Since its founding in 1894, Fairhope has been a place of fantasy. A Utopian Village along the shores of Mobile Bay was only a dream.
As you step through the door of The Fairhope History Museum you are greeted by the fantastical sight of Claude Jansen’s Easycut Lawnmowers flying through the air. The Easycut Lawnmower was originally designed and patented by Reuben Rockwell, a Quaker from Fairhope. As Mr. Rockwell prepared to emigrate to Costa Rica he sold the designs and patent to Claude Jansen.
Claude Jansen was born in Tennessee and moved to Fairhope while just a young boy. Claude attended the Organic School through eighth grade, foregoing further schooling for employment.
At the time Jansen bought the Easycut Lawnmower process from Rockwell, he already had a business selling boats, motors and trailers. A lawnmower business was not so far out of line for Jansen. He sold 15,000 mowers from 1950 to 1972. Quite a good run.
A poster on the wall gives a good description of the Easycut mowers. Available 2 or 3 hp, 4 stroke engines made by Lausen, Briggs or Clinton engines. The mower could be ordered in either self propelled or push type. Remember, this was a time when reel mowers were still common. The Easycut’s spun aluminum chassis was a step up from the steel decks of the day that rusted out in just a few years. The mower cut a 20 inch strip and could trim to within a half inch of an object.
The half inch clearance may have been the downfall for Easycut. Safety became an issue as the chassis just barely covered the blade and anything hit by the turning blade could easily become a dangerous projectile. The lightweight chassis could also be knocked back when the blade hit a hard, immovable object.
Claude Jansen made quite a life for himself in Fairhope. Not only did he sell boats, motors, trailers and lawnmowers, he also served as President of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce and was considered by many to be a fine pillar of the community.
Later in life, Claude began milling corn and produced cornmeal and grits, considered as some of the best by local residents and chefs. Claude’s son, Ken Jansen, still grinds out cornmeal and grits in his Greeno Road shop, Fairhope Tire.
Ronnie Mixson has been repairing lawn mowers at Big John’s Small Engine Repair for more than 35 years and remembers customers bringing in Easycut lawnmowers for repairs and maintenance. “They were good little mowers. The aluminum never rusted so the deck was solid. Easy to work on and neat that they were made right here in Fairhope. I haven’t seen one in years, but I bet there are some still working out there.”