Little Bits of History

Get Off My Lawn

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 18, 2014
Edwin Budding's lawnmower

Edwin Budding’s lawnmower

May 18, 1830: Edwin Budding ruins Saturdays forevermore. Budding was a British engineer and inventor. He had seen a machine in a local cloth mill using a cutting cylinder mounted on a bench. The machine trimmed the irregular nap from the surface of woolen cloth in order to give it a smooth finish. Using this idea, Budding invented a lawnmower. Initially, this tool was used to cut the lawn on sports grounds and in vast gardens as it was superior to using a scythe. Budding went into partnership with John Ferrabee who paid the costs of development and obtained letters of patent as well as acquired the rights to manufacture, sell, and license other manufacturers to create lawnmowers. Budding was granted a patent for the lawnmower on August 31, 1830.

The first machine was 19 inches in width and the wheeled frame was made of wrought iron. The machine was pushed from behind and the rear land roller drove gears to transfer the drive to knives on the cutting cylinder. The ratio was 16:1. A second roller was in between the cutting cylinder and the land roller which could be adjusted to allow the user to control the height. As grass was mowed off, it was thrown forward and the refuse went into a tray or box placed at the front of the mower. It became apparent that a second handle at the front that would be used to pull while a second user pushed would make the machine even more effective.

Today, hand pushed mowers are still in use but the machines have vastly improved over the years. Many mowers today are powered by internal combustion engines which spin the blade or blades in order to cut the grass. Features have been added which also allow for further mulching which means the clippings do not need to be collected. Also available are bags attached to an exhaust vent which blows the clippings into the receptacle allowing for clippings to be removed from the lawn entirely. Push mowers can be used for smaller yards but also available are riding mowers with more powerful engines which move the machine while the user sits astride it and sitars.

Mower bots are also available. MowBot was introduced and patented in 1969 and had many of the features available in mower bots today. In 1995, the first fully solar powered robotic mower became available. The mowers are restrained by a boundary wire or by an optional guide wire. These are accessed from the bot which can use a radio frequency emission to travel across the lawn. It can eliminate wear patterns caused by an earlier method of mowing using only one wire. The bots are able to get through narrow passages where a more  traditional mower wouldn’t fit. By 2012, bot mowers showed a growth in sales 15 times greater than the gas-powered noisy, wake-your-neighbor Saturday morning mowers.

I grew up at my grandmother’s house and she had a beautiful garden. I used to hate mowing the lawn and weeding, which is what you do when you’re a kid. – Elton John

My mom said the only reason men are alive is for lawn care and vehicle maintenance. – Tim Allen

A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule. – Michael Pollan

I spend hours mowing the lawn in absolutely straight lines on my tractor. If it’s not right, I do it again. – Britt Ekland

Also on this day: 3,858 Years Old? – In 1952 Professor Libby dates the building Stonehenge.
Vicksburg – In 1863, the Siege of Vicksburg began.
The Count – In 1897. Dracula was published.
Separate but Equal – In 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson was decided.

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