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100-Year-Old Riding Reel Mower
Massachusetts lawn mower collector James Ricci recently acquired one of the oldest, heaviest and most expensive reel lawn mowers ever made. His Milbradt riding mower has a 38-in. cut, weighs about 1,280 lbs. and has a single cylinder, 5 hp motor. It was built sometime between 1915 and 1922 and sold new for a whopping $600. In 2014 dollars, that would be about $14,000.
Ricci acquired the mower from the family of the owner, who had recently passed away. A friend sent me pictures of this machine that hed taken at an engine show. I made it known that I was definitely interested in owning it. I promised the family when I bought it that Id get it running again and get it back on the old engine show circuit, which Ive done.
Ricci learned that the man who owned the mower for several years had purchased it in rural western Massachusetts. The Milbradt Company that made it was also known for manufacturing rolling step ladders, the kind found in old-time high ceiling stores. Company founder Gustave Milbradt immigrated to the U.S. in the 1860s and he started making the rolling ladders in St. Paul, Minn. during the 1880s. Ricci thinks the mower was built in St. Louis after the company moved there.
Ricci says that like most equipment pushing 100 years of age his Milbradt is pretty much worn out. Its a giant piece of rusted metal with a dilapitated seat. The engine is a 5 hp model with a Schebler Model E brass carburetor. The engine was built in St. Louis by the Lippert Engine Company, which became the Missouri Engine Company in 1913. Ive talked to several collectors and the consensus is that it should be preserved and not restored.
Ricci started repairing a few of the missing and broken parts in the fall of 2013. He wants to bring the engine back to working condition with help from other collectors. Ricci says completing the preservation project has no timetable, though he thinks it might be close to a year before all areas of concern are dealt with and the massive rider takes its spot in the reel mower museum on his farm.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, James Ricci, 30 North Farms Road, Haydenville, Mass. 01039 (ph 413 268-7863; www.reellawnmower.com).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #6