A History of Lawn Sprinklers

The origin of the lawn sprinkler goes back to the earliest attempts to irrigate fields and raise crops in areas where there was not enough water. It’s a story as old as modern civilization itself, which began along the Nile River in Mesopotamia, modern-day Egypt and Iraq.

But beyond irrigation ditches, aqueducts and other ingenious methods early people devised to channel water from one place to another, the modern lawn sprinkler didn’t appear until the late nineteenth century.

This invention was the work of Joseph Lessler of Buffalo, New York, who in 1871 filed U.S. patent number 121949. Called an “Improvement in Lawn-sprinklers” and described as “a portable water fountain and sprinkler,” other patents and designs soon followed. The obvious advantages of these sprinklers were that they automated lawn care by cutting out the time and effort the average person had previously needed to spend manually watering the yard.

For a country that was already falling in love with green lawns, this was a breakthrough. Soon, rotating models were introduced and companies were devising even more new ways to deliver water.

Needless to say, sprinklers were helping homeowners just as much as they were helping farmers. In 1932, a Californian fruit farmer named Orton Englehardt invented the impact sprinkler, which distributed an even amount of water over a wide area. Because it provided crops with a close imitation of rain, the impact sprinkler revolutionized agriculture.

Regular homeowners also got their hands on oscillating-wave sprinklers. It became common to see kids running back and forth and jumping through the steady stream of water on American lawns across the country. What first became a signature item in lawn care soon after became an icon of American childhood.

The lawn sprinkler system is just as popular today—but it comes with new technology and features. As we enter a time when water is becoming more precious, an increasing number of sprinkler systems are being connected to computer systems to minimize wasted water and maximize their effectiveness.

In the next post, learn what you should consider before you install a lawn sprinkler system.


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