P. O. Box 406 Oakland, Illinois 61943
Mr. Leonard Goodall was a very good mechanic, and was shop
foreman for the Theodore Schock Garage in Warrenburg, MO, for
several years. He was a very talented man, and was always doing
other jobs to make extra money, after he got off work at the
garage. With a jig-saw in his basement, he would make jig-saw
puzzles. He would take these jig-saw puzzles to the college store,
where they were rented for 10$ a night. He also had a lawn mower
sharpening business. He had a little Ford pick-up truck that he
used to pick up the mowers, and after sharpening them, would return
them. He also had a cabinet shop in the early 30’s, where he
used his talent as a wood worker.
However, life was not always good to him. One time, while he was
working on an old tractor, with open drive gears, with the engine
running, the tractor vibration caused the tractor to jump into
gear. One of his legs was caught in the gears and was cut off.
Another time, when he was adjusting the bearings under the car,
a pan of gasoline ignited and burned him severely.
However, these unfortunate accidents did not discourage him. His
determination and ingenuity is what makes this article possible. He
always kept his mind busy thinking of a better way to get a job
done-The result was the GOODALL ROTARY MOWER.
In 1930-31, Leonard Goodall was mowing his lawn, that had a lot
of buckhorn and plantain in with the grass. When he pushed his
reel-type lawn mower across his yard, he noticed that the reel
mower had just pushed the buckhorn and plantain over, instead of
cutting them off like the grass. He thought what a job it was going
to be to have to take a hand sickle or scythe and go over his yard
again to cut off those stems! He said to himself, ‘There has to
be a better way than this to have a neat lawn’.
In a few days he decided to try something that was radically
different in application, even though it was a new method to an old
idea. He cut off about 8 inches from two sickle blades and welded
them together with a hub in the middle. This hub and blades were
mounted on the shaft of an electric motor. This motor and blade
arrangement was mounted on a wooden platform that was fastened to
the front of Mr. Goodall’s lawn mower. IT WORKED! He lowered
the motor and blade and it cut the grass and tall stems, as well as
the reel mower, and did it in one operation!
Because this proved so successful, he decided to develop a good
rotary mower, and then manufacture them. Even though he was a good
mechanic, it was eight years before he developed a mower that he
thought was good enough to manufacture and sell to the public.
Mr. Goodall tried several different belt arrangements to drive
the cutting blade, but was never quite satisfied with any of them.
He finally made up a mower with a Johnson Iron Horse Engine, and a
‘donkey drive’. A ‘donkey drive’ is where you drive
a vertical shaft from a horizontal pulley on the engine. This mower
worked well, but Mr. Goodall thought he could do better. He felt
this arrangement was dangerous, and also felt too much power was
lost in this belt system.
Up to this time, no one had produced a vertical crankshaft
engine. About two years before this, in 1937, Maytag came out with
their all new twin cylinder, two cycle engine. Since a two cycle
engine will run in any position, Mr. Goodall saw the ideal way to
make a rotary mower. He turned the engine so the crankshaft was
vertical, and mounted the blade directly to the crankshaft. It was
the first patent granted to a direct drive rotary mower.
On his first production mower, Mr. Goodall used a sand cast
aluminum deck, with steel sides, that the wheels were bolted onto.
He mounted the twin cylinder Maytag engine on the deck, with the
flywheel down next to the deck. He extended the hub from the
flywheel down through the deck, and mounted the blade on the lower
end of this hub. He found this arrangement not very satisfactory
because when the blade struck a hard object, quite often the cast
iron crankshaft broke. He solved this problem by turning the engine
over with the flywheel on top.
He also made other improvements. He put an extra ball bearing on
the lower crankshaft, to help support the blade. He devised a
rubber mount to attach the blade to the lower end of the
crankshaft. He helped the running quality, and also added power, by
the addition of a Tilotson carburetor. These improvements proved
very successful, and were used for the duration of the
Maytag-Tilotson System, which lasted until World War II.
After the war started, Maytag engines were no longer available.
Mr. Goodall made a deal with the McCulloch Company for some
engines. However, they were not satisfactory for lawn mowers.
Therefore, Mr. Goodall did very little business during the war.
After the war, he made a deal with Lawson to supply him with a
vertical crankshaft engine with an oil pump to supply better
lubrication. I believe Mr. Goodall designed the oil pump for the
Lawson Engines. His son told me that his father had received four
patents. I know one was for the direct drive rotary mower, and I
believe one was for the Lawson Oil Pump.- It was part of their deal
that Lawson would not sell anyone else a vertical crankshaft engine
for five years. This lawn mower with the Lawson Engine proved to be
a fine mower. A friend of mine, who has been a lawn mower repairman
for many years, has told me several times that the Goodall Mower
was the ‘Top of the Line’.
About this time, Mr. Goodall contacted Glen Stahl of Kingsville,
Missouri, who was starting in the die casting business. Before this
time, Mr. Goodall used sand cast decks, but they were very
expensive to finish. Glen Stahl made the decks, with all the holes
in them, and ready to use. Mr. Goodall used Stahl’s decks for
the rest of the time he was in business. Mr. Stahl told me that Mr.
Goodall always tested the decks before they were used. He would
slam them down on a concrete floor as hard as he could. If they
bent, they were O. K., but if they cracked, they were rejected.
I would like to add here that there would be quite a story in
the life of Glen Stahl. He started his die casting business in a
small brick building, with a minimum of equipment. Today he has a
huge operation in the little town of Kingsville, Missouri, and he
is known all over the world for producing top quality die
In 1952 Mr. Goodall retired, and sold his business to the Foley
Manufacturing Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He did continue as
a consultant for sometime. When Mr. Goodall retired, the Company
bronzed his first mower blade, that he fashioned from two sickle
blades, and presented them to him. Inscribed on a plaques were
these words, ‘Blade used on First Vertical Drive Rotary
Mower. Made by Leonard Goodall-1931′.
Mr. Goodall’s son, Leonard E. (Pat) Goodall, has this blade
and plaque on the wall of his home in Las Vegas today.
Mr. Goodall passed away in 1971. He was truly a great man that
revolutionized the lawn mower industry.
I’m in debt to several people who were so helpful to me in
writing this article on Mr. Goodall and his mowers.
First, I want to thank Mr. Goodall’s son, Leonard (Pat)
Goodall of Las Vegas, who was so cooperative and sent me pictures
of the bronzed blade, given to his father by the Company. He gave
me dates and other information that added so much interest to this
article. He also gave me Glen Stahl’s name and address, so I
could contact him.
Second, I want to thank Glen Stahl of Kingsville, Missouri. He
gave me valuable information, as well as, his time and hospitality.
He made it possible for me to meet and talk with two men who had
worked for Mr. Goodall. They were Clifford Ele from Warrensburg,
Missouri, and Robert Monkers from Holden, Missouri. Thank you
Clifford and Robert. Since all three men were so closely connected
with Mr. Goodall in his early production years, they had many
interesting facts and personal stories that they so willingly
shared with me. What a pleasure it was to visit with these three
Last, but not least, I must mention my old friend Glen Blair of
Stover, Missouri. The Blairs and Goodalls are very good friends,
and Glen introduced me to Mr. Goodall’s son.