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America on the Move
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Reel lawnmower

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Reel lawnmower
Smithsonian Institution, Photo by Richard Strauss, Negative #: 2003-19253


This object appears in the following sections:

Other Topics
Words on Things — Some thoughts about words on things

Detail of lawnmower's safety warning
Detail of lawnmower's safety warning

Allcut reel lawnmower
Catalog #: 1985.0285.01, Accession #: 1985.0285
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection
Physical Description
Artifact. The lawnmower has a side wheel, cutting cylinder. Material: wood and cast iron.
Date Made:
about 1920
The lawn mower was invented in England. The side-wheel, cutting cylinder style was popular in America. Most Americans before the Civil War did not have lawns because grass was for animals. With a growing trend toward suburbs and single family homes came the need for lawn maintenance. Virginia Scott Jenkins notes in her book, The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession, that the desire for lawns as part of the suburban landscape occurred at the end of the 19th Century. Many factors led to the suburban design of the single family home surrounded by a yard, including mid-19th century romantism, transportation, real estate developers, architects, water and sewer systems, and new magazines about suburban life. Research and educational materials from the Department of Agriculture, The U.S. Golf Association and the Garden Club of America also popularized lawns. Garden clubs promoted the "City Beautiful" Movement before WWI, and federal support of the Victory Garden during WWI added to the idea. After the war, the desire was also shown in the middle-class auto suburbs. By the 1930s lawns were a standard suburban landscape feature across America.

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