The coming year marks the centenaries of two of the biggest and best-known names in the history of the lawn mower: Atco and JP. We'll be celebrating these two significant landmarks during the year online and, hopefully, at our rallies and events.
With its original Atco Motor Mower, which we collectors call the "Standard", Charles H Pugh manufactured the world's first mass-produced motor mower. Less than a thousand of the original 22-inch-cut "Oval Frame" model were made in 1921. But improvements to the design from 1922 and introduction of additional sizes using a standardised range of components meant that prices were much lower than similar models from other manufacturers. Production increased rapidly and by the mid-1920s the company was making many thousand each year, all supported by a network of service depots and mobile agents. Many of our members have examples of these early Atco machines in their collections. New designs in the 1930s and more innovations in the years that followed kept Atco at the forefront of the industry and there are plenty of different models, sizes, and configurations for collectors to discover. The company has been through manay changes in the past 100 years but its current incarnation continues.
Jerram & Pearson took a different approach by targeting the higher end of the market with mowers known for the quality and precision of the engineering. The company had links with other high-precision manufacturers, including in the aircraft industry, and its machines became known as "the Rolls-Royce of lawn mowers". Its original JP Super hand mower was quickly followed by motor mowers, all using high precision components made from materials such as aluminium which were innovative at the time. None of these machines were cheap but the quality of manufacture means that a relatively high proportion of them have survived and we know from correspondence that there are people who still use very old examples to mower their lawns today. JP mowers are also popular with collectors because of the stylish and innovative designs that make them good to look at and "interesting" to preserve or restore. Sadly the company went out of business in the 1970s but remnants of its designs can still be found in mowers produced since then by Dennis which took over some of the patents.
We'll be featuring news about Atco and JP during 2021 and we hope to feature them both at our Annual Rally in May, should circumstances allow. In the meantime, best wishes for 2021 to all of our club members as well as the enthusiasts and passers-by who visit our website.
This weekend 30 years ago a small group of enthusiasts gathered at Milton Keynes Museum for what was the first ever Annual Rally of The Old Lawnmower Club (see above). For some of those present it was the first time they had ever met. Many had perhaps previously been under the impression that they were alone in their interest.
From this small beginning our club has grown. Today we have nearly 600 members across the world. The majority are in the UK but we have members from almost every major English-speaking country, many from Europe and a few from further afield. What they all have in common is a passion to collect, preserve and display old lawnmowers.
Our club has evolved in the past three decades. Back then, all communication was by post or telephone and we published our "Grassbox" newsletter using an office photocopier. Today most of our communication is electronic and "Grassbox" has become a full-colour 16 page quarterly magazine.
The interests of our members have evolved too. In 1990, many considered mowers made in the 1960s "too new" to be of interest. But now some of our younger or newer members are interested in mowers made just a few years before our club was formed, perhaps even afterwards. The majority, however, continue to find new mowers dating as far back as the 1800s to add to their collections.
Some of the members present at that original rally in 1990 would have been present at Milton Keynes again this year. Sadly, because of coronavirus, we have had to cancel this year's event. But the effort that many members have put into exhibiting their mowers into our "Virtual Annual Rally" display shows that their passion remains. We all hope we will be able to return to Milton Keynes in 2021. In the meantime, here are some of our members at the rally in 2019.