The earliest pesticide applicator was a folded piece ofpaper or cardboard from which a person literally blewthe poison onto the plants. This, however, was not asufficient or efficient system, since an accidental coughor an inhalation could prove deadly.The need to spread dust over a wider area led to theuse of simple flour sifters, or, as we saw with arsenic,makeshift box dusters with milk screens nailed on thebottom. The lovable fireplace bellows was the nexthousehold item to be jerry-rigged as a pesticide duster.Modified and enlarged, the bellows could be orderedwith attachments for fumigation and animal-pestcontrol. This enabled farmers and gardeners to blowpoison dust wherever and on whatever needed it.Pump applicators supplemented this primitivearsenal in the 1880s, facilitating the spread of poisonsat home and in the fields. Only slightly different froma bicycle pump, they increased efficiency and rangesignificantly. Pumps came with a variety ofattachments that could accommodate numerouspoisons and different applicator needs. For the nextforty years, manufacturers endlessly modified thesecanister pumps, especially for household use.Fabricators and farmers developed crank and leverpumps sometime before theturn of the twentieth century.The ad makers advertised asafe and civilized lever pump,with graphics implying thatone could wear a hat and tiewhile dusting one’s crops orgarden with arsenic.Preparations for sprayingwere elaborate by this time,as can be seen in the photo onthe following page from theUniversity of California–Davisarchives. Here the horses pullthe spray rigs through theorchard, and interestingly, some of the horses wearmore protection than the poison applicators. Similartwo-man pumps supplied gangs of workers in the late1800s. Workers climbed ladders or sprayed poisons fromlong hoses on the backs of wagons.In addition to the stationary spray devices, there wasan enormous array of sprayers—some motorized,some with hand pumps—that were pulled by horsesthrough vegetable rows, melon patches, cotton fields,vineyards, and orchards.
PESTICIDE SPRAY DEVICES,HOUSEHOLD POISONS, AND DR. SEUSS
mmediately after chemical firms began to promote pesticides to American families forhouse and farm use, equipment manufacturers began to produce and advertisepesticide applicators. Unbelievable contraptions appeared by the mid-1870s, inventedor adapted to spread pesticide dusts and sprays. The marketing of chemicals becameinextricably linked with the development of effective spray devices to apply the poison onthe plant, on the pest, or under the sink.
This folded-paper device wasfortunately short-lived. From theUniversity of California DavisShields Library Special Collections.