Usher's steam plough, 1849.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Model. In the mid 19th century many efforts were made to design steam-driven implements for ploughing or tilling the soil. One example is the steam 'plough' patented by James Usher in 1849. Power from the engine was transmitted through a gearing system to the shares mounted on a central spindle. The resulting action of the ploughshares tended to push the complete apparatus forward in a similar way to the propulsion of boats by paddle wheels. Although the concept was highly thought of and publicised at the Great Exhibition in 1851, it was a commercial failure.