Curiosities from 150 years of The Engineer archive

Based on the work of a US correspondent, this article demonstrates that The Engineer of 1885 was even capable of satire.

The piece puts forward what appears to be a spoof patent application for a corn planter, in which a horse, its tubby owner and even a stray dog form part of the application.

The basic principle behind the system sounds plausible. Small boxes containing seeds are attached to the horse's forelegs. Ropes fastened to catches in the sides of the boxes run through pulleys attached to the saddle and then to pulleys on the horse's hind legs. The idea was that as the horse moved forward each step of the hind legs would open the boxes, allowing seeds to fall into the holes made by the front hooves.

However, it is the claims made by the inventor that reveal the light-hearted nature of the application. 'I claim the horse, in combination with corpulent driver, prevents his travelling too fast,' reports the article.

The Engineer is particularly amused by the inventor's claim over the tail, which he says, can be used to frighten the crows 'when arranged vertically'. The article suggests that this claim may actually be valid, 'being due to the vertical arrangement.'

However, the magazine notes that despite the comical nature of the system, 'the invention is quite as likely to prove useful as a great many which obtain official sanction.'