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Lawn mower History
Lawnmower History

The lawn mower was first invented in 1830 by Edwin Beard Budding, an engineer from Stroud, Gloucestershire, England.

He obtained the idea after seeing a machine in a local cloth mill which used a cutting cylinder (or bladed reel) mounted on a bench to trim cloth to make a smooth finish after weaving. Budding realised that a similar concept would enable the cutting of grass if the mechanism could be mounted in a wheeled frame to make the blades rotate close to the lawn's surface.

These early lawnmowers were all made of cast iron and featured a large rear roller with a cutting cylinder in the front. Cast iron gear wheels transmitted power from the rear roller to the mowers cutting cylinder. Overall, these early lawnmowers were remarkably similar to modern lawnmowers.

In the middle of the 1850's, Thomas Green and Son of Leeds introduced a lawnmoLawnmower Historywer called the Silens Messor (meaning silent cutter), which used a chain to transmit power from the rear roller to the lawnmowers cutting cylinder. These lawnmowers were lighter and quieter than the gear driven machines that preceded them, although they were slightly more expensive. At roughly the same time, Alexander Shanks of Arbroath introduced its range of Caledonia mowers and Ransomes introduced the Automaton. All were available with either gear or chain drive, and grass collection boxes were an optional extra. All these models, in various sizes and with minor modification, were in production well into the 20th century.

The next major innovation in lawn mower design was the introduction of the side wheel machines. Although invented in England, these machines were popular in North America where grass is often coarser than in Europe. They had cast iron wheels at each side which drove the cutting cylinder directly by means of ratchets inside the castings. They did not have a metal rear roller, and were very light and inexpensive to make, which made them very popular all over the world.

Motorised lawn mowing machines appeared in the 1890s as lightweight petrol engines and small steam power units became available. Although steam mowers were the preferred choice for a few years, by 1900 petrol engined lawnmowers were winning in the market. Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies introduced a petrol engined mower in 1902, and led the market until the First World War, although Shanks and Greens also made petrol engined machines during this period.Early Lawnmower

The period immediately after World War One saw an unprecedented growth in lawn mower production. Technology had advanced, companies needed to find new markets for peace time products, and customers were moving to new suburban housing with small gardens. 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 motor mower, launched in 1921 was an immediate success. Just 900 of the 22in cut machines were made in 1921, each costing 75. Within five years, Within five years, annual production had accelerated to tens of thousands. Prices were cut and a range of sizes was available, making the Standard the first truly mass produced motor lawnmower. Early Qualcast Lawnmower

Another company which became incredibly successful in the 1920s and 30s was Qualcast. Models such as its E side-wheel and Panther roller mowers sold in millions, at just a few pounds each, to people with small lawns who needed an economical and reliable lawnmower for a few minutes a week.

Surprisingly, seemingly modern ideas such as electric power and rotary cutting were all tried out in the 1920s and 30s, although they did not become popular until much later. Innovations in the 1930s and 40s led to lighter designs and smaller, more powerful petrol engines. By the 1950s lawn mower technology had advanced greatly and machines were inexpensive and generally reliable. The introduction of plastic components in the 1960s reduced costs further still, although traditional designs were similar.

The major innovation of the the last thirty years has been the rotary hover mower, made possible by widespread use of lightweight plastics and high-power, lightweight electric and petrol motors. The first 'hover' type mowers were introduced by Flymo in the early 1960s. These machines were blue and white, rather than the more familiar orange designs seen today.

Sadly, many of the old lawn mower companies have disappeared, having gone out of business, moved into other markets or merged with each other. However, the machines continue to attract the interest of collectors and enthusiasts throughout the World as well as in the UK.



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