Corn Picker

Patrick J. Lawler was a farm kid who didn’t like the hard work of farming. Picking corn by hand left him exhausted. But he liked tinkering with machines and dreamed of an easier way to get the job done.

By 1880 Patrick had drawn his ideas for a corn picking machine on paper. With the help of John F. Barry, a lawyer from Chicago, Patrick built a working model of his dream. Then on a sunny afternoon in 1885 a crowd gathered at the Lawler farm near Wall Lake to watch the strange machine pick corn. Neighbors were amazed as the horse-drawn picker poured out a stream of husked ears.

A Chicago manufacturing company offered Patrick money for the rights to produce his machine, but he and John Barry wanted to manufacture the corn picker themselves. They purchased a blacksmith shop and built two machines but were unable to sell them. Patrick Lawler's first corn picker was sold for scrap in 1932.

Adapted from an article printed in The Goldfinch 20, No. 1 (Fall 1998). Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.
© State Historical Society of Iowa



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