The history of snowblowers begins in 1925 with the invention of a self-propelled, rotary snowblower to clear the streets. The first walk-behind snowblowers like those now common in the United States hit the market in the 1950s.
Inspired by a Grain Thresher
Inventor Arthur Sicard was working on a Quebec dairy farm in 1894 when he saw a grain thresher for the first time. The device could gather grain in the field, separate the grain from the stalks and husks, and toss that chaff away. Sicard is said to have imagined that he could create a similar machine for throwing snow off streets and walkways.
The First Snowblower
Sicard built what is considered the first snowblower in 1925. His self-propelled snowblower consisted of a four-wheel-drive truck chassis and engine plus a second engine for blowing snow. The invention could throw snow 90 feet. Sicard sold his first snowblower to the town of Outremont, Quebec (now part of Montreal) in 1927. Sicard Industries became a successful manufacturer of snowblowing tractors. Today the company is a division of SMI-Snowblast Inc. of Watertown, New York.
The First Push Snowblower
Lawn-care company Toro introduced the first domestic push-type snowblower in 1951, followed by Ariens in 1961 and Simplicity in 1962. The early machines were rather small, with an engine of only three to four horsepower.
Snowblowers have evolved into two types. Single-stage snowblowers use one rotor both to gather the snow and fire it out a chute. They're similar in design to the early products from Toro, Ariens and Simplicity.
Two-stage snowblowers have a drill-like auger that pulls snow into the machine. Then a rotor grabs it and throws it. With two mechanical parts performing separate tasks in the machine, the two-stage snowblower can handle heavier loads than the single-stage version.
Snowblowers can cause serious hand injuries. When a machine jams, a user may try clearing out the snow by hand. Sometimes the snowblower's parts start spinning again, catching the user's fingers.
Joe Sackic, a star forward in the National Hockey League, broke his fingers while using a snowblower in 2008. He declined to describe exactly how it happened.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that snowblowers annually cause about 5,740 injuries that require emergency room visits. The commission reports 19 snowblower-related deaths since 1992.