English Lawn Games Arrived after the Lawn Mower in Nineteenth Century America

Before the lawn mower, invented in 1830 in England, gardeners would cut the lawn with the scythe.  Animals sometimes helped keep the lawn’s height manageable.

Around 1850 the lawn mower appeared in America and soon made the lawn an important feature for middle class homes.

The lawn mower also provided the setting for English lawn games in suburban America.

Allison Kyle Leopold in her book The Victorian Garden writes, “The most important development in the realm of garden tools was the invention and popularization of the mechanical lawn mower, which not only changed the appearance of the garden but popularized new leisure activities such as lawn tennis, badminton, and croquet.”

The lawn mower became a necessary tool for the homeowner and companies who sold it advertised the lawn mower everywhere. Notice this ad from the 1888 journal American Agriculturist. [Below]

An ad in the magazine American Agriculruist May 1888

An ad in the magazine American Agriculturist May 1888

Seed companies and nurseries also sold the lawn mower. Here is an illustration for an ad in the James Vick Company seed catalog of 1875. [Below]

 

 

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Advertisement for the Charter Oak Lawn Mower, 1875, Vick’s Floral Guide

 

The new lawn surface provided the space for English lawn games which soon became popular forms of outdoor sport activity. An 1886 ad for its lawn seed in the Breck Seed Company catalog showed several people playing badminton on the front lawn, right outside the front door. [Below]

Joseph Breck seed catalog

An ad for lawn seed in the Joseph Breck and Sons seed catalog 1886

The lawn mower made the English lawn important for suburban America and at the same time introduced the English lawn game.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Ah, leisure sports and flower gardening for the middle class — what could be more American, and more welcome? What a lovely illustration of the better times that were coming — thanks for sharing it! -Beth

    • Beth, thanks for your comment. You are right that lawn games speak to a gentle time of leisure and a middle class interested in the outdoors for a game with friends and family. The illustrations I had collected and thought they’d give flesh to the post. Best.

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