This Lansing Company Introduced the World’s First Riding Mower Over 100 Years Ago
How much do you know about the history of lawn mowers? I can't say I'm an expert on the subject but 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.
History of the Lawn
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 gardens to grow vegetables or were used as deterrents to safeguard the castle, hence the use of moats. Cleared and maintained lawns became popular due to sports like croquet, bowling, and tennis. At that time there were limited options for cutting and maintaining one's lawn, the only tools available were either the labor-intensive scythe or grass-fed animals!
Invention of the Mower
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 the "first commercially purchasable lawn mower powered by an internal combustion gas engine" debuted in 1902 thanks to Ransomes of Ipswich.
When it comes to lawns in the United States, REO Olds Transporation Museum says,
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
On May 8, 1921 the Ideal Power Mower Company of Lansing introduced the "world's first riding lawn mower" in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The product was at first only designed for promotional purposes, but by the late 1930s this company began using their riding mowers to specialize in golf-course maintenance with such well-known mowers as the "Bulldog" or "Greensmower".
The Ideal Power Mower Company was headquartered in Lansing and continued to produced engines and mowers until the 1943 when it was bought by the Rogers Diesel & Aircraft Corporation, and again switched hands in 1945 when it was purchased by the Indian Motorcycle Company.
Again, I'm not surprised that Michigan played a role in lawn-mower history, but I certainly had no idea. Did you? Says the REO museum,
the Lansing mowers are intimately entwined in Lansing’s transportation history