From Scythes To Robots: A Look At The History Of The Lawn Mower

A Look At The History Of The Lawn Mower..

The Evolution of the Lawn Mower from its Humble English Beginnings to a Feat of Engineering and Technology

Can you imagine how your lawn would look all these years without assistance from lawn mowers? Or if you now own a robotic one, perhaps you wondered why it hasn’t come much sooner. As insignificant and ordinary a lawn mower may seem, it has a pretty interesting history rooted in royal house security and sheer human need.

Lawns in the 1600s were only typical in English and French castles to add support against invading enemies. They are essentially grass fields devoid of trees, specifically designed to be like that so that no invaders could sneak in. During that time, they used grazing farm animals like sheep and cattle to consume the overgrown meadow, but that eventually backfired since their manure was essentially fertilizers that kept grass growing.

At that point, it’s clear they need a more incisive solution (no pun intended). The obvious quick fixes were scythes, shears, and sickles, but that proved very taxing and time-consuming. And from an aesthetic standpoint, the trail wasn’t pretty to look at. Again, it is apparent that this need calls for something more than a piece of blade stuck at the end of a pole.

Invention Of The First Lawn Mower

The first mechanical lawn mower was invented in 1830 by Edwin Beard Budding. Budding’s background is in engineering and got inspiration from how a machine from a local clothing mill achieved a smooth cut and finish. Budding saw the exact mechanism working for a grass-cutting machine. His invention was the precedent for modern reel mowers, only much heavier as it was made from wrought and cast iron.

By 1832, Budding and a partner of his sold over 1,000 units. They also got licensing deals with other companies so that they could manufacture their own machines based on their design. Budding’s design was apparently so good that the basic concepts are still used up to this day for modern man-powered lawn mowers. All credit to where credit is due!

A subsequent adjustment of the first lawn mower was Alexander Shanks’ animal-drawn reel mower, specifically a pony. To avoid indentations and footprints, the pony had to wear some form of leather shoes.

In all honesty, the history of lawn mower invention is highly fascinating. To know more about the early days of lawn mowing, Tom Fort’s book The Grass is Greener: An Anglo-Saxon Passion provides a humorous, non-technical take of England’s love affair with lawn mowers.

The Lawn Mower In The United States

The lawn mower is undoubtedly an Anglo-Saxon invention, and it continued to be reinvented and improved in England before reaching the United States. For instance, in 1859, an engineer from Leeds named Thomas Green created the first lawn mower with a chain drive. Green’s machine was considerably lighter, so it wouldn’t take much exertion when mowing the lawn.

In the United States, the lawn mower revolution started in 1868 when Amariah Hills of Connecticut was granted a patent for a reel mower. Two years later, Elwood McGuire of Indiana designed a light and simple machine. In 1899, John Albert Burr from Maryland designed a lawn mower with rotary blades and traction wheels so that the clippings wouldn’t hinder the mower’s mobility. Another tweak made by Burr made it possible to mow near building walls and edges.

James B. Ricci, an American with an extensive collection of vintage lawnmowers, also wrote a book chronicling the history of the machines in the United States over a period of 88 years. It was aptly titled Hand, Horse & Motor – The Development of the Lawn Mower Industry in the United States. And just a fun fact: The old mower used in the set of Revolutionary Road, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, is one of Ricci’s 600 collections.

Lawn Mowers Turned Robotic

Judging from how fast the wheels of technology have turned, it’s only a matter of time before someone automates the task of lawn-mowing. 

Here is a quick rundown of that development:

  • In 1995, the first solar-powered robot lawn mower was sold. Since it only operates using solar energy, it only had enough power to run the wheels and cutting system.
  • In 1998, the company that sold the first solar-powered robot lawn mower now sells one with a rechargeable battery. It is called the Automower and can practically due its job under all weather conditions
  • In 2012, the Bosch Indigo Company added a smart mapping technology that enables their robot lawn mowers to mow in a methodical manner rather than a random pattern.
  • In 2019, companies are now able to make robot lawn mowers that do not need perimeter wires. These robots are equipped with cameras with night vision so it can function during the night.
  • In 2020, the Husqvarna Automower EPOS functions without boundary wires, using only a satellite system or a reference station. That’s not a surprise, though, since Husqvarna has been known in the industry to seamlessly integrate technology into their products to create one intelligent machine.

There are literally dozens of great options in the market for lawn mowers. If you are looking for a robot lawn mower that fits your needs and budget, check out

The Verdict: History Of Lawn Mowers

As you may have come to appreciate, the history of lawn mowers has come a long way. From the scythes and sickles used in the 1600s to Edwin Beard Budding’s first lawn mower, we now have many choices at our fingertips including robot lawn mowers that function practically on their own.

If this piece of machine history enthralls you as I did, I sincerely recommend the books The Grass is Greener: An Anglo-Saxon Passion and Hand, Horse & Motor – The Development of the Lawn Mower Industry in the United States. I’m sure you will never look at lawn mowers the same way ever again!