Don’t complain about today’s gardening tools until you see how far we’ve come since the 1930’s


Vintage Gardening Tools
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In our 1934 pages, we highlighted eight garden tools that were shockingly novel at the time, but now seem hilariously dated. Here’s how those garden wonders have evolved or been replaced, from a light for avid green thumbs who just couldn’t stop shoveling at sunset, to a hose holder for those weary from hours of watering.


A Two-Fer: Tilling and Weeding

Tilling is no fun when you’ve got weeds, so we featured this Montgomery Ward Junior Tiller with both cultivator and weeder blades at the ripe price of $4.35. The cultivator turned the soil, while the weeder yanked out deep, troublesome roots. Montgomery Ward may not have survived (it’s now called Wards), but techy tillers with cultivator and weeder attachments still exist, because weeds still exist (and will persist even in the year 3000 in space station gardens, we’re guessing). Wards is still peddling tillers, but in gas and electric formats now, and for $249 and $199, respectively. Both models also feature an important facet the vintage model didn’t—wheels to roll the tiller around the yard with ease. Why didn’t anyone in the ’30s think of that?

Hooked on a Hose

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San Francisco’s Chas. Brown & Sons (makers of such stylish household items as this “Have a Drink with Aunt Pete” beverage tray) had us hooked with their handsome black enamel Hanley Hose Holder, a stylish and practical 39-cent wonder for any gardener exhausted from “hours of hose-holding.” Though the Hanley Hose Holder, which we claimed was “adjustable to any angle,” seems to have been lost to the sands of time, hose holders shockingly still exist! Not only that, they’ve evolved. Despite the prevalence of sprinkler systems for the garden, there are still enough gardeners out there who can’t stand to lose time watering by hand and are willing to spend $19.99 on an updated version of the Hanley Hose Holder. Thankfully, they have the Hose Hooker, which advertises “no more struggling to hold your dog and the hose at bath time” and cleaning your SUV, RV, truck, or boat as an added perk to its gardening capabilities. As soon as we start cleaning Fido on a boat, we’re sold.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop … Gardening

For the cross-section of folks who are night owls and gardeners and actually want to garden at night (rather than sipping one of our favorite cocktails at sunset), Wuelker Lighting Co. in San Francisco pioneered a garden light that looks like it could grace the industrial floor of ABC Carpet & Home today. This handsome lamp would’ve set our readers back $8.50 and the cord doesn’t look longer than two feet long, so gardens must have been pretty small? We couldn’t find any products offering this service today, but you can always improvise at home with your own lights like this intrepid night gardener. Perhaps you could even find a way to hook your lanterns onto the Hose Hooker.

Dandelions Don’t Work Like That

Union Fork & Hoe Co. created this crabgrass and dandelion rake that we were super-stoked to unveil. Unfortunately, our staff can unanimously affirm that running a rake, even a shallowly-digging one, over persistent weeds like crabgrass and dandelions won’t prevent deep-seated roots from coming back with a vengeance. Luckily, no one has tried to replicate this item, which we wouldn’t even pay $1.20 for in 2019 dollars. Fortunately, Union Fork & Hoe Co. (now UnionTools) figured out somewhere along the way that it needed to offer tools that could do some real weeding.

Sign of the Times

Germain’s Los Angeles (now Germain’s Seed Technology) sold this Carter Lever Nozzle for hoses, which we excitedly proclaimed was “easy squeeze,”  like the cheese in a spray can. The lever nozzle must have been quite a revolution at the time for gardeners who were tired of modulating water spray with their hands. “Release turns off,” we wrote with wonder. In today’s age, we take such ease for granted, with a panoply of easy-squeeze nozzles that allow us to lazily water our gardens with a variety of streams, from gentle rain shower to firefighter-like force. At one time, this attachment was a modern technological marvel.

Just Like a Headphone Splitter

The aforementioned Chas. Brown & Sons also purveyed this 60-cent no-screwing coupler, which seems like the faucet equivalent of a headphone splitter for your iPhone. If you needed two water streams at the same time, this was your easy solution. The idea survives today in this Homitt Hose Splitter, though we regret to inform you that gardening may have regressed since ’34, because you’ll need to do some work and screw the cap on.

A-Tisket, A-Tasket, an All-Too-Pretty Basket

Lois Martin of San Francisco’s rawhide-bound, 18-inch picking-baskets from Mexico were pretty indeed, fanning out in an attractive shape. Carrying this lovely basket, you’d be sure to stumble upon a secret orchard while on your idyllic summer stroll in your favorite summer dress, and then you’d have somewhere to place the few burnished wild apples that would fit in said basket without rolling out on your jaunty skip home. However, we wouldn’t recommend finding that orchard more than a couple miles from your house, lest your arms tire too much from supporting that pretty handle. At $1.50, these weren’t exactly cheap either at the time.  Though you can buy indigenous rawhide baskets at markets today, we’d recommend sticking with the less aesthetically-appealing over-the-shoulder picking apron ($21). Or if you must look the part of a prettily pastoral picker, try an L.L. Bean Allagash Pack Basket (from $89).

Rubber Tires Are Just Dandy

“The Dandy,” a $5.50 garden cart by Germain Los Angeles that we advertised as light and strong, is really just a wheelbarrow, but looks heavy for today, especially compared to this lightweight collapsible wheelbarrow ($120) we’d spring for now. “Rubber tires spare lawn,” we wrote, which makes us envision the poor lawns of the 1930’s covered in steel-wheeled track marks from the wheelbarrows—ahem, not-so-dandy garden carts—of yore.