The History of the Weed Trimmer

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The weed trimmer simplified garden chores.
The weed trimmer simplified garden chores. (Image: Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images)

For centuries, gardeners had arduously clipped their gardens and lawns by hand or with hand-held clippers. In 1972, a new invention was born: the Weed Eater. Known generically as a weed trimmer, string trimmer or weed whip, this amazing little invention whips grasses and weeds with a nylon string.

Inspiration

George Ballas, a Houston businessman who loathed clipping grass by hand, was inspired for the design of a string trimmer while at a car wash. He was intrigued that the spinning nylon brushes cleaned his car without damaging the finish. Ballas concocted a prototype using a tin popcorn can, some nylon fishing line and the rotary on his lawn edger. The fishing lines cleanly sliced through the weeds.

Development

Ballas consulted with a mechanical expert to create the Weed Eater brand string trimmer. Some models sport an internal combustion engine fueled by gas; others are powered by electricity, requiring lengthy extension cords.

Sales

Television advertisements presented the Weed Eater to a national audience, and sales topped $80 million by 1977.

Ownership

Ballas sold his business to Emerson in 1979; it later merged with Poulan. In 1986, Emerson/Poulan sold the business to Electrolux.

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