2021 - Volume #45, Issue #1, Page #19[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Mower Collection Includes Rare 1917 Model J Coldwell
“Interestingly, the lack of a front cutting unit is likely what allowed this piece to survive into the 21st century,” Ricci notes of his 1917 mower. With the reel cutting unit gone, it was likely used as a lawn roller or for fun for kids to drive around the estate where it was used.
The Coldwell Lawn Mower Co. in Newburgh, N.Y., built large riding reel lawn mowers between the late 1890’s through the mid-1930’s. The Model J had the same 4-cylinder Continental engine that was used in cars. With a muffler, it sounded like a car and it had a radiator and crank to start it. The engine is in the back and the driver sits on a seat over a wooden box that contains the worm gear. Power from the motor then goes to the drive clutch and the revolving cutter clutch.
“Driving the mower was like driving a car, but with no suspension,” Ricci says. “They said it could go up to a 25 percent grade. These were well-designed for their time period.”
As a collector, he appreciates the styling of the mower with pinstripes of gold with black lines and dark apple-green paint. The 1917 model was retrieved from the barn of an estate and the engine didn’t work. After some work, he got the engine of the 1920 model to start, but its original wood had all been replaced.
After much research, Ricci hasn’t been able to find out how many Model J’s were built, and he only knows about the two he owns. It’s likely not many were made, as they were only practical for wealthy customers with estates, mostly in the eastern U.S. The 1917 model sold for $1,300.
According to advertisements, the mower only used a gallon of gas to cut 2.25 acres and traveled up to 6 mph. It was “guaranteed to do the work of three men with three horse mowers,” which Coldwell also sold.
Ricci is in the process of restoring the 1920 model and welcomes calls from anyone who has a Model J, information about the mower, or parts such as the cutting unit or seat. For other reel cutter lawn mower collectors, Ricci wrote a book documenting manufacturers of lawn mowers between 1855-1942. Hand, Horse and Motor is available through his website and at www.levellerspress.com.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Jim Ricci, 30 N. Farms Rd., Haydenville, Mass. 01039 (ph 413 268-7863; www.reellawnmower.com; email@example.com).
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