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The First Electric Weed Eater (An Illustrated Advertisement from 1977)

  • by
  • Gene Caballero
  • November 28, 2022

George Ballas invented the Weed Eater in the early 1970’s as a result of one of his employees getting bit by a snake while trimming the lawn. Back then you had to use sheers to prune along the edges of your lawn. But by attaching a can with string to the end of an edger, Ballas invented the infamous product that all lawn care professionals rely on today. Here is a unique advertisement for the product in a 1977 newspaper from Billings, Montana.

What was the first electric weed eater?

The first electric weed eater was invented by George Ballas, and was built under the Weed Eater brand. There were a few early versions of the electric weed eater; the 2 pictured here were the Snippy and Needie. Other versions of the weed eater were Clippie and Weedie. Yes, they could not get away from the rhyme.

What were the specifications of early Weed Eaters?

Early Weed Eaters were simple electric machines that were primarily marketed to housewives. The Snippy was a lightweight 3.5-pound machine, with a 9’ inch cutting path. And it was “double insulated for safety”. The Snippy could hold up to 12 feet of trimmer line and had a front-mounted clipper to keep the string to length. The Needie Weed Eater had a ¾ horsepower motor and could cut a 12-inch path and was over twice the weight of the Snippy at 8 pounds. Further, it held 30 feet of trimmer line on a replaceable spool. 

How much was the first electric Weed Eater?

The first electric Weed Eaters were actually comparable in costs today. In fact, some of them used to be even more expensive than they are today. The Snippy was $49.95 and the Needie was $89.95. You can get a comparable Black and Decker trimmer today for about $55. So even with inflation, electric weed eaters used to cost more. 

What did the first weed eaters use for string?

Get this, the first Weed Eaters used a specially coated fishing line to do the job. Part of me is curious if that could still work in newer models. 


At the end of the Day, the Weed Eater was and still is an incredible invention that lawn care pros and homeowners alike have come to depend on over the years. Wonder what the best weed eater is today? Well, look no further than this article on the ultimate string trimmer. Or check this out for the best yard clean-up tips

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