Troy-Bilt Rototillers

Farmers and home gardeners can thank C. W. Kelsey for bringing rototillers to the United States. In 1930, Kelsey established the Rototiller Company in New York City to import and distribute a Swiss designed, German made “earth grinder” that could efficiently and easily cultivate soil. Two years later, Kelsey registered the trademark Rototiller®.

Kelsey teamed up with industrialist George B. Cluett and began manufacturing operations in Troy, New York, in 1937. During the next decade, the company transferred production of large tillers to another firm and focused on designing a better, less expensive machine. When Kelsey retired in 1957, he turned over the company to the employees who worked for him. The company briefly left Troy, but then returned under the name Watco Machine Products, Inc., and manufactured “The Trojan Horse.”

A trademark challenge in 1968 necessitated changing the name to Troy-Bilt® and the company was renamed Garden Way Manufacturing Company. Long-time Troy-Bilt® sales manager, Dean Leath, Jr., noted the trend in home gardening in the 1970s and began a marketing campaign that included publishing gardening booklets and exhibiting rototillers at county fairs.

The “Pony” model rototiller includes a sticker with Leath’s contact information telling the buyer what is included with the purchase. Marketed as easier to use for smaller backyard gardens, the “Pony” incorporates an engine made by Briggs and Stratton of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2001, the company declared bankruptcy and was purchased by MTD of Ohio.


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Troy-Bilt® Rototiller (Pony Model)
Garden Way Manufacturing Company, Troy, New York
Steel, metal, paint
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Caroline Cluett in her Garden
Gelatin silver photographic print