Biography of Thomas Coldwell
Orange County, NY Biographies





THOMAS COLDWELL, who at the time of his death in 1905 was the oldest manufacturer of Lawn Mowers in America, was born in Staleybridge, Lancashire, England, in 1838, and came to this country at a very early age. His first employment was with John and William Rothery, who operated a file shop in Matteawan, N. Y. He was later employed by H. W. Swift, who had a machine shop at Wiccapee, in the town of Fishkill, and who was experimenting in the manufacture of lawn mowers, fashioned after Pudding's grass cutters manufactured in England. Mr. Coldwell, who was endowed with genius for invention, actually made the first lawn mower produced by Mr. Swift. He became associated with Mr. George L. Chadboro, who was also in the employ of Mr. Swift, and in 1868 Mr. Coldwell, with the assistance of Mr. Chadborn, invented a new lawn mower, resulting in the formation of the Chadborn & Coldwell Mfg. Co., at Newburgh, N. Y., with Mr. Coldwell as president, which continued until 1891, when Mr. Coldwell organized the Coldwell Lawn Mower Co., mention of which appears elsewhere in this work. Suffice it to say that their daily output approximates seven hundred complete mowers for each working day in the year and it is the largest plant in the world devoted to the manufacture of these machines.

In this connection it is interesting to note briefly the history of lawn mowers. There is some doubt who was the original inventor. An old document has been found in the United States Patent Office, dated 1825, which shows that one James Ten Eyk, of Bridgewater, N. J., invented a mowing machine. It was simple, having a box like a wagon box, with the forward end open, furnished with two shafts, one at the front end, on which were placed the revolving cutters, and the other above the center of the box on which were the driving wheels, and on which the box was hung. The driving shaft had on it two drive pulleys corresponding with two smaller ones on the cutter shaft and the two were connected by means of two rope belts. It was a revolving cutter field mower, and is the first revolving cutter of which any record can be found, but the inventor did not claim that it was a lawn mower. The next authentic record of a revolving cutter mower was one invented by Edwin Budding, of Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. Budding was born near Stroud in 1796. He was evidently an inventor, draftsman and mechanic of considerable ability. He invented the Budding wrench and various machines for use in the manufacture of woolen cloth. He was superintendent for the late George Lister, a manufacturer of Dursley, England. P. A. Lister (son of George), who succeeded his father (and from whom many of these facts regarding Budding emanate), stated that there was no doubt but that Budding took the idea of the lawn mower from a cloth clipping machine. He was granted a patent for his new invention, dated October 25, 1830, and a circular owned by Mr. Budding's daughter, dated 1830, shows that he sold three sizes of lawn mowers, manufactured by John Farrahee near Stroud. These facts leave no doubt that to Budding belongs the credit of producing the first lawn mower.

Previous to 1855 probably all lawn mowers used in America were of English make. A few years prior to this Mr. H. W. Sargent, of Fishkill, received a mower from England and sent it to Mr. Swift to be repaired, and it was upon Mr. Sargent's suggestion that Mr. Swift began the manufacture of these machines. His circular, dated 1855, states that he made four sizes ranging in price from $30 to $80. For a number of years Mr. Swift had a monopoly of the lawn mower trade in this country.

About 1868 the Hills Lawn Mower Co. was started in Hartford, Conn. They made the Archimedian Mower. It was the first machine made with only two revolving cutter blades, and sold for $45. Other manufacturers were Graham, Emlen & Passmore, of Philadelphia, who produced the first side wheel mower. In 1885 some patents on the best mowers expired and many small manufacturers sprang up in all parts of the country, who have contented themselves by making the cheaper grades. A few lawn mowers are made in Canada, Germany and France, but the United States produces four fifths of all lawn mowers made in the world, and they are exported to every part of the globe.

The business established by Thomas Coldwell is now continued by his two sons. William H. and Harry T., both of whom were brought up in the lawn mower business by their father. He is also survived by a widow and daughter, the latter the wife of Mr. E. C. Ross, who is associated with the Coldwell Brothers in the lawn mower industry.

From:
The History of Orange County New York
Edited by: Russel Headley
Van Deusen and Elms, Publishers
Middletown, N. Y. 1908


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