The first hay carrier patent goes back to the 1860's and the hay forks were still in use up until about the early 1940's. Carriers needed to be simple, dependable and strong to quickly harvest the valuable hay crop. The forks evolved from primitive blacksmith-forged single “prongs” into multiple fork varieties.
Vintage hay forks like this one were used to lift and hold the hay from a horse-drawn wagon as it was suspended into the barn loft during the era of loose hay handling. The fork was then attached to a 'trolley' riding on a track which extended the length of the barn. A rope ran from outside the barn front, through a pulley to the fork, then through a second pulley and out the rear of the barn and hitched to a horse. Once the fork was set into the hay, the horse pulled the fork up to the trolley, into the hay loft to the desired spot. Once there, a person pulled a "trip" rope attached to the fork which let the tines fall to vertical, dumping the hay.
After years of hard work, our vintage hay fork is now in retirement and sits by our back door just looking good. Thanks Becky!
Hay carrier history is from an article entitled 'A bit about hay carriers' by Dennis McGrew & Doug DeShazer, 2012.