From Coastside Chronicles by Marc Strohlein.
Necessity Breeds Inventors and Innovators on the San Mateo Coast
The San Mateo coast is known for its bucolic scenery and beauty—not generally for its inventors. Yet Half Moon Bay and the surrounding communities boast some interesting and colorful inventors and innovators. Given the importance of farming to the area, it’s not surprising that many of the inventions are rooted in agrarian applications. A common theme throughout the innovations is that “necessity is the mother of invention,” as all of the innovations described in this article are responses to significant “real world” problems and needs.
The most visible and colorful inventor was Robert I Knapp, a farmer, blacksmith, newspaper publisher, politician, and most notably inventor of the side hill plow. Knapp watched farmers struggling to plow their land on the coastal hills using Kilgore plows which were heavy, clumsy and difficult to reverse the blade after each row was plowed. The plows were also not durable and after having repaired many, Knapp decided to make his own plow in 1873.
It was so successful that Knapp had three patents on it by 1875, as it was lighter, sturdier, and far easier to reverse the blade after each row without having to let go of the plow. The plow won 14 awards at state and county fairs, and another award at the New Orleans World’s Exposition.