I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I've never mowed a lawn in my entire life.

At this point I'm just trying to see how long I can get away with it; so far it's been 34 years and counting!

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However, this coming from a state that was the cornerstone of automobile production I can't say I'm surprised that we in the Mitten also had a hand in another gasoline powered vehicle: the riding mower.

Introduction to the Lawn

I didn't realize lawns hadn't always just, existed. As it turns out lush green lawns were not in fashion until the latter half of the 17th century! Prior to that the fields closest to the household were used as vegetable gardens or as deterrents to safeguard the castle, hence the use of moats.

Cleared and maintained lawns became first became popular thanks to the introduction of yard sports like croquet, bowling, and tennis. And just think, at that time there were only a handful of options for cutting and maintaining your lawn; the only tools available were either the labor-intensive scythe or grass-fed animals! Sounds like a lot of upkeep.


Invention of the Mower

Technically the first lawn mower was patented by Edwin Budding in Gloucestershire, England in 1820. It was another 20 years before the steam-powered mower was built and by 1902  Ransomes of Ipswich had introduced the, "first commercially purchasable lawn mower powered by an internal combustion gas engine."

So how do we get from Ipswich, England to Lansing, Michigan?

Ideal Power Mower Company

According to the REO Olds Transporation Museum when it comes to lawns in the U.S.,

Lansing has a long and interesting history in power lawnmowers....First off, the original Lansing-made mower was designed and built by R. E. Olds....The mower history goes back to a patented design by R. E. Olds in 1916 for his Ideal Engine Company

Originally designed only for promotional purposes the Ideal Power Mower Company of Lansing debuted the "World's First Riding Lawn Mower" On May 8, 1921 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

What started as just an idea soon became reality and by the late 1930s the company began using their riding mowers to specialize in golf-course maintenance with such well-known mowers as the "Bulldog" or "Greensmower".

lawn mower

The Ideal Power Mower Company continued to produce engines and mowers until 1943 when it was bought by the Rogers Diesel & Aircraft Corporation, and it again switched hands in 1945 when it was purchased by the Indian Motorcycle Company.

Adds the REO Olds museum,

the Lansing mowers are intimately entwined in Lansing’s transportation history

Again, I'm not surprised that Michigan played a role in lawn-mower history, but I certainly had no idea. Did you?

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