Greener Pastures: The Story of the First Lawn Mower

Lawn Mower Cutting Grass
Billy Currie Photography/Getty Images

Formal lawns made of short, well-maintained grass first appeared in France around the 1700s, and the idea soon spread to England and the rest of the world. But the methods of maintaining lawns were labor-intensive, inefficient or inconsistent: Lawns were first kept clean and tidy by having animals graze on the grass, or by the use of scythe, sickle, or shears to hand-cut the grass lawns.

That changed in the mid-19th century with the invention of the lawnmower. 

"Machine for Mowing Lawns"

The first patent for a mechanical lawn mower described as a "Machine for mowing lawns, etc." was granted on August 31, 1830, to engineer, Edwin Beard Budding (1795-1846) from Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. Budding's design was based on a cutting tool used for the uniform trimming of carpet. It was a reel-type mower that had a series of blades arranged around a cylinder. John Ferrabee, owner of Phoenix Foundry at Thrupp Mill, Stroud, first produced the Budding lawn mowers, which were sold to the Zoological Gardens in London (see illustration).

In 1842, Scotsman Alexander Shanks invented a 27-inch pony drawn reel lawn mower.

The first United States patent for a reel lawn mower was granted to Amariah Hills on January 12, 1868. Early lawn mowers were often designed to be horse-drawn, with the horses often wearing oversized leather booties to prevent lawn damage. In 1870, Elwood McGuire of Richmond, Indiana designed a very popular human pushed lawn mower; while it wasn't the first to be human-pushed, his design was very lightweight and became a commercial success.

Steam-powered lawn mowers appeared in the 1890s. In 1902, Ransomes produced the first commercially available mower powered by an internal combustion gasoline engine. In the United States, gasoline powered lawn mowers were first manufactured in 1919 by Colonel Edwin George. 

On May 9, 1899, John Albert Burr patented an improved rotary blade lawn mower.

While marginal improvements have been made in mower technology (including the all-important riding mower), some municipalities and companies are bringing back the old ways by using grazing goats as a low-cost, low-emission mower alternative.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "Greener Pastures: The Story of the First Lawn Mower." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Bellis, Mary. (2021, February 16). Greener Pastures: The Story of the First Lawn Mower. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "Greener Pastures: The Story of the First Lawn Mower." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).