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A New Machine

By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
October 2012

Building New from Old

"The credit for developing...the discer must go to a tremendous number of people..."
Hal Lewis, The Development of the Discer in Saskatchewan, 1964

Conventional tillage machinery, along with field practices of the time, contributed to the devastation of Saskatchewan farmland during the dust bowl years. In the 1940s, a host of farmer-inventors, blacksmiths and machine shop operators began to build machines better suited to local conditions.

Discers, as these machines came to be called, evolved from the old one-ways, disc plows and disc harrows. A discer left more trash cover, did not leave the ridging that farmers found objectionable and, because it required less power to pull, could be built bigger. Many were outfitted with seed boxes so tillage and seeding could be done in one operation.

Men standing with Johnson discer in field Field test of a discer built by R.A. Johnson, Kindersley, 1945.
Western Development Museum, 1-D(c)-33

First Commercial Discer

While small-town shops in several Saskatchewan communities built discers for sale, the first large scale production discer was manufactured by Canadian Co-operative Implements Ltd. of Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1946. It was based on a prototype designed by Hal Lewis, a farmer from Gray and lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan Agricultural Engineering Department. Lewis had lots of experience with discers through extensive work with farmer-inventors.

"I still look upon June 11th, 1945 as the day that the big swing toward discers started in Saskatchewan... During the balance of that summer and the spring of 1946, I saw and tested more than a hundred machines…"
Hal Lewis, The Development of the Discer in Saskatchewan, 1964

Cockshutt, Massey-Harris and International Harvester were quick to get on the bandwagon, sending their engineers to investigate what was going on in Saskatchewan. By the late 1940s, all had discers on the market.

Most prairie farmers used discers until the 1980s.

Lewis discer behind tractor in field Discer built by H.A. Lewis, prototype for CCIL, 1946.
Western Development Museum, 1-D(c)-27

'Disker Takes the Lead...' advertisement for Lewis discers Illustration from CCIL sales brochure, c. 1947.
Western Development Museum, CCIL pamphlet collection

Related WDM Research Papers:

Get Adobe ReaderResearch Documents are in PDF format and require Adobe Reader to view.

Changes in Farming Practices in Saskatchewan by Amy McInnis (WDM)

Innovative Implements: The Strength and Legacy of Saskatchewan's Manufacturing Industry by Amy McInnis (WDM)

Saskatchewan Farm Facts by Ruth Bitner (WDM)

Saskatchewan InnovationYou might also be interested in:

- More Saskatchewan Innovations

- About the WDM Collection

- How to donate an artifact