implement in a graphic metaphor: —

“ I will make thee a new sharp thrashing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thrash the mountains, and beat them small, and make the hills as chaff.”

The implement was purchased for our National Museum, and may he seen in Washington.

Great care is exercised in the selection of a place for thrashing, and also in preparing the floor: the first object is to find a windy place, so as to winnow the grain readily ; the second is to make a hard floor, which will neither become dusty nor break under the feet of the cattle. This was attained by mixing clay with other materials, and then ramming them hard. Virgil recommends that the floors be spaded up and then mixed with chalk and cow-dung and beaten down. Pliny advises that lime slacked with the amurca of the olive be made up into a cement with the clay, and rammed down. Cow-dung and the marc of olives are still used in Southeastern France, the old Provence.

As the sheaves are thrashed, the grain and chaff are heaped in the middle of the floor to await a favorable day for winnowing.

Figure 136 is a ripple shown in the Japanese exhibit. It is employed in

Japan in thrashing rice and flax, and in the United States for stripping seed from broom-corn. Three thousand years ago the instrument was employed in Egypt in thrashing doura, a kind of millet, closely allied to the sorghum. This grain is the food of the poorer class throughout the Upper Nile Valley, and is said to yield two hundred and forty for one,—a rate of increase superior to rice. Travelers tell us that doura is worth in Egypt only about ninety cents the ardeb, which is scarcely six cents per bushel. As long ago as the time of Diodorus Siculus, who traveled in Egypt nineteen centuries since, the great increase of population in the Nile regions was attributed to the abundance and cheapness of food. He states that to bring up a child to maturity did not cost over twenty drachmas, — about three dollars. It must be recollected, however, that the relative values of money and food have materially changed since then.

Figure 137 is from the Netherlands colonies exhibit; it is either a hatchel or a ripple, — for splitting and cleaning coarse fibre, such as hemp or cochorus, from the latter of which jute is made; or for beating and dragging the seeds out of sheaf rice (paddy) or millet. In either case a handful of the sheaf or stalk is dashed down upon it and dragged through, the blades, which are set up in ranks in a frame, straightening and splitting the fibre, or removing the seeds, as the case may be.

The winnowing of grain in the crude way is by throwing up in the air the grain and chaff, in order that the wind may drive the latter away, or by raising the wind by a fan of some kind. The vannas of the Romans is still used in Italy for winnowing grain: it is a shallow wicker basket having two handles, by which the grain is thrown into the air and caught again, the chaff being blown over the sides of the basket. The pala lignea was the wooden winnowing shovel for throwing up the grain; the ventilabrum, the three or four pronged winnowing fork.

In Egypt there are no barns, next to no rain, and the wind blows up the valley all the year round. Very even conditions! The ancient monuments indicate that the winnowing was done by throwing the chaff and grain into the air, higher than the head of the man. Trays and scoops, used then as now in Asia, were made of osiers, palm-leaves, rushes, and the like, which were much more abundant in Egypt than timber.

Figure 138 is a rice scoop, shown in the Chinese exhibit in the Annex to the Main Building. It is made of osiers and thread closely interplaited, and has a frame and front bar of wood. It. is, in fact, an Oriental shovel; the Chinese have great liinberness of back and legs, and stoop or squat with great facility; we insist upon shovels with handles. Other scoop shovels are made of split bamboo, which is an elegant material. The Singhalese make their winnowing basket of strong matting, with a frame of tough twigs; their thrashing floor is of beaten clay.

We now come to three illustrations of implements not at all “ crude ” but highly “curious.” Europe and America are distinctly indebted to China for the fanning mill or winnowing machine, as it is variously called. Its peculiarity consists in the combination of a hopper with sieves, and an artificial blast of air from a revolving fan to drive the chaff away from the grain as it falls from the hopper and the sieves consecutively. The winnowing machine was carried by the Dutch from Canton to Holland, taken thence to Leith, in Scotland, then to England and America. The machine in Figure 139 Is a “ rice cleaner,” but it has the essentials of all grain cleaners and is the original fanning mill.

Figure 140 is a somewhat modified form from Japan. The grain is sorted into two sizes, the full and the broken grains.

Figure 141 is a rice cleaner from Japan, to remove dirt, dust, and imperfect grains. It is the typical form of grain cleaner, the first of which we have any account, being an old form in China and Japan. Not that sieves are a new thing, but it is comparatively new to place a sieve in a standing frame, at such a slant as shall produce the proper rate of motion of the descending grain, which is automatically fed from a hopper above.

The Chinese also use a small winnowing machine to ascertain the proportion of dust in tea; they call it a “ winddevil.”

There are three simple modes of grinding grain for bread: the mortar, muller, and mill. The first has the pounding action of a pestle in a deep vessel: the second has the rolling and rubbing action of a stone in a trough; the third has the grinding action of one flat stone moving circularly over the surface of another. Instances of each of these were afforded at the Centennial, and we will consider them in the sequence stated, which is probably that of the order of invention.

The mortar is the simplest of the stated forms, and in its crudest condition may consist merely of a naturally hollowed stone and a round pebble which is used as a pestle or hammer to crack nuts, acorns, or grain. Figure 142 is an instrument of this kind: a stone pestle of the Alaska Indians, used indifferently for crushing food, pounding spruce roots for lashing and sewing fibre, and for driving wedges. It is also employed by these northern Indians to rub together the berries and oil which constitutes a large part of their winter store.

Strabo records that the fish - eating population of the present Beloochistan, on the Arabian Sea, used the vertebrae of whales for mortars.

Figure 143 is another berry and fish-grease pounder of the Alaska natives. It is of stone, and its form shows a large amount of patient work. It is singular in having the peculiar handle which is characteristic of the Poi pestles of the Sandwich Islands.

These purposes are representative of a cold and seacoast clime, hut in the larger portions of the vast, continent of Africa the whole of the grain food is thus bruised in mortars in order to make cakes. This is true of tribes on the three great water-sheds of the Nile, Zambesi, and Congo.

The Dyoor and Dinka tribes of the Upper Nile have sunken mortars of hard wood, in which the grain, after having been pounded by pestles, is rubbed to a fine meal by the hands. The mortar of the Bongos is shaped like a drinking goblet with a cut stem. In this they bruise their grain before it is ground into flour upon the flat stones with a muller. The height of their mortars is thirty inches, and two pestles are worked alternately by two women.

The enterprising Makololo of the Zambesi plant maize, and the women pound it in wooden mortars into fine meal.

Figure 144 shows the mortar and pestle of Angola in the Portuguese colonies exhibit. The mortar is made from a solid block of some light-colored wood, and will hold about six gallons. The pestle of logwood is very heavy and is four and a half feet long. It is for bruising the sago of that species of palm.

Recurring now to Asia, we find the same prevalence in the use of this instrument. in both aneient and modern times. A group of women at their domestic employments is shown in a kitchen scene in the basreliefs of the Sanchi tope at Bhilsi, in Central India (date, A. D. 17). One woman is hulling grain in a large wooden mortar with a two-handled pestle; another is separating the flour from the husk in a flat, shovel-shaped basket like that shown in Figure 138; a third is standing at a four-legged table rolling out chapatties, or unleavened cakes; a fourth is grinding condiments on the sil with a bant, or round muller.

The Egyptian monuments show that the use of the mortar and pestle was habitual in the Nile land in ancient times, and the work was performed for hire in public places.

The mortar (pila) of the Romans and its heavy pestle (pilum) were used for braying when force was required; the smaller pestle (pistillum), with the morta-rium, for lighter work; a rolling motion was given to the pestle in the latter ease.

Figure 145 is a pestle from Hawaii, shown in the exhibit from that island. It is of stone, eight inches high.

Rice requires a different treatment from that usual with wheat. In its raw state it is known as paddy, and has a thick hull; inside of this is a red skin around the white kernel. The problem is to remove the hull and the skin without breaking the kernel, for rice is used whole and not in the form of flour.

The process is so well described in the quaint language of a Scotch sailor of two centuries since that it is worth quoting:

“ They [the Singhalese] unshale their Rice from its outward husk by beating it in a Mortar or on the ground; more often some sorts must be boiled in the husk, otherwise in beating it will break to powder. This they beat a second time to take off a Bran from it; and after that it becomes white.

“ Their Coracan is a small seed like Mustard-seed [millet?]. This they grind to a meal or beat in a Mortar, and so make Cakes of it, baking it upon the Coals in a potsherd, or dress it otherwise.

“ They beat [the pith of the tallipot] in Mortars to Flower and bake Cakes of it which tast much like to white bread.”

The paddy mortar of Japan, shown in Figure 146, is worked by the foot in the manner of a trip-hammer, the laborer having his hand upon the rail and working the lever with his foot. This form is also common in Bengal, at Ronggopur in Eastern India, and in many other parts of Hindostan.

The paddy mortars of Japan may he classed under four heads: driven by the foot, as in Figure 146; driven by waternull; used with a pestle, ns in Figure 144; and with a maul, as in Figure 147.

The Chinese also use a stone mortar and cone-shaped pestle for hulling rice. The pestle is moved by levers which are tripped by cogs on a cylinder moved by a water-wheel or by the feet.

Madagascar, like its African neighbors, and like Malaysia, with which its methods seem more particularly allied, also uses a paddy mortar. The paddy is stored in circular earthen towers, and is prepared in quantities as required daily. This grinding of the grain for every meal is always performed by the women, and is the practice throughout Africa as well as in tlie adjacent island of Madagascar, where the paddy is pounded in a wooden mortar about two feet deep, with a large wooden pestle about five feet long. Then the rice is winnowed and put into the mortar a second time in order to take off the yellow skin and make “clean rice,”—a process called whitening with us. We have machines for both hulling and whitening. There are a score or more of different varieties, of cultivated rices.

Another mode of grinding grain is common among semi-savages who cultivate it. It is by means of a muller and slab, the latter being known technically by its Indian name of metaté, a word derived from the Mexican metatl.

A fair specimen of this is shown in the grinding trough and muller of the Pueblo Indians of California (Figure 148), It is made of fine sandstone in the present instance, but several of different materials and grades of fineness are found in each household of these Indians, and for the finer meals the grain is ground in each in succession.

The Mexican metatl is a much more elaborate affair, being hewn with immense trouble from a block of granite, legs of from three to ten inches high being left in one piece with the slab.

The mill of the Zambesi tribes in South Africa is a block of granite (syenite), or even mica schist, fifteen or eighteen inches square and five or six thick, with a piece of quartz or other hard rock about the size of half a brick, and lowing a convex surface of somewhat less radius than the concavity of the larger stone, so as to have a combined rolling and rubbing action in grinding. A kneeling woman grasps the upper stone with both hands and works it backward and forward, continually supplying a little grain with one hand, the meal when ground falling on to a mat or skin beneath the lower stone.

Sorghum, maize, and wheat are cultivated by the Basutos of South Africa; their grinding slab is about twenty-four by twelve inches, and is somewhat inclined; the muller is oval-sliaped. The Wanyamuezi of Central Africa hull and crack their grain in the mortar, and grind it fine with the nictate.

The use of the implement is ancient and wide-spread. Schliemann found grinding slabs in the excavations at Ilissarlik; the metaté is the grinding mill of Araueania.

Besides the daily recurring domestic use for grinding grain for bread, smaller metates or mullers are used for preparing condiments, paint, and what not. Figure 149 shows two specimens of a very common form of muller, found throughout the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, and used for careful grinding, as fine meal or paint. The mullers are of various kinds of hard stone, and as symmetrical as if turned.

Figure 150 is a stone muller and mortar of the Pi-Ute Indians for grinding paint.

The Singhalese grind their pepper and turmeric with a muller upon a flat stone.

The industrious Pliny suggests that the course of invention in grinding mills was from the mortar to the mill, from the mortarium to the mola. The pestle was originally simply raised, and struck vertically upon the material in the mortar; then a change occurred and it was rolled around; this is the present form of the sugar-cane mills of India and the snuff mills of Europe. By grooving the pestle it acquired a grinding action and the mortar was shallowed; when the surfaces of the two stones were made of corresponding shape, the change was complete.

The mola of the Romans was the usual grinding mill, the upper stone revolving on the lower one; the grain was fed in at a hole in the middle of the runner escaping at the circumference, — what is known as the skirt. The machine is very ancient: two have been recovered by Dr. Schliemann, thirty-three feet deep in the excavations at Hissarlik in Asia Minor. The flatter one is of lava, the other of granite; and though they may not be fellows they represent respectively the upper and lower stones of the hand-mill. Many have been obtained in Italy; such were used in Britain during the Roman occupation, and the name quern, by which the implement is known, is almost uniform in nearly all the languages of Europe. The quern was not abandoned in Scotland until the commencement of the present century.

The Roman cribrium was a sieve of perforated parchment, or of plaited horsehair, thread, papyrus, or rushes, having interstices of the size required for the special work. Their flour sieves were excussoria and pollinaria ; the latter gave only fine flour called pollen. The sifting of flour was a daily work to prepare the meal for cooking; the manufactoring on an extended scale of bolted flour for sale was unknown. As a general thing, each family ground, sifted, and made up into bread its own supplyThere were no professional bakers in Rome until after the war with King Perseus, about 580 A. U. C. The horsehair sieve is attributed to the Gauls; linen, to the Spaniards ; papyrus and rushes, io the Egyptians.

The hand-mill of Tunis (Figure 151), shown in the Main Building at the Centennial, is a fair specimen of the grain mill of the north of Africa, Syria, Asia Minor, and the Greek Archipelago. The stones are rough hammer-dressed; the upper is moved by a grass-rope handle, being centred on an iron pintle rising from the nether stone. The grain is fed in at the central opening of the upper stone and issues at the skirt; the motion is reciprocating. The Roman mola was continuously revolving.

The quern is also used in India; and in Ceylon a mill (galle) resembling the quern is employed for grinding rice, corroam (millet), and other grain. It is turned by a stick planted in the upper stone.

The Siamese paddy mill follows the luern instead of tin; mola method, being moved by two persons at. the handle on the end of the long bar, who alternately push and draw it; the post a turns on a pivot in the horizontal arm attached to the runner. The mill is a curious blending of ingenuity and clumsiness. The grinders, both upper and lower, are not stones but hard clay, adobe seemingly, with sharp wooden slats inserted obliquely on their faces, so that as one moves horizontally upon the other a shearing action takes place between the two. which cuts the husk from the grain. The paddy is put into the hopper in the middle of the upper stone and works its way between the two, coming out hulled, along with the chaff, and falls into the trough of plaited cane strips, whence it issues and is caught in a basket. The clay grinders are both covered with basket work.

Another mill has also the two circular grinders in bamboo basket work, which is wrought around the upper one so as to form a hopper. A peg is set in the top of the runner; a stick extending horizontally and radially from the peg is attached to a bar pendent from the roof of the shed, and the stone moved thereby.

The rice is separated from the chaff by putting them together into a tray of rattan splits and throwing them into tinair, when the wind soon blows away the light, dusty hull.

The Chinese mill (Figure 154) is used for grinding rice, wheat, or other grains, or for disintegrating copper ores. The hole above is for the grain; that on the side for the lever by which the runner is moved.

The Japanese paddy mill resembles that of Siam, and a similar mill is used in China, though not shown at the Centennial. As with the Siamese, just described, the motion is reciprocating: tingrain fed in at the top escapes at the skirt into the basket trough. The face of the runner is furrowed in bands. The machine has a quaint look, and is very light, ingenious, and graceful, — an instance of the aptitude of the Orientals in the working of a different set of materials from those commonly used among ourselves.

Perhaps no better place will occur to notice the Chinese irrigating machine which was exhibited in the Mineral Annex to the Main Building at the Centennial. The buckets are on an endless chain, and carry the water up an in— clined chute. The chain is made of wooden links pinned together, and is worked by men who tread upon the arms on the crosses of the upper shaft, holding on with their hands to the upper bar.

The Chinese pump is also used in Bengal, the buckets on an endless chain moved in an ascending chute by the weight of men on a tread-wheel.

The jant of Dinajpoora in Eastern rocking canoe, so to call it, poised on a frame, and worked by a man and counter-weight. The man standing on the trough will put his foot on one side of the centre of vibration, and depress the trough so that one end will dip water. On removing his foot, the weight on the other end of the trough will cause that end to descend and tip the trough so as to discharge the water into the irrigation canal. The machine is available only in about eighteen inches of elevation.

Irrigation in Egypt, now as of old, is performed by the chutweh, or bucket swung by cords in the hands of two men; bv the shadûf, or bucket swung from the end of a weighted poised pole, the tolleno of the Romans,operating by a beam (antlia curva) and a bucket (situla) ; by the sakiyen, the wheel and a chain of pots, also known as the Persian wheel; by the taboot, in which the pots are on the wheel (the rota aquaria of the Romans), or the wheel has chambers within it (the tyjnpanum of the Romans). The chain of pots is the noria of the Spanish, the chapelet of the French, adopted by the distinguished engineer, Perronet, in pumping out the coffer-dams of the bridge of Orleans; the wheel with pots attached was the antlia of the Romans, and is common yet in Palestine and in China. The rope and pulley are shown as a well-bucket elevator on a basrelief in the most ancient palace of Nimrod, and one from Egypt, in a museum at Leyden in Holland, is made of tamarisk wood on a roller of fir; the rope is of leef., the fibre of the date-palm. The well-bucket, rope, and windlass are also shown on Roman bas-reliefs.

These citations serve to show the persistence of simple methods, and they have not alone been the means of furnishing subsistence to hundreds of millions in all ages, but from their familiarity have afforded subjects for metaphorical allusion in the poetry of all the lands where they are used.

“ Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl he broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern,” — the means for the support of life being made to stand metaphorically for the life itself.

Edward H. Knight.