Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Cast Iron Plow

Jethro Wood appears in our 1800 census. For many years until his death in 1834, he resided in Scipio in a house now on the National Register of Historic Places, about a mile west of Poplar Ridge.
Jethro obtained letters patent on September 1, 1819 for developing a cast iron plough. His adaptive invention revolutionized the farming industry, but he never received the credit or payment he deserved. Much information is available on his struggles.
While browsing the NYS Library one afternoon, I found a Petition to the 29th Congress made by the executrix and executors of Jethro's estate. Filed January 12, 1846, it was a petition for a renewal of their patent for an improvement in the construction of the plough.
The petition outlines how Jethro went about developing his version of a better plough, using cast iron rather than the heavy and expensive wrought iron in use at the time that required regular resharpening. It also states his plough cost only six dollars instead of eighteen.
The Petition tells a sad story of a man who died early and mostly penniless, leaving behind his widow Sylvia (daughter of Slocum Howland), and sons Benjamin and John, one of whom had to go to prison apparently for spending everything he had in costly litigation to defend his father's patent.

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