Skip to main content
First Self-Propelled Combine
Sub Category
Date Created
Tulare County Museum
27000 S Mooney Blvd

George Stockton Berry (1847-1917) of Lindsay, Tulare County, California designed, built, and in 1886, operated the first self-propelled combine. He was granted a U.S. Patent (# 374,339) in1887. The Berry design embodied the following "firsts":

1. Self-propelled combine.
2. Combine powered by a straw-burning steam boiler - it was "fueled from the land".
3. Tractor that traveled forward for plowing and in the reverse direction for harvesting.
4. Traction engine with power turning, using differential gears instead of conventional wheel clutches.
5. "Power Take-Off", using steam from the traction engine boiler to power an independent engine that drove the harvesting mechanism.

In 1888, equipped with a 40 feet header, and using nighttime lighting, one of Berry's combines harvested more than 100 acres per day. Berry built six such machines, establishing the advantages of enhanced performance, reduced costs and good maneuverability for large, self-propelled combines. Many features of these machines were adopted by West Coast manufacturers after Berry went into politics, and have influenced design of later combines, both self‑propelled and towed.

We hope you enjoyed this essay.

Please support America's only magazine of the history of engineering and innovation, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to Invention & Technology.


Stay informed - subscribe to our newsletter.
The subscriber's email address.