The evolution of the lawn mower

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Its summer time, and that means its grass-cutting time. These days when you get ready to cut your grass, you just sit down on the mower, turn the key and away you go. But, what if you lived 100 years ago? What did you do?

One of the first ways to cut the grass was with a sickle. It was about 4 feet long with a crooked handle and a large blade at the bottom.

You have probably seen pictures of people cutting wheat or hay using

a sickle. In 1897, this sickle cost $1.10.

Another way to cut grass was with a push lawn mower. This mower had a blade that only turned if the wheels turned. It had no motor, and you had to push the mower by hand to make the wheels turn in order to cut the grass. This mower cost $3.50, and it was limited to what it would cut. The ground had to be kind of smooth and the grass couldn’t be very tall. It also had a blade that was almost impossible to sharpen. To address this problem, in 1902 the Ideal Lawn Mower Sharpener was invented by the Fate-Root-Earth Company located in Plymouth, Ohio. It was a very complicated machine. You didn’t take the blades off the mower; you hooked the entire mower to the machine. The company that made this machine employed over 400 people, and the buildings covered more than 11 acres and covered some 200,000 square feet. Using a hand pushed lawn mower with no power was very hard, as you could imagine.

A retired Army colonel from New York came up with the idea of putting a motor on the push mower. He took the motor off his wife’s washing machine and hooked it up on his push mower. After a lot of and trial and error, he could now walk behind the push mower that pulled itself, and the blades turned automatically. I guess this was the invention that led up to the lawn mowers that we use today.

I have several of the hand pushed lawn mowers, the machine from 1902 used to sharpen the blades and the hand pushed mower with the motor attached to the top along with several other items used to cut grass in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Louisiana Treasures Museum is located on Highway 22 west of Ponchatoula. Call me at 225-294-8652 for hours of operation or to schedule group tours.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.