Many Americans would find it hard to imagine a time when U.S. homes weren’t surrounded by lush, green, manicured lawns. But surprisingly the use or cropped and beautifully maintained yards is a fairly recent development in the history of landscaping. We have listed several milestones that show the development of the American lawn and the tools used to manicure those lawns.
1700’s: Beginning in England and France we begin to see the idea of closely cut, well manicured grass areas in gardens. Originating with the term “laude”, which referred to a grassy woodland clearing, the term lawn was coined. Due to the cost required these lawns were primary the play places of the rich using scythe wielding servants or livestock to keep the areas manicured.
1806: Well manicured lawns become the fad with rich Americans led by avid horticulturist Thomas Jefferson at his Monticello Estate but most early American yards stayed devoted to vegetable and herb gardens, or grazing animals.
1830: First breakthrough in lawn maintenance occurs when a textile engineer, Edwin Beard, Budding in England adapts a carpet cutter and creates the worlds first lawn mower. More complex animal drawn and steam powered mowers would come afterwards but the original model was pretty close to its modern counterparts.
1868: A change occurs that brings the dream of a well manicured lawn to the less wealthy with the issuing for 3 lawn mower patents. These machines led the way to todays common mowing tools but were still very expensive.
1871: The first lawn irrigation and sprinkler system is patented, coming with water pipes and rubber hoses. This allowed lawn owners to compensate when rainfall got sparse. With the invention of these tools and their efficiency, Americans began a new era of wise water use during droughts.
1870’s: The manicured lawn pushed the front yard vegetable garden to the backyard. Many new houses took their cue from the well manicured lawn trend in urban parks, adding expansive lawns to separate homes from streets leading to our current views on lawns and lawncare.
1876: During the first official World’s Fair on American soil the USDA brings lawn-growing displays to the American masses. They focused primarily on how to start a lawn but offer little in the way of maintaining that lawn. Many experst of the time advocated re-starting your lawn every year.
1880: Lawn care articles begin to appear and become popular in many American Magazines. Lawn and turf grasses take begin to take a higher profile in the USDA as more Americans begin to focus on the grasses around their homes.
1888: The first American gold course opens in New York with its pasture-like playing surface. The idea of refining turf grasses explodes as the popularity of the game and number of course grows across the United States. Golf courses lined by houses and golf course-like lawns become the new American obsession.
Early 1900’s: Spurred by Americans love for golf and the USGA’s funding the USDA pours more resources into testing of new lawn and turf grasses through the country’s land grant universities.
1918: During WW1 as Americans turned their yards to victory gardens, investing these efforts into the war effort. President Woodrow Wilson turned lawn care over to the sheep, allowing the grounds crew to become eligible for military service and raising wool for the Red Cross.
1938: With the Fair Labor Standards Act a 40 hour workweek become the new norm allowing many Americans to devote their weekends to lawn care. WW 2 would slow this trend but new found prosperity after the war would speed up peoples lawn pursuits.
Late 1940’s: Rotary power mowers surge in popularity and production. This brings makes large, well manicured lawns a possibility for a growing middle class.
1950’s and 1960’s: American suburbs start to grow and their yards grow with them but most grasses were suited to golf courses or pastures. American grass seed companies begin to focus on grass seed for lawns and turf, instead of agriculture.
Late 1960’s: Lawn seed companies advance seed technology and put healthier lawns with reach of the average homeowner. Newer technologies helped grass seed establish more quickly, stay healthier and expanded the spectrum of grass seeds suitable for lawn use.
1970’s and 1980’s: USDA and university research programs continue to adapt grasses for home lawns and made regional lawn grasses more widely available. Sod farms start to popup giving homeowners a choice between a sod or seed generated lawn.
1990’s and 2000’s: Turf grass breeding accelerates giving home owners even more options for grasses targeted at specific environmental concerns, drought tolerance, water conserving along with their traditional beauty.