History of Lawn Mowers : Know The Beginning

A lawn mower is something that most lawn owners take for granted. But have you ever pondered over its importance? It is interesting to trace the lawnmowers’ origin, and how cutting grass using a scythe or with the help of a grazing sheep has come a long way today operated by robots powered by the likes of Google and Alexa.

It is fascinating to read the history of Lawn Mowers and how it developed with time. It is only after so much invention and brainstorming sessions that today you can find a mower for all your lawn requirements.

Lawns in the early days

Lawns were earlier the highlight of the French and the English castles. These were fields clear of trees not to let the enemies sneak into the palace. Grasses came up naturally, and this gave birth to the lawns.

Lawns mean a meadow or an opening in the wood, which comes from the English word launde. It was a common area where the farmers grazed their livestock. In the early days, cows and sheep were used to mow the lawn, which left-back their droppings, which needed more mowing.

It was only in the 1700s that the first manicured lawn was introduced in Europe. Skilled scythes and shears were used to cut the grass with hand. However, maintaining it was labor extensive and inefficient. And the final result was still not up to the mark.

The First Lawn Mower

Realizing the benefits of a well-maintained lawn, there arose the need to invent a lawn mower. And the inspiration for the first lawn mower came from a cloth trimming tool. The first lawn mower was invented and patented in the year 1830 by Edwin Beard Budding from Gloucestershire. 

A machine in a local cloth mill used a cylinder with a bladed reel to trim any irregular nap from the velvet and woolen surface that gave Budding the idea. The cutting cylinder gave the cloth a smooth finish, and Budding decided to replicate this concept in a lawn mower.

Budding invented a reel-type mower that used a series of blades arranged around the cylinder. The design was later used in the modern reel mower, which measured 19 inches in width and was made from cast iron gear wheels and wrought iron.

It wasn’t easy to push the mower, which gave rise to the idea of an extra handle to pull the machine. A T-shaped handle was introduced in the front of the mower to pull it when required.

In 1832, Budding and John Ferrabee sold more than 1000 mowers that were manufactured at the Phoenix Iron Works in Thrupp. They also licensed other companies to manufacture a similar mower.

Many companies started working to develop the idea further. Still, the original idea of Budding was so robust that there was very little change that was needed to develop the mower further. Surprisingly Budding’s innovation and design are still in use today in the human-powered and modern reel mowers.

After 10 years, Scotsman Alexander Shanks invented a pony-drawn reel mower of 27 inches in the year 1842, where an animal could hitch the mower. The horse was made to wear soft leather not to leave indents on the lawn.

History of Chain Driven Mower

With mowers gaining in popularity came the design of a chain-driven mower that was quiet and light in design. The machine reduced effort and was lighter too. Thomas Green, in the year 1859, created the first mower driven by a chain. It was called Silens Messor or Silent Running. His business production ended in the year 1935.

Let us look at the hierarchy of the emergence of the modern lawn mower and when the various lawn mower designs were patented, and by whom.

  • 1868 – Amariah Hills of Connecticut – Simple reel mower
  • 1870 – Elwood McGuire, who is a Richmond and Indiana native – Push mower which was light and simple
  • 1899 – American John Albert Burr – Lawn mower with better traction wheels and rotary blade
  • The 1890s – Steam-powered lawn mower
  • 1902 – Ransomes – First commercial ride-on lawn mower powered using an internal combusting gas engine. They were the suppliers to stadiums, golf courses, and local authorities.
  • 1915 – Ideal Power Lawn Mower Co. of Lansing, Michigan patented by Ransom Eli Olds – US mower that was gas-powered
  • 1919 – Colonel Edwin George- Gas-powered lawn mower in the US
  • 1922 – Ideal Power Lawn Mower Company – First riding lawn tractor that was self-propelled and was called Triplex
  • The 1920s – British Atco (Atlas Chain Company), Charles H Pugh Ltd – Mass-produced lawn mower. The first 900 machines were manufactured in 1921 only, and in five years, the annual production scaled up to tens of thousands. There were now lawn mowers in various sizes and varied price ranges.

History of Rotary Push Mower

Then came the era of lightweight and rotary push mowers that were found in all the garages. Produced by Toto, the mower was easy to use and affordable too. It was in the year 1914 that the Toto Motor Company was founded. It was in the year 1948 that they ventured into Rotary push lawn mowers.

Their lawn mower design was unique, with an enclosed deck. They later became the pioneers in the push mower market.

Briggs & Stratton was a company that provided power to military and agricultural equipment. In 1953, they revolutionized the lawnmower industry, developing a lightweight engine made of aluminum.

History of Zero-Turn Mower 

In 1955, Max Booth Swisher of Warrensburg, Missouri, manufactured the first zero-turn mower available for commercial use. Called the Ride King, it used a front wheel or the drive wheel, which turned 360 degrees. The wheel was driven with a motor in the same direction. To reverse it or utilize the capabilities of the zero-turn radius, you had to turn the steering to 180 degrees and the mower would automatically move in reverse.

You can also read our detailed guide on How to Drive a Zero Turn Lawn Mower?.

In 1963, John Reiger, an employee of the Hesston Corporation, patented the zero-turn radius technology. He had engineered the swather that used belts to cut hay. It was this counter-rotation idea that inspired him to use the technology in a lawn mower. He sold this patent to Hesston that started offering this zero-turn technology.

There are more than 300 models of zero-turn mowers available today.

The Modern Lawn Mowers

In the year 1969 the first self-propelled lawn mower patented by S Lawrence Bellinger under Mowbot, Inc was introduced that featured a remote control automated operation. The machine used a battery to propel forward.

This is the first robotic mower that followed the border. It had special sensors that mowed around the obstacles and even returned to its docking station when it started to rain. This Roomba lawn mower was a super hit.

It took 25 years for the robotic mower to step up. In 1995, Husqvarna launched the solar mower, which was the first fully robotic lawn mower introduced to the world. Solar energy made it possible to support the wheels and cut the grass with ease.

Husqvarna introduced AutoMower, which was the first automatic robotic mower. It allows mowing 24/7, irrespective of the weather outside. The mower also had a rechargeable battery.

Bosch Indego introduced lawn mapping in 2012 that mowed in a systematic rather than in a random manner. Both the models of Husqvarna and Bosch are equipped with voice control and use Google Home or Alexa.

The recent addition to the lawnmower list is a robotic mower called Taodi that works even without a perimeter wire in the lawn. The self-driving robot uses a camera and drives around the yard automatically. It is night vision enabled that lets it function even in the dark. Todi figures out your yard’s look, draws a map, and mows the lawn to avoid any obstacles.

Lawn Mower and its Contribution to Sports

Referred to as the Budding Effect, the invention of the lawn mower helped in the economic growth of the country and opened up many sports and game avenues.

  • Lawn bowls or well-cut lawn grass is not just for the rich. Today, even the commoner can own a manicured lawn.
  • With the introduction of lawnmowers, football grounds took off. It also paved the way for lawn tennis, cricket, and other sporting venues letting one take advantage of the varied lawn mower mowing patterns.


Yards were mainly used for farming. In recent years, a neatly maintained lawn in the backyard and around the house became a necessity to give the property an aesthetic appeal and increase the resale value of the house. Thanks to the various stages of lawn mower innovation, lawns are now a privilege not just restricted to the aristocrats.

About Jennifer Igra

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York City known for it’s green gardens. Jennifer, a 30 year old gardener and green living fanatic started Igra World to share her gardening journey and increase gardening awareness among masses. Follow Igra World to improve your gardening skills.

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