In the early days of Dodge City, not only did cattle come into town from Texas, but many of the local land owners raised cattle. Without fences around their land, these herds of cattle were allowed to roam freely, becoming mixed in with other herds of cattle.
Then in late spring, the cattle men would conduct a round-up to gather all of the cattle and separate the herds. The post, 1878 Cattle Drives, discusses this process.
It was the work of only a few hours to “cut out” and separate the cattle and start the herds back to their ranges again. Every animal is known by its brand, so that ownership is easily determined, and those that have drifted miles away during the winter storms and become a part of other herds are picked out in a few minutes, claimed by the owners and started back to the range.
The Dodge City papers provided a way for the local cattle men to register their brands by publishing images and information about the owner in the papers.
After round-up, these cattle men had to brand the young calves in their herds. With a large number of cattle needing branded at the same time, these owners were in the market for anything that could speed up the process.
Thus, James H. Crawford’s installation of a ‘branding device’ appears to have been the solution.
About ten thousand head of cattle have been branded this season at the Crawford corrall, on the south side of the river, in the Parker machine. The capacity of this machine is about four hundred head of cattle daily. The price for branding is from seven to ten cents a head. This week one thousand head of Mathers cattle have been branded there. The machine is about twenty feet long and will hold from four to six head of cattle at a time. It is just wide enough for the passage of a full grown animal. When the cattle enter the machine they find on the bottom a wooden frame crossed by iron rods about six inches apart. when the machine is full the frame is elevated by pulleys operated by a horse. The legs of the animals are between the rods and presently the rods strike their abdomens and lift them from the ground, their bodies resting on the rods, with their legs swinging underneath. While in this helpless condition the branding irons are applied. It requires five men to work the machine.Kansas Cowboy (Dodge City, Kansas) 27 Sep 1884, page 5 available on Newspapers.com