The History of Lawns and Lawn Mowers

The History of Lawns and Lawn Mowers

See The Evolution Of Lawn Care Equipment

Dale, the Lawn Mower Expert
Lawn Mower Expert

Once upon a time, centuries ago, lawns were maintained by sheep, goats, and other grazing animals that kept grass short by snacking on it throughout the day.

Young Goat Grazing on Grass

Wait, you didn't know that lawns have been around for hundreds of years?

They have, and though the idea of a lawn is an old one, we're glad to say that lawn mowers and other lawn care tools have come a long way since the days when the default way to trim the grass was to set a goat on it.

Want proof? Get ready to dig through lawn care history, complete with pictures!

MORE: Compare New vs Used Lawn Mowers

The History of the Well-Maintained Lawn

Dig through literature and cultural commentary from the 6th century BCE, and you'll find references to lawns being part of the renowned Persian paradise gardens, which aimed to include every type of plant known.

Even in pre-medieval Europe, lawns were cultivated and put to use. And early European lawns had several uses:

  • Lawns outside a village allowed guards and sentries better views of approaching travelers
  • Lawns around a village could be used to graze and feed animals
  • Lawns within a village became used for such sports as lawn bowling, cricket, and golf

It wasn't until the 16th and 17th centuries that a manicured swath of grass became seen as a status symbol among British landowners, however.

Archived Ad for Keen Kutter Mowers

And it wasn't until the 19th century, when the first mechanized lawn mower was invented, that lawns became a fixture of homes across the United States.


Push Mowers 

Before 1830, anyone who wanted to trim their grass by hand did so with a scythe.

A British mechanic named Edwin Beard Bunting became widely credited for changing that when, on August 31, 1830, he filed his patent application for a machine intended to shear turfgrass surfaces. The world's first mechanical lawn mower had arrived.

Although the picture below doesn't show Bunting's actual creation, it is representative of how early push mowers worked. It also shows how it laid the foundation for the sleeker walk-behind lawn mowers of today.

Push Mower Comparison

Riding Mowers

The Chadborn & Coldwell Manufacturing Company was established in 1869 with the rights to produce the Excelsior Roller Mower. By 1891, the company was manufacturing about twenty thousand lawn mowers a year.

That year, Thomas Coldwell split from his business partner. In 1903, the Coldwell Lawn Mower Company debuted the world's first gas-powered riding lawn mower. Again, although the first riding mower isn't pictured below, you can see how much riding mowers have evolved from earlier models.

Old Riding Mower vs New Riding Mower

Lawn Tractors

Although tractors had been in use on farms in the U.S. since the early 20th century, it wasn't until the late 1950s and early 1960s that lawn tractors were developed for the average homeowner. 

In 1963, John Deere introduced its first residential model, the 110 Lawn and Garden Tractor. Other manufacturers soon entered this newly established market.

Old Lawn Tractor vs New Lawn Tractor

Walk-Behind String Trimmers

According to legend, the idea for the string trimmer came to entrepreneur George Ballas in 1971. Inspired by the rotating brushes he saw at a car wash, Ballas attached a tin can and fishing line to a rotary lawn edger. Just like that, he had a tool that trimmed perfectly beneath fences and around rocks and trees.

The company DR Power Equipment takes credit for creating the first wheeled string trimmers in the 1980s. The wheels were designed to spare lawn enthusiasts the burden of carrying around the heavy gas-powered weed whackers of the time.

The photo below shows how sleek wheeled trimmers have become.

Old String Trimmer vs New String Trimmer


The history of tillers is a long story that goes back thousands of years. Even the earliest agricultural civilizations such as the ancient Sumerians understood how important it was to till the land.

Mechanical plowing and tilling devices like the one in the picture below owe their creation to an 18th-century inventor named Jethro Tull. However, as you also can see, the tillers of the 21st century are quite different from those made centuries before.

Old Tiller vs New Tiller

No doubt: lawn care equipment has come a long way and will continue to evolve. Today's tools are more efficient and more comfortable to use. The end result is a more enjoyable experience for people maintaining their turf paradise.

Still, we know that some people swear by their tried-and-true tools. Are you one of them? Email the best images of your well-loved, well-used equipment to We'd love to share them and enjoy some lawn mower history!


NEXT: How to Pick the Perfect Lawn Mower

Dale, the Lawn Mower Expert
Lawn Mower Expert
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