Alexander Shanks was an engineer born in Milnetown of Bridgetown, Forfarshire, and was the owner of Alexander Shanks & Son who popularised the lawnmower during the 19th century.
The firm was founded in 1840 in Arbroath, and was originally concerned with the production of iron castings, steam engines and excavating machinery.
In 1842, however, Shanks registered his first patent for a lawnmower that could cut grass and roll the turf in one operation. Following a successful trial of the machine in July of that year, the Mechanical Magazine published an appreciative review suggesting that the design, powered by a horse and guided by a driver, was superior to its competitors. It was this model that was used to promote both the lawnmower and the firm by Shanks’ son, James (1831-1899) during the second half of the century.
John Martin, ‘Shanks, Alexander (1801–1845)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/50034, accessed
5 Jan 2009]