What did we do before lawnmowers?
Well we probably relied on livestock, cattle, sheep and goats to keep the growth of grass under control…
At some point the gentry thought it might be a good idea to have an area of neatly trimmed lawn around the home, and would have relied on a skilled worker with a scythe who could cut the grass at an even length. This would have been a huge status symbol.
Around the 1830s more people wanted to join the trend and a man named Edwin Beard Budding built and patented the first mechanical lawn mower.
Budding got the idea after seeing a cylindrical mechanism cutting cloth after weaving. The machine he built was a cast iron structure with a roller at the rear which connected to a rotating cylinder of blades via wheels and gears. This basic concept is still in use today on manual, push type mowers. Being made of cast iron it was very heavy and took quite some physical effort and sweat to get the job done. In fact the design called for a two man team effort, one pushing and one pulling, and was meant for larger areas such as parks and sports fields.
With this invention, more people from all classes saw the opportunity to have trimmed lawns. Even more significant was the rapid development of sporting codes for decent football pitches, cricket ovals, lawn tennis courts and bowls pitches.
Budding’s patent expired in 1850, and in 1895 Thomas Green created the Silens Messor, or silent operation, which took off immediately. Instead of gears it used chains which made a lot less noise. He also added on a clipping box. This was a huge commercial success with over a million sales before the advent of WW 2 halted production.
Variations on the theme continued with horse-drawn models to steam-powered options.
These steam powered machines were very bulky and it often took longer to get a good head of steam than it took to mow the lawn! Thus when petrol power made a debut it proved more popular. However, this occurred around the same time of the great depression which put the whole concept on hold, and it only really took off after WW2.
The first electric mower was developed in 1930, but again the time was not right and there was no demand due to the economic situation.
Electric and Petrol Mowers Post-WWII
The 1930 invention of farmer C. C. Stacy incorporated a spinning rotary blade in the horizontal position with a suspension system allowing for an even cut across the whole area.
Then experimentation with plastics and lighter weight aluminium motors continued to improve, with petrol mowers and the best electric mowers competing head-to-head in the consumer market.
The Future of Mowers
With the development of Artificial Intelligence, anything is possible — from radio-controlled mowers, to drones, and even fully automated smart robotic mowers.
One thing remains certain, we certainly no longer have any excuse for an untidy lawn!