The Rau Plow Model Collection at Cornell University and the Evolution of Plow Design

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This Cornell Associate of Professors Emeriti lecture was presented by Gerald E. Rehkugler on April 21, 2011. He was introduced by J. Robert Cooke.

Rehkugler traces the 5,000 year evolution of the design of the moldboard plow using scale models of the Rau Collection that was acquired by Cornell’s first president, A.D. White when he traveled in Europe in 1868. White presented these to the university’s founder (and chair of the Board of Trustees), Ezra Cornell. Rehkugler brings the plow story full circle to the ascendancy of minimum tillage and the diminished usefulness of the moldboard plow that had played such a prominent historical role for humankind. He uses the Rau models to illustrate the significant stages in the evolution in plow design.

Namely, early plows were simple, one piece wooden tools that later evolved into ones with metal points, handles, plow soles, knife coulters. Interchangeable parts, improved materials and the use of mathematics to study moldboard shape characterize the mature phase of plow design.

The streaming video is viewable in CornellCast: and downloadable in the item The Rau Plow Model Collection at Cornell University and the Evolution of Plow Design: A Lecture by Gerald E. Rehkugler.


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  • Item
    A History of the Agricultural Museum at Cornell University and Its Collections
    Rehkugler, Gerald E. (Internet-First University Press, 2014-01)
    At the beginning of Cornell University there was interest in acquiring collections of materials pertinent to studies at this revolutionary institution. Numerous museums were created with collections from all over the world. By 1873 an Agricultural Museum was established by the Trustees to house plow models, plant and animal engravings, veterinary teaching models, cereals collections, agricultural seeds and farm equipment models. Founder Ezra Cornell was an active participant in this venture. Here I have documented the life of the Agricultural Museum and inventoried and described the remaining artifacts. A pictorial directory gives a visual tour of the surviving items. I have researched the provenance of the remaining items to the best of my ability but I expect that there may be collectors and antiquarians who would have expert opinions about this material. Their critique and input regarding these materials would be welcome. Gerald E. Rehkugler, Professor Emeritus
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    The Rau Plow Model Collection at Cornell University and the Evolution of Plow Design: A Lecture by Gerald E. Rehkugler
    Rehkugler, Gerald E. (Internet-First University Press, 2011)
    In his lecture, “The Rau Model Plow Collection at Cornell and The Evolution of Plow Designs, ” Cornell professor emeritus Gerald Rehkugler tells the story of Cornell's Rau Model Plow Collection and illustrates the evolution of the plow over time in his April 21, 2011 presentation to the Cornell Association of Professors Emeriti (CAPE). The Rau Collection was acquired in 1868 by the first Cornell president Andrew Dickson White. The models trace the development of the plow from around 3000 B.C.E. to the mid 1860's. Supplemental resources include a written version of Rehkugler’s lecture, an English translation of the Directory of the models by Prof. Dr. Ludwig Rau, an 1868 letter from president White to Cornell University founder Ezra Cornell about the acquisition of the collection of model plows, an interview with Howard Riley by university archivist Gould Colman that includes a discussion of these models, brief descriptions of a plow that Ezra Cornell marketed and the plow intended to lay telegraph lines that he invented and patented. A selected list of Rehkugler’s own publications completes the supplemental materials. QuickTime videos of the lecture and supplementary materials use H.264 compression. One set is for Apple TV and the other is formatted for the iPhone (and QuickTime Player). These include the lecture, plowing using oxen, a brochure describing an event about plows and plowing sponsored by the Interlaken Historical Society and a brief description of minimum tillage cropping. Streaming videos of the main lecture component are also available online in YouTube at and in CornellCast at