The History of the American Lawn

Apr 4, 2016 by

By Phin Upham

If there’s one thing that’s classic American, it’s the front lawn. American’s have been proud, and in some cases rigidly devoted to, their front lawns since the Great Depression. Much of this love of the green stuff corresponds with home ownership, which wasn’t exactly open to all prior to the New Deal.

Americans who returned from World War II had seen firsthand how the wealthy English lived in their estates, with sweeping front yards full of thick grass. Back then, hardware stores didn’t carry sod or seed so it was difficult to re-create the effect back home.

That changed in 1915, when the Department of Agriculture teamed up with the U.S. Golf Association. The goal of this pairing was to determine if there were any species of grass that could be used to grow a front yard. Within 15 years, the USDA had determined several species that were suitable to grow nearly anywhere in the United States.

Still, cutting lawns and keeping them watered presented a challenge. Mechanical mowing had been possible since the middle of the 1800s, and by 1885 lawnmowers were shipped all across America. It took several years for the price to become affordable for most Americans, but the hose and hand mower significantly contributed to America’s love for the lawn.

Soon, garden clubs were springing up all over the country. Lawns were judged on length, thickness, color and type of grass. Even a single weed could present a massive deduction in status for a prized lawn. Today, we collectively spend more than $17 billion in improvements to our front yards.

About the Author: Phin Uphamis an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Twitter page.

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