Before the invention of the lawn mower people had to use scythes to cut their grass. Then, in 1830, in Gloucestershire, England, a man named Edwin Beard Budding changed the status quo by giving us the first ever lawn mower. The fact that the push mower as we know it today is very similar to Budding’s first version speaks to the efficiency of his original design; despite the huge leaps forward in machinery and technology society has made since the 1830s, we still haven’t been able to make much of an improvement on the original.
Designed primarily for use on big estates, across sporting fields and in the large gardens that were commonplace at the time in England, the patent awarded to Budding’s machine in August of 1830 shows that the original lawn mower was wrought iron, and only19 inches in diameter. As the wheels rotated, they provided power to the cutting cylinder. The original design was even able to be raised or lowered depending on the height a person wanted their grass to be. The patent also shows that Budding’s original design had a handle on the front of the machine, to aid in pulling the mower up hills and over rough terrain. Besides the front handle, the original lawn mower also had a small, shallow box attached to the front to catch the grass clippings as they were propelled forward by the rotating cutting cylinder.
Budding had a business partner, according to paperwork filed by the British Patent Office in that same year (1830), a man named John Ferrabee. It was Ferrabee who paid to file the patent, and other necessary paperwork, and it was Ferrabee who put forth the capital to make minor improvements on Budding’s first machine plans, such as enlarging the blades so that the user wouldn’t need to make as many turns to cover the same amount of area. The duo showed astounding business acumen by allowing other individuals and businesses to make their own versions of the lawnmower and sell them, collecting small amounts of profit from everyone else’s like-minded designs.
It’s interesting to note that two of the first lawn mowers made and sold by Budding and Ferrabee were bought by the storied institutions of the Oxford Colleges, and Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens. It took another ten years before anyone was able to design a lawn mower that could be pulled by animals, so for that first decade, the Budding and Ferrabee lawn mower was by far the most popular machine like it available, even though other companies were selling simar machines. The two men profited greatly in those first years, but even as late as the 1860s, Ferrabee’s company was still rolling out models of different sizes and was doing quite well.
The story of Edwin Beard Budding and his first lawn mower is a refreshingly straight forward one. A man made a beautifully efficient and well designed machine to serve a direct purpose, and with a little help from his friend, that man’s design has aided societies all over the world take care of a routine chore ever since.