The Choremaster: A One-wheeled Wonder

The idea for a one-wheeled tractor called the Choremaster sprang from the inventive mind of an Indiana car salesman in the 1940s.

| May 2002

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    The 1949 Choremaster brochure cover boasts that the small tractor handled duties for all seasons
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    The Choremaster logo.
  • FC_V4_I10_May_2002_08-2.jpg
    The 1950 Choremaster patent drawing shows the garden tractor with a harrow attachment.

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The idea for a one-wheeled tractor called the Choremaster sprang from the inventive mind of an Indiana car salesman in the 1940s. By the early 1950s, the machine had become one of the most popular garden tractors in the United States, but by 1960, it had disappeared completely from the marketplace. Here's the story:

The tractor's inventor was Carl Van Ausdall of Union County, Ind., who started out selling Chevrolets at his father's Liberty, Ind., dealership, according to Choremaster historian Hugh Morgan of Liberty.

When Van Ausdall wasn't making car deals, he spent his time at a drawing board set up in the back of the showroom, designing the one-wheeled tractor. He then engineered the project in the dealership's garage, and soon after moved his enterprise to a building just north of the Liberty Post Office.

Van Ausdall's first employee was Hershel Grimme, a welder who also now lives in Liberty. Working together in early 1946, Grimme says, they built and tested the Choremaster prototype, powered by a 1 hp Clinton engine. In July of that year, Van Ausdall applied for a patent, which was granted in December 1950.

According to Morgan, Van Ausdall was struggling financially, so he struck a deal with Lodge and Shipley Co.'s Special Products Division of Cincinnati to manufacture his tractor, beginning with the 1947 models.

Today, many people think Lodge and Shipley invented the Choremaster. Actually, Van Ausdall retained the ownership, design and licensing rights while Lodge and Shipley assumed responsibility for the manufacture and marketing, and for the costs of future patents. Van Ausdall was to be paid a pre-determined fee for each unit that was produced. His invention became the first product of Lodge and Shipley's Special Products Division to bear the Choremaster name. Choremaster tractor manufacturing moved to Cincinnati, but the implement factory remained in Liberty, where another welder, Frank Mann, was hired to work with Grimme (although Grimme eventually went to work in Cincinnati as a Choremaster salesman and service technician).


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