How did lawns become a status symbol?

Hundreds of years ago, grassy lawns originally became popular to show that a person was rich enough to waste land instead of farming on it. That status symbol no longer applies, since we no longer live in an agricultural livelihood economy, but it is still required by law across the United States.

How did lawns become a status symbol?

Hundreds of years ago, grassy lawns originally became popular to show that a person was rich enough to waste land instead of farming on it. That status symbol no longer applies, since we no longer live in an agricultural livelihood economy, but it is still required by law across the United States. With the rise of suburbs in the United States after World War II, the perfect lawn became a powerful symbol of the American dream. Whether it was a large strip of grass cut in sharp diagonal bands or a more modest sample of grass and clover, a lawn expressed the national ideal that, with hard work, sacrifice, and perhaps a little help from Uncle Sam, homeownership and a piece of land could be accessible to all Americans.

It turns out that grass as a status symbol has its origin in the European aristocracy. The first gardens were grassy fields that surrounded English and French castles. The castle grounds needed to be kept away from trees so that the soldiers who protected them had a clear view of their environment. Grass-covered lawns originally became popular to show that a person was rich enough to waste land instead of farming on it.

Lawn care companies began advertising their products accordingly, he added, making homeowners feel like the bosses with their particular lawn care products. Hundreds of years ago, having a lawn at the front of the property was a status symbol (as is having the latest iPhone today), but not many people know why grass was so symbolic of status. As in the first period of turf history, the creation of ideal lawns in this second period was favored by greater access to technology. Turf experienced significant momentum during the second period of turf history, which took place after World War II.

Similarly, rainwater runoff from turf can carry pesticides and fertilizers to rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans through the sewer system. In the early 17th century, grass became more popular among wealthy aristocrats across Europe, and designers of mansions and palaces such as Versailles incorporated grass into the grounds. Unlike other fads or short-lived status symbols, grass has had staying power for centuries because grass is inherently pleasant. For a culture increasingly obsessed with golf in the 1950s, the perfect lawn rose to become an icon of the American dream, wrote Ted Steinberg, professor of history at Case Western Reserve University and one of the leading scholars of American turf.

Levi Hestand
Levi Hestand

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