Around 1930, John “Jack” Wilson designed and produced the “Automotive Traveling Sprinkler” at Wilson Automotive Sprinkler Company in North Platte, Nebraska. Throughout 1930 to 1941, Wilson was an engineer and custodian at the senior high school and frequently used the invention to water school grounds. Wilson applied for a patent on October 19,1937 and it was approved March 1,1939. The sprinkler received patent number 2152425. Within the patent application, the invention was described as similar to a lawn sprinkler. “A purpose of the invention is a sprinkler that is movable over a lawn. Due to water being forced through the sprinkler, the sprinkler is moved along the route of a hose through a motor-like interchange,” the application stated.
In the 1940s, production of Wilson’s invention was about to take off but World War II broke out and supply of scrap metal was hard to come by. Due to this, production of the sprinkler slowed throughout the war. In 1941, Wilson moved to Whittler, California and on March 26, 1946, he died in San Diego at the age of 69.
National Manufacturing Company, a company located in Lincoln, Nebraska, had its beginnings around 1917 and manufactured Fireless cookers. The company diversified into producing airplane parts, bomb shelters, v-belts used by Goodyear, lawn-care implements, and test kitchen equipment. National Manufacturing obtained the walking sprinkler patent sometime after WWII and produced sprinklers with Wilson’s original design and patent information printed on the side.
Wilson’s patent expired in 1960. Since that time, National Manufacturing has produced sprinklers very similar to Wilson’s original model—with some versions differing slightly. In 1985, the company was bought by TMCO, Inc., which to this day still produces the Walking Sprinkler.