In honor of Black History Month, I like to highlight some of the awesome contributions that Black Farmers have made to U.S. Agriculture. Most of you have probably heard of George Washington Carver, but he is just one of thousands that have helped influence our modern farming practices. The one person in this series I'm are going to talk about is a man named Henry Blair.
Henry Blair was a successful farmer, born in Maryland in 1801. It is unknown if Blair was born a slave, but it is known that he was a freedman as a teenager. Blair's Maryland Farm was one of the most successful farms in the state. He was, however frustrated with how long it took to plant a field of corn. Blair, like many farmers in the 1820's still planted corn the way Native Americans did, with wooden hoes and jabbers. It took an entire day to plant one acre of corn with 4 farmers. Blair set out to change that and started working on the first corn planter. In 1834 Blair applied for a patent of his "H. Blair Seed Planter" and was assigned patent number 8447X. The first corn planter. Now Blair could plant 8 acres in a day with just him and his horse drawn corn planter. 2 years later he applied for another patent, the improved cotton planter. This was the first horse drawn planter to make and cover furrows as it planted. Almost all the literature that I have read about Henry Blair is that he is known for being the 2nd black man in the history of the United States to be awarded a patent. That's great and all, but are historians maybe glazing over the fact that this guy is the Father of the Modern Mechanical Corn Planter! If you are in the tech industry, then maybe Bill Gates or Steve Jobs are the guys you look at as the fathers of your industry. Well, as a farmer, Henry Blair is my Steve Jobs. I will never look at my modern planter the same way again. The next time you take a bite of corn, or put on a cotton T shirt, just remember that an illiterate, black farmer from Maryland who understood the need for efficiency is the person you have to thank. Men like Henry Blair are what has always made America great! Thank you Henry Blair.