Take 2: 1977 tillers

Since I've been writing this blog for almost five years now with almost 1600 posts, you'd think that I would repeat myself quite often. It seems inevitable that I'd inadvertently visit at least a few topics more than once, doesn't it? Good gardens change every year though, as do the viewpoints of their gardeners. Throw unpredictable weather, some travel, and pure chance/luck into the mix and you get almost continual variety in post subjects. Repeating myself hasn't been a problem (I hope).


Once in a while though I want to repeat myself, and show you some posts back from the earlier days of this blog that you may have missed or forgotten about. Things that I think are worth a second look. That's what I'm doing today, as I repost an old one. (Yep, a rerun!)

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Back in March 2011 I posted about tiller ads from a 1977 issue of Organic Gardening. I really like this post, because history on a personal level is fascinating to me. Give me a box of really old photos and I'll look through them for hours, trying to glean the stories behind each image. This post with its 40-year-old magazine gives a little taste of that.

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(My post from 6 March 2011)

Yesterday's post was a look back over last year's posts, but today I take a look back even further to show you how things have changed. Have you ever considered buying a garden tiller of some sort? Do you own one already? How did you choose it, from an ad in a gardening magazine perhaps? If so, then I can probably take a guess what you have: either a Mantis tiller, or a model from DR. Why would I guess those? Because they're just about the only advertised tillers I see these days, or are certainly the most widely advertised.


Back in 1977 though, a gardener who had time to read about their hobby or home farm had more choices. Many more choices. Last year my neighbor cleaned out part of his basement and found a 1977 issue of Organic Gardening magazine and gave it to me. Although the articles are still relevant today, the ads are what caught my attention.


After paging through the magazine a few times, I realized that I was seeing a lot of ads for tillers.


How many did I find? If I count just ads that mention tillers or have photos of tillers, there are 16 of them. If I limit it to one ad per company, and exclude any tractor attachment tillers, or anything that is not engine-powered, there are still 11 different choices. Eleven! Let's take a look at some of them:

ROTO-HOE - don't think they're around anymore.

International Harvester is around as CaseIH,
but certainly not making anything this small anymore.

Not actually a tiller, but related. 

Troy-Bilt is still around and making garden tillers.

Nope, don't think so.

Yellowbird? Sounds like a name that
could catch on in today's market.

Looks familiar, doesn't it? The company name doesn't though.

Snapper doesn't make these anymore.

Never heard of it.

Ariens must have been big at the time, as they had 2 ads in this issue.

Looks powerful!

Gilson. Bought by Lawn-Boy in the 80's. Read about Gilson here.

Back inside cover. One of the most expensive spots for ads.
This company must be moving up, but not yet top of the tiller world.

Back cover. THE most expensive ad page.
This company must be king of tillers.
They'll be around forever, right?

Here's a push version. Imagine a reel mower that cuts into the ground.
Must have been almost impossible to move through all but the
loosest of soils. I wonder why these didn't catch on?
(I didn't want to Google "Hoeboy")

How many of these machines are still operating today, happily tilling the soil 30 years after their original owners saw an ad in a little gardening magazine and made the purchase?

How many of those companies still exist? How many merged with other companies, or changed their manufacturing focus, or went under?  I don't like thinking about that.

I do like reading these old ads though. Those 1977 prices are pretty nice too!


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Mark and Gaz  – (November 5, 2014 at 8:30 AM)  

I found myself amused and fascinated looking at the photos. Oh and the magazine is slightly older than me...

Hoover Boo  – (November 5, 2014 at 8:48 AM)  

Interesting--has gardening changed such that tilling is no longer much done? I supposed there were not many adverts for compost bins back then...

sandy lawrence –   – (November 5, 2014 at 9:20 AM)  

Loads of tv ads for tillers, also, in the '70s.
Perhaps someone much more knowledgeable than I will enlarge on this, but currently I've been seeing comments regarding the benefits of not disturbing the soil unnecessarily, including the microbes living there, especially if you want established plants to go through the re-seeding cycle, and allowing earthworms to move your compost down and around for you. This is my method mainly because I'm a lazy gardener, but it seems to work. I have lots of reseeded plants each year.
BTW, I actually recall seeing that ad for the AM chipper shredder and coveting one for my birthday. (I think I got cookware instead. ugh.)

Alan  – (November 5, 2014 at 11:26 AM)  

Mark/Gaz: Sadly, the magazine is NOT older than I am. :)

Gail: You didn't use a tiller on your slope? ;)

Sandy (and Gail): It surely has changed much since then, but to me the interesting thing is that Organic Gardening magazine itself was instrumental in that change. I want to see the ads in the issue where they started saying "stop tilling!"

danger garden  – (November 6, 2014 at 12:31 AM)  

At our big HPSO meetings each year the book committee brings an assortment of books for sale. There are always a few old magazines mixed in, sometimes $1 and sometimes free. I LOVE them and always grab a few. The articles are wonderful but I always enjoy the ads, how different things were before the internet! "send $3 for a color catalogue" "write 1234 N Garden Ave for more information"... The best part is when I recognize a business name that is still going strong today.

Josh Eaton  – (November 8, 2014 at 7:48 PM)  

Got a 1974 Winston tiller and it's still chugging along...

Alan  – (November 10, 2014 at 7:42 AM)  

Josh: That's great to hear! I wish that Winston would have been featured in one of these ads.

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