Although mowing the lawn is still the bane of existence for many people, the fact is that maintaining a clean lawn is much easier these days than it was over 100 years ago. Push mowers, riding mowers, and other equipment that we now take for granted didn’t exist back then, forcing homeowners to hire help who cut it by hand or stick with their unsightly, dirt lawns.
Have you ever been curious how lawn care went from livestock to lawnmowers? Let’s find out!
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Before the year 1830, having a maintained lawn was considered a status symbol, reserved for only the elite. Although some people were lucky enough to have animals that could somewhat maintain their grass, the majority of people with maintained lawns had their lawns trimmed with scythes.
These scythe men could keep the grass at an even and low level, but the cost of their services meant that most people simply couldn’t afford it. Fortunately, that began to change in 1830, when engineer Edwin Beard Budding invented the first mechanical lawn mower.
1830: A Great Year for Lawn Maintenance
Inspired after seeing a device used to cut cloth in a cloth mill, Edwin set out to see if the same principle could be applied to lawn care. Working with another local engineer, Budding used the cloth cutter concept to create the world’s first cast-iron lawn mower. Being made out of cast iron, this lawn mower weighed too much for a single person to operate, so it required one person in front pulling and another behind pushing to work. Thankfully, the weight of lawnmowers went down soon after, but in the beginning, mowing your lawn was a two-man job!
1842: An Improved Power Source
Building upon the original push lawn mower designed by Budding, a man named Alexander Shanks created a lawn mower that could be pulled by a horse, rather than a man. However, this design still required one man to guide the mower and created additional issues from the horse leaving hoof prints in the freshly-cut grass. To solve this, custom leather boots were made for the mowing horses, which they wore while working to prevent prints in the grass.
1859: Mowing Solo
Finally, in 1859, a lawn mower was created that could be operated by a single person without needing any additional assistance. These chain-driven mowers, designed by Thomas Greens, were known for providing quieter operations than its competitors. They came in a variety of sizes; some were only six inches wide! This gave the UK a far superior option to the heavier iron cast lawn mowers, but just overseas, more lawnmower ingenuity was taking place.
Amariah Hills patented the first reel mower in 1868, but the first popular model was actually designed by another man named Elwood McGuire. These lightweight reel mowers quickly took off since they were easy-to-use, widely available, and were eventually sold around the world. All in all, McGuire ended up selling over 25 million units and remained a top lawn mower seller until his invention was improved upon by John Albert Burr in 1899.
Steam to Gas
Steam-powered mowers had been invented back in 1890, but since they took a long time to heat up and were much heavier than their push-powered counterparts, they didn’t see a lot of commercial success. However, gas mowers (both in the US and in the UK) were highly successful. The first UK gas-powered riding lawn mower was created by the Ransomes company; the first US gas-powered riding lawn mower was invented by Ideal Power Lawn Mower Co. World War Two put a damper on their initial sales, but both companies eventually saw an increase in units sold. Sales skyrocketed after the war was over and well-tended lawns quickly became the norm for middle-class households across America.
In Britain, the British Atco company saw a lot of success with its line of push mowers. The same was true for Toro in the United States when they introduced their line of enclosed deck push mowers in 1948. Push mowers saw a big structural improvement in 1953 after the Briggs & Stratton company produced the first aluminum engine, which was far lighter than its competitors.
The Introduction of the Zero-Turn
The “Ride King”, a mower invented by Max Booth Swisher, became the first zero-turn mower to be commercially available in 1955. Unlike the zero-turn mowers of today, this particular model used a steering wheel, which would turn left or right as you adjusted the steering wheel. The zero-turn design we know today wasn’t invented until 1963. The inventor, a man named John Reiger, eventually sold his patented design to the Hesston company, who these days are known as Excel Industries and produce popular zero-turn mowers such as the Hustler line.
First Robotic Lawn Mowers
Autonomous mowers have actually been around since 1969, but they didn’t really take off until Husqvarna released the “Solar Mower” in 1995. This solar-powered robotic lawn mower was quickly replaced by another Husqvarna model when the company produced a battery-powered version, named the Automower, in 1998. These original models mowed in a disorganized, random fashion, but that all changed in 2012 when Bosch Indego came out with lawn mapping technology.
Lawn mapping is used by the majority of modern-day automatic lawn mowers. These days, more and more manufacturers are getting into the autonomous mowing game, so you can expect these to become more commonplace in the near future.
Wrapping It Up
As you can see, mowing your lawn in modern times is far easier than the labor-intensive methods of the past. When you’re out there in the hot sun mowing your lawn, remember, it could be worse—your mower could be made of cast iron!
With improvements being made to the designs of lawn mowers every day, we can only imagine what the next few decades have in store for us in terms of lawn care. Only time will tell, but for now, happy mowing!
Did you learn anything from this article? We hope you did! Feel free to leave us a comment below.
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