The Dandelion Rake

From the Kearney Daily Hub, April 21, 1917

“Kearney has it and has it bad,” said the Kearney Daily Hub on May 14, 1902. “The dandelion is taking the town, literally overrunning it from end to end, covering lawns and terraces, and furnishing ‘greens’ enough to supply the inhabitants of a large city if the crop was harvested and marketed.”

Fortunately by 1917 the citizens of Kearney had a new weapon in their ongoing fight against dandelions. Several years before Ernest Gillette, a Buffalo County Courthouse custodian, had invented a “dandelion extermination rake,” which he patented and then manufactured on a small scale. In 1916 Charles A. Hazlett, a Kearney jeweler and optician, purchased Gillette’s patent rights, manufacturing machinery, and raw materials. Hazlett planned to produce the rakes himself in the basement of the building housing his jewelry store. The dandelion rake, as it quickly became known, soon proved popular. Hazlett, seeing a golden opportunity to profit from the hatred of homeowners for dandelions, promoted the rake enthusiastically and soon expanded his operations. He traveled to St. Louis in May 1916 and secured an order from the city for use in municipal parks there. He also persuaded a large hardware company to handle the rake and arranged for its sale by traveling salesmen. “Dandelion fighters in other cities have heard of the rake,” said the Hub on April 14, 1917, “and they cannot be turned out fast enough to meet the demand.” ​

Young women digging dandelions in 1911 at the University of Nebraska. NSHS RG2758.PH58-16

Hazlett insisted that all manufacturing of the dandelion rake be done in Kearney, with raw materials shipped in and turned into the finished product. In 1919 his company was relocated and a modern factory developed, capable of producing one hundred thousand rakes per year. Hazlett died unexpectedly in late November 1920. A brief item in the Hub on May 19, 1921, reported that the dandelion rake factory had closed for the season “after having concluded an excellent run and fulfilled the immediate market demand.” No further mention was made of the factory. However, dandelion rakes similar to those once manufactured in Kearney remain on the market and can still be purchased

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

The 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address – March 4, 2011

The 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address – March 4, 2011

Marker Monday: Mari Sandoz

Marker Monday: Mari Sandoz

How ‘Equality Before the Law’ became our state motto

How ‘Equality Before the Law’ became our state motto

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast.

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.