factors had contributed to the widespread degradation of Alberta's wheatlands,
one significant factor was the very steam traction engines and gang plows that had been held
out as the best hope to bring those lands rapidly into production.
By the time
western Canada began its settlement boom, the standard steel moldboard plow
invented by John Deere in 1837 had assumed a variety of forms suitable to the
differing soil conditions facing the homesteader: share size and shape could be
matched to the kind of soil and ground cover. Sulky plows and two- or three-bottom
gang plows, allowed the farmer to plow a greater area in more comfort than the
single-bottom walking plow pulled by oxen or horses. A foot lift allowed the
plowman to raise and lower the plow bottoms with little effort.
agricultural machinery that could open many furrows at a time was available.
Gang plows with many plow bottoms came with levers called hand lifts to raise
and lower the bottoms and wooden platforms for a man to stand on to work the
levers. However, it was the power-lift plows that made the greatest impact. By
1900 many models were available. Large steam-lift or self-lift plows generally
included several gangs of four, five or six bottoms mounted in the same frame.
The power to raise or lower the bottoms for a steam-lift plow used a mechanical
drive and clutch system from one of its wheels. The normal power-lift gang plow
was characterized by 8, 10 or 12 14-inch bottoms. One of the most popular
in the Canadian west was the Cockshutt "Self-Lift" plow made in
Kenneth Tingley. Steel and Steam: Aspects of Breaking
Land in Alberta. n.p.: Friends of Reynolds-Alberta
Museum Society and Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, Historic Sites and
Archives Service, 1992. With permission from
of Reynolds-Alberta Museum.