Tuesday May 18, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Lawn Mower
On this Day:
Well since we are on the subject of summer activities, on this day in 1830, Edwin Budding of England signed an agreement for the manufacture of his invention, the lawn mower. All husband’s Saturday afternoons would never be the same.
The lawn mower was invented by Edwin Beard Budding in 1830 in Brimscombe and Thrupp, just outside Stroud, in Gloucestershire, England. Budding’s mower was designed primarily to cut the grass on sports grounds and extensive gardens, as a superior alternative to the scythe, and was granted a British patent on August 31, 1830.
Budding’s first machine was 19 inches (480 mm) wide with a frame made of wrought iron. The mower was pushed from behind. Cast-iron gear wheels transmitted power from the rear roller to the cutting cylinder, allowing the rear roller to drive the knives on the cutting cylinder; the ratio was 16:1. Another roller placed between the cutting cylinder and the main or land roller could be raised or lowered to alter the height of the cut. The grass clippings were hurled forward into a tray-like box. It was soon realized, however, that an extra handle was needed in front to help pull the machine along. Overall, these machines were remarkably similar to modern mowers.
Two of the earliest Budding machines sold went to Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens in London and the Oxford Colleges. In an agreement between John Ferrabee and Edwin Budding dated May 18, 1830, Ferrabee paid the costs of enlarging the small blades, obtained letters of patent and acquired rights to manufacture, sell and license other manufacturers in the production of lawn mowers. Without a patent, Budding and Ferrabee were shrewd enough to allow other companies to build copies of their mower under license, the most successful of these being Ransomes of Ipswich, which began making mowers as early as 1832.
His machine was the catalyst for the preparation of modern-style sporting ovals, playing fields (pitches), grass courts, etc. This led to the codification of modern rules for many sports, including for football, lawn bowls, lawn tennis and others.
It took ten more years and further innovations to create a machine that could be drawn by animals, and sixty years before a steam-powered lawn mower was built. In the 1850s, Thomas Green & Son of Leeds introduced a mower called the Silens Messor (meaning silent cutter), which used a chain drive to transmit power from the rear roller to the cutting cylinder. These machines were lighter and quieter than the gear-driven machines that preceded them, although they were slightly more expensive. The rise in popularity of lawn sports helped prompt the spread of the invention. Lawn mowers became a more efficient alternative to the scythe and domesticated grazing animals.
Manufacture of lawn mowers took off in the 1860s. By 1862, Ferrabee’s company was making eight models in various roller sizes. He manufactured over 5000 machines until production ceased in 1863. The first grass boxes were flat trays but took their present shape in the 1860s. James Sumner of Lancashire patented the first steam-powered lawn mower in 1893. His machine burned petrol and/or paraffin (kerosene) as fuel. These were heavy machines that took several hours to warm up to operating pressure. After numerous advances, these machines were sold by the Stott Fertilizer and Insecticide Company of Manchester and Sumner. The company they both controlled was called the Leyland Steam Motor Company.
Around 1900, one of the best known English machines was the Ransomes’ Automaton, available in chain- or gear-driven models. Numerous manufacturers entered the field with petrol (gasoline) engine-powered mowers after the start of the 20th century. The first was produced by Ransomes in 1902. JP Engineering of Leicester, founded after World War I, produced a range of very popular chain-driven mowers. About this time, an operator could ride behind animals that pulled the large machines. These were the first riding mowers.
The first United States patent for a reel lawn mower was granted to Amariah Hills on January 12, 1868. In 1870, Elwood McGuire of Richmond, Indiana designed a human-pushed lawn mower, which was very lightweight and a commercial success. John Burr patented an improved rotary-blade lawn mower in 1899, with the wheel placement altered for better performance. Amariah Hills went on to found the Archimedean Lawn Mower Co. in 1871.
In the United States, gasoline-powered lawn mowers were first manufactured in 1914 by Ideal Power Mower Co. of Lansing, Michigan, based on a patent by Ransom E. Olds. Ideal Power Mower also introduced the world’s first self-propelled, riding lawn tractor in 1922, known as the “Triplex”. The roller-drive lawn mower has changed very little since around 1930. Gang mowers, those with multiple sets of blades to cut a wider swath, were built in the United States in 1919 by the Worthington Mower Company.
In the 1920s one of the most successful companies to emerge during this period was Atco, at that time a brand name of Charles H Pugh Ltd. The Atco ‘Standard’ motor mower, launched in 1921 was an immediate success. Just 900 of the 22-inch-cut machines were made in 1921, each costing £75. Within five years, annual production had accelerated to tens of thousands. Prices were reduced and a range of sizes was available, making the Standard the first truly mass-produced engine-powered mower.
Rotary mowers were not developed until engines were small enough and powerful enough to run the blades at sufficient speed. Many people experimented with rotary blade mowers in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and Power Specialties Ltd. introduced a gasoline-powered rotary mower. Kut Kwick replaced the saw blade of the “Pulp Saw” with a double-edged blade and a cutter deck, converting the “Pulp Saw” into the first ever out-front rotary mower.
One company that produced rotary mowers commercially was the Australian Victa company, starting in 1952. Its mowers were lighter and easier to use than similar ones that had come before. The first Victa mowers were made at Mortlake, an inner suburb of Sydney, by local resident Mervyn Victor Richardson. He made his first model out of scrap in his garage. The first Victa mowers were then manufactured, going on sale on 20 September 1952. The new company, Victa Mowers Pty Ltd, was incorporated on 13 February 1953.
The venture was so successful that by 1958 the company moved to much larger premises in Parramatta Road, Concord, and then to Milperra, by which time the mower incorporated an engine, designed and manufactured by Victa, which was specially designed for mowing, rather than employing a general-purpose engine bought from outside suppliers. Two Victa mowers, from 1958 and 1968 respectively, are held in the collection of the National Museum of Australia. The Victa mower is regarded as something of an Australian icon, appearing en masse, in simulated form, at the opening of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.
The hover mower, first introduced by Flymo in 1964, is a form of rotary mower using an air cushion on the hovercraft principle (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
My neighbour asked me why I had bought a new lawn mower…I told him that my old mower just didn’t make the cut…
Second, a Song:
Here is Olen Juzo-Whitely, Ceo of Olentv, Artist, actor, photographer, videographer, singer, web designer, lover of life (per Facebook.com) performing his song “Cut That Grass”. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“My mom said the only reason men are alive is for lawn care and vehicle maintenance.” – Tim Allen
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky