If you spend more than a few minutes with author James B. Ricci, you will learn that he has been collecting lawn mowers since 1997. He says people typically respond to his enthusiasm with the rolling of eyes—until they begin to understand that there is an artistry to lawn mowers in their ornately cast component parts and intricate paint schemes. This decorative style of industrial artwork prompted Jim to begin The Reel Lawn Mower History & Preservation Project @ North Farms in 1997, and it eventually led to his publication of Hand, Horse, and Motor.
Jim grew up on a twenty-five-acre farm in Amherst, Massachusetts, in the 1950s, and always had his eye on the Locke Power Lawn Mower; it was a familiar sight in the Northeast back then, with its dark-green body and yellow pinstripes. In 1992, Jim bought his own Locke, and it led him to consider penning a booklet about the power lawn mowers made by The Locke Steel Chain Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He began collecting, researching, and writing.
Many years, many road trips—including trips abroad to the United Kingdom—and much research later, he has launched his book on the development of the lawn mower industry in the United States from the mid-nineteenth century to the start of World War II.
Jim is a familiar face at the British Lawnmower Museum, an active and trusted member of The Old Lawnmower Club in Wolverton, England, and a friend to lawn mower collector Andrew Hall and his collecting partner Michael Duck of the Hall and Duck Trust. Likewise, on this side of the pond, Jim is a devoted attendee at turfgrass conventions, engine shows, demonstrations, lectures, and displays for clubs and associations with a link to lawn mowers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
Jim’s lawn mower knowledge and fascination even led him to the Silver Screen. In spring 2007, he was contacted by Tommy Props, a real Hollywood props guy, to supply two lawn mowers for a movie starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. He and a friend were filmed in several scenes for “Revolutionary Road,” but their fifteen seconds of fame ended up on the cutting room floor, except for a clip at the end of the DVD that was released a few months later. Jim is the one standing with the wide-brim cricket hat from The Old Lawnmower Club.
Jim is a member of the Society of Industrial Archeology, the Early American Industries Association, and the Ephemera Society of America. He has published articles in and has close ties with Lawn and Garden Tractor Magazine, Gas Engine Magazine, and Farm Show Magazine. And he has been featured in publications from the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, to Sunday Morning CBS News and The Washington Post for his efforts in chronicling the history of the reel lawn mower.
Jim would be pleased to hear from you or to field your question about your antique lawn mower. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation about all things (Vintage, Antique, Old) lawn mower.