A feed chopper cuts straw, hay, or oats into small pieces for mixing with other forage to feed horses and cattle. This helps the animals digest their food. An experienced operator on the original treadle version of this machine produced forty bushels of chaff per day. But the invention of the hand-crank feed cutter in the 1840s made the task easier. The crank turned two rollers. The soft metal upper roller provided a cutting surface for the straight, evenly spaced blades attached to the lower roller. The operator fed the fodder between the rollers. A heavy flywheel enhanced the crank action. Operators still had to feed the first rotary cutters manually, but improved versions came equipped with automated feed systems. Heavy-duty cutters powered by horses or steam engines had a capacity of 500 bushels per hour.
Markings on the hand-crank feed chopper shown above indicate that the St. Louis manufacturer Whitman Agricultural Company patented the design in 1868. The Zajicek family used this cutter on their farm in Collinsville Township. Joseph and his seven siblings helped their father, a Bohemian immigrant, raise hogs and run a sawmill business. The chopper cut oat stalks to feed to horses and mules. Anderson Hospital now stands on a portion of the former Zajicek farm.
- Butterworth, Benjamin, arr. The Growth of Industrial Art. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1892. Accessed July 26, 2018. https://archive.org/details/growthindustria00Unit
- Dickman, Frances. “The Joseph Zajicek Farm: Site of Oliver C. Anderson Hospital.” Manuscript, September 10, 1972. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.
- Dorrington, P.C. “The ‘Chaff Box’ or ‘Chaff Cutter.'” Antique Farm Tools. 2004. Accessed July 12, 2018. http://www.antiquefarmtools.info/page2.htm
- Israel, Fred L., ed. 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalogue. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1968. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.
- Killinger, Gib. “Area Hospital Site Abounds in Historical Adventures.” Collinsville Herald, January 27, 1982.
- Moore, Sam. “Origins of the Feed Cutter: Inventors on Both Sides of the Atlantic Develop Devices.” Farm Collector, March 2010. Accessed July 12, 2018. https://www.farmcollector.com/implements/origins-of-the-feed-cutter-inventors-on-both-sides-of-the-atlantic-develop-devices
- United States. Census Office. Report on the Productions of Agriculture as returned at the Tenth Census (June 1, 1880), embracing General Statistics and Monographs. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1883. Accessed July 26, 2018. https://www.census.gov/library/publications/1883/dec/vol-03-agriculture.html
- United States census records.