25th Tractors
Photo: Robert Laberge
This rear-engine riding mower from Wheel Horse (now owned by Toro) set the tone for the '70s. In the years since, front-engine mowers have come to dominate the riding market — 1.2 million were shipped in 2001.
Add up all the lawns in America and you get a patch of grass roughly the size of Kentucky. No wonder an $8.3 billion-a-year industry has grown up around lawn care and maintenance. Over the past quarter century, progress has picked up speed. In the 1970s, state-of-the-art meant anything with a motor. Today, you don't have to settle for a walk-behind mower that you have to push (self-propelled, please!), or a garden tractor without a cell phone outlet. If innovation keeps to its present pace, soon you'll be vaporizing your grass with laser beams — that is, if it isn't genetically engineered to never need cutting at all.

The Past
To appreciate the state of lawn-care technology in the '70s, think back to how a freshly mowed lawn from that decade looked. Whether cut with a mower or a riding tractor, chances are it was done in a straight pattern, the rows marked in clippings that missed the bag. Tractors like the one pictured here, besides being more polluting and harder to maneuver than today's models, had about half the horsepower and none of the creature comforts. They could be dangerous too, resulting in thousands more injuries a year.

Ask TOH users about Lawn Care

Contribute to This Story Below