Animal Treadmills on the FarmHorses were used to power machinery at least as early as the 16th century. Stationary sweeps are illustrated and described by Ramelli in 1588, and, in Germany, by Agricola in 1556. In the early 19th c. most horsepowers were still stationary and fitted with simple low speed gearing. By the 1830's, in America, both portable sweeps and railway treadmills had evolved to power the popular groundhog threshers. Many forms of gearing were developed to increase the speed of both sweeps and treadmills as required by the evolving threshing machines.
Since the treadmill derives its power from the weight of the animal, rather than the draft, it proved particularly useful for smaller animals - dogs, sheep and goats. For heavy work, horses were hitched so both weight and draft contributed to the power output of the treadmill. Where only the animals weight was used, the amount of power could be controlled by adjusting the angle of incline of the track.
J.A. and H.A. Pitts patented a horse treadmill in 1834. "Pitt's Endless chain and cogband" featured iron chain links and many hardwood rollers to support the entire tread and prevent it from sagging.They manufactured this treadmill and also a sweep horse power to power their groundhog threshers.
E. Briggs, of Ft Covington, NY also invented and patented a horse treadmill July 12, 1834, for use with his threshing machines. The primitive chain consisted of u-bolts under each tread with loose connecting links.
M. Davenport, of Phillips, ME, patented a wooden cog belt treadmill on Oct 10, 1835
As treadmill development continued after the 1830's, one important improvement was the "level tread" design, where the treads remained horizontal, rather than sloped upward. This provided a surer footing for the horse, and less leg strain. The Heebners of Montgomery county, PA, first patented a level tread for their toothed chain treadmill in 1871. The triangular links allowed an inclined lower surface and a horizontal upper surface, resembling a mini-escalator. In 1883, the Heebners received another patent for an improved level tread, now using iron cross rods to secure the links on opposite sides of the track, rather than relying on the tenoned wooden treads to do this.
Dog, sheep and goat treadmillsThese small treadmills provided both rotary and reciprocating power to operate light machines like butter churns, grind stones, fanning mills, corn shellers, and later, cream separators. They generally use two India rubber or leather belts rather than iron links to form the chain of wood treads. The few surviving dog treadmills have become popular attractions at engine and farm shows across the country. And the dogs seem to love running the mills, much as a hamster in an exercise wheel.
Nicholas Potter, of Troy, PA, holds three patents for treadmills manufactured in Troy as the "Enterprise Dog Power". His first patent, of Feb 28, 1871, covers the adjustable pivoting track frame. His patent of Sept 21, 1875, covers the method of tightening the track and a windlass for elevating the track. This machine used a roller track, rather than the usual leather belting. Potter's third patent, of June 28, 1881, covers an adjustable and easily removable track frame. This is an advantage when repairs need to be made. This final design is typical of most surviving Enterprise treadmills.
William Emmert, of Freeport, IL, received a patent on Dec 14, 1875, for a windlass and rope mechanism for raising the rear end of the tread to adjust the inclination. An existing dog treadmill incorporating this mechanism is marked "Mfg'd by McDermaid, Rockford, Illinois".
Francis M. Travis, of Guiney's, VA, received a patent on Aug 22, 1882 for the two alternating rows of wood blocks attached to every other tread to stiffen the track. This method is present on the Enterprise treadmill of 1881 as well as others, so its unclear why this patent was granted.
Thomas Starr, of New Lisbon, Ohio, received a patent on Dec 1, 1868, for a dog power in which the track tension was adjusted by placing the rear shaft in different notches in the track frame. The inclination was adjusted by securing the track frame at different points in the vertical frame which was provided with a series of bolt holes for this purpose. This notched track frame is present in an unmarked, but quite early dog power made almost entirely from wood.
An unusual dog treadmill was patented by Frederick Traxler, of Dansville, NY, on April 23, 1878. The dog power was directly connected to a fanning mill. The treads were scooped out in the center of their upper surface to keep the dog walking in the center of the track.
Another unusual dog treadmill was patented by James McCreary, of New Brighton, PA, Nov 22, 1887. This compact machine folded up for storage and transport. It's flywheel was at the center of the track rather than at one end.
Mark Thompson and John Kucher, of Athens, PA, patented a heavy duty dog power on March 24, 1885. Their main claim was the method of adjusting the inclination of the track by means of a lever and notched brace.
Jefferson Wilson, of Beaver Falls PA, patented a treadmill churn power on Sept 21, 1880. Designed to fold into a small space, this machine also featured an inner ring gear on the track drum, which was geared to the flywheel for increased speed.
This early treadmill is made almost entirely of wood. The track tension adjustment is simply several notches in the horizontal frame in which the rear axle can be dropped. In the photo on the right, track tension is relieved by lifting the axle out of the slot and moving it forward.
This dog treadmill is marked “Mfg’d by McDermaid, Rockford, IL”. The track inclination is adjusted by means of a ratchet and crank winding up a rope attached to the rear end of the track frame. This mechanism was patented by William Emmert, of Freeport, IL, Dec 14, 1875.
The treadmill on the right is on display at the Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan
A Horse treadmill on display at Hancock Shaker Village.
The roller track on an early Enterprise dog treadmill patented by Nicholas Potter on Sept 21, 1875.
A horse treadmill with iron wheeled track. Each pair of wheels are mounted on an iron rod which also acts as a hinge pin between each pair of treads.
This heavy treaded horse treadmill runs on a wheeled track. The wood treads are tenoned into the cast links, forming an inclined track.
An early dog treadmill made almost entirely of wood. Note the single solid wood wheel at the rear of the track and the narrow canvas tread.
A horse treadmill made by Minard Harder of Cobleskill, N.Y. Note the decorative turned spindles on the top railing! The flywheel is fitted with the Crown governor, patented in 1885. Harder also made dog treadmills.
Another one horse treadmill with roller treads. Notice the track guide on the rear end of the track, instead of a wheel.
The Champion One Horse Power
The Champion one horse power is the power formerly made by Buckwalter & Co., and was known by the name of "Buckwalter Power". It is the power that was gotten up and manufactured by them for nearly 20 years. It was the first improved power made to Carry the chain over without cogs in the links. The sprocket gear or double gear, as it is termed, was patented by Buckwalter & Co., and no manufacturer could use this gear unless they paid a royalty. To escape this, unscrupulous parties evaded the law and imitated the genuine; but, as poor material was used, the powers were a failure, clumsily constructed and causing the machine to run very hard. It is an acknowledged fact by farmers and manufacturers of machinery that the Champion or Buckwalter's powers are the lightest running powers made. For durability and workmanship, it cannot be excelled. The lumber used is of the very best. The rods are all of steel and turned from one end to the other, giving them a perfect smooth bearing. Its links are of the best malleable iron and bored on a machine constructed for that purpose, making them all uniform in every way, so there can be no twist or bind in them. This is the main thing in making a power run easily. The wheels are of cast iron, bored out and turned to a smooth surface. The lags are made of the best maple lumber, 2 1/2" in thickness by 7 1/2" wide, with groove in the center to prevent the horse from slipping. A perfectly smooth horse can be used on this floor, thus saving time of going to the smith shop preparatory to threshing. The power has a worldwide reputation, and is therefore, the champion of the world. They are made in two styles, the level tread and the old style incline.