You’re looking at progress.
It might be hard for you to imagine, but for farmers from the early 1850’s to the 1930’s this one invention made sweeping changes to their work life. That the cast iron seat remained largely unchanged for 80+ years is a commentary on the pace of change and the limits of creative thinking applied to an industry where work was defined by bone wearying, muscle aching tiredness.
After a few hundred years of trudging behind draft animals in the mud and muck, seats allowed farmers a bit of ease and greater effectiveness in their work. New farm equipment came with levers, and seats enabled the operator to control the machine and drive the horses.
In the early 1850’s companies made seats from wood, adding cast iron backs by the middle of the decade. The 1860’s saw the introduction of molded cast iron seats. While these were an improvement, the solid construction gave the farmer the choice of sitting on something that was hot, cold, or wet. Farmers had a well-deserved reputation for being tough, but some were getting tired of the jarring ride and looking for more comfort. In the absence of social media it took a while, but not too long, before implement companies began putting holes in the seats for the comfort of their customers. Enterprising folks in marketing realized the seat was a great space for the company names, which would be cut out of the metal covering the seat face. Seeking competitive advantages, some equipment salesmen would custom fit seats to the buyer. Still, most seats were bolted to the frame of the implement, which meant that every bump was transferred to the body.
The 1920’s brought an increased focus on operator comfort and there were designs featuring padded bench seats. Rather than experiencing a widespread adoption of the padded seats, iron seats stayed in fashion for a number of years. In a classic case of evolutionary changes versus revolutionary changes, equipment manufacturers didn’t change the seat, they focused on how it was supported. Instead of anchoring the seat to the frame of the implement, the new design featured a seat connected to a flexible steel band. The band might be straight or slightly arched and would flex under the weight of the operator. This improved design would hold sway until the early 1960’s when padded tractor seats came into widespread use.
Is it any wonder so many young people left the farm for other jobs?