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The original Weed Eater.

What do a poisonous snake bite and a carwash have in common? These two unlikely sources inspired the creation of the Weed Eater.

Weed Eater creator George Ballas knew that a better solution was needed for grass trimming when one of his employees was bitten by a poisonous snake while trimming the lawn with shears. It wasn’t until a visit to the carwash, though, that inspiration truly struck.

In 1972, the Houston businessman was captivated as he watched spinning bristles clean his car without damaging it. He wondered if he could use the same principle to trim the grass around his trees' trunks without damaging the bark.

Rushing home, he found a tin popcorn can in the trash, punched holes in it and inserted fishing line to simulate the carwash bristles and attached it to the rotary on his lawn edger. Within seconds, the spinning lines neatly sliced through the grass and Weed Eater was born. He knew he had found the answer to his prayers and millions of others.

After working with an engineer to further develop the new product, Ballas created the first two Weed Eater models, the “Weedie” and the “Clippie.” When Ballas was unable to find a company willing to distribute his new device, he struck out on his own, turning Weed Eater into a $40 million a year business in just a few short years. By 1977, television advertisements brought Weed Eater national attention and sales topped $80 million.

“The Weed King,” as Ballas came to be known, eventually went on to sell Weed Eater to Emerson Electric Co., which later merged with Poulan, and was acquired by the Husqvarna Group in 1986.  Today, the Weed Eater brand encompasses not only string trimmers, but also mowers, hedge trimmers, and blowers.

Weed Eater founder George Ballas