Before lawn mowers were invented, people used a tool called scythes to cut grass and crops. That was the case until 1830 when Edwin Beard Budding came along and introduced what we now know as the lawn mower. Remarkably the lawn mowers being used today are still quite similar in design to the original version first introduce by Budding in 1830. This is a fact that speaks volumes about how great the efficiency of that early design turned out to be.
Lawn mowers were created to be used on sporting fields, large estates and oversize gardens that were common throughout England at the time. A review of Budding’s original patent reveals that the original mower was just nineteen inches of wrought iron. Surprisingly it also shows that cutting power was provided as the wheels rotated and that there were handles on the front of the unit as well. This was probably done to aid in pulling it over rougher terrain and uphill. Also notable in the original design was the adjustability of the height of the handles, making it possible to raise or lower the height of the handles to suit the person who was using it.
According to records, it was Budding’s business partner, John Ferrabee who backed the project financially. He not only paid the patent filing fee but also covering the cost of necessary paperwork, then later on providing the capital that was needed to make some minor improvements to the original plans. One of those minor improvements was to make the blades bigger so it wouldn’t require so many passes on a lawn area to finish the cutting job. Their business arrangement appears to have been very fruitful as they went on to permit others to build then sell their version of the mower while collecting a small portion of the proceeds from each sale. Something like we might now consider royalty payments.
Of an interesting note, two of the very first lawn mowers sold were purchased by two of England’s most storied institutions, Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens, and Oxford Colleges. After it was originally introduced, it was a full decade before anyone else designed a mower that worked while being pulled by animals. Because of the wide stretch of time, the Budding and Ferrabee mower enjoyed great popularity as it was essentially the best and most efficient unit available. This period also proved to be quite fruitful financially as well. Leading to a situation where a company owned by Ferrabee was still producing and selling different sized lawn mower models into the 1860’s. A full 30 years after the original patent was filed.
If you just heard it for the first time, I’m sure you’ll agree the story of Edwin Beard Budding and the creation of the first lawn mower is an interesting one. It’s a simple tale about a man who built a well-designed, almost perfectly efficient machine that does one thing and does it very well. It’s a simple idea and machine that has stood the test of time and is still making the lives of millions of people better and simpler even to this very day.