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The History of the Weed Trimmer

By Rebecca Mecomber
The weed trimmer simplified garden chores.
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.


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.


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.


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


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


About the Author


Rebecca Mecomber, a former radio broadcaster, has been a professional blogger and writer since 2006. Her articles and interviews have appeared in "The Wall Street Journal," Salon.com and several other publications, covering topics such as Federal Trade Commission policy and media regulations, blogging, home improvement and New York travel.