In January 2019, I wrote an article about the tool in the Wine History Project collection called a vine root injector (WHP-V&F6). In that article, I explained about that tool; it was created to fight against an infestation of the Phylloxera in vineyards during the late nineteenth century. This insect caused an agriculture disaster in the wine industry in the United States during the 1850s-1870s. The Phylloxera Vastatrix were microscopic, pale yellow sap-sucking insects that fed on the roots and leaves of grapevines that were native to the United States. The species was carried across the Atlantic.

Vitis vinifera was especially susceptible to this form of plant lice, leaving Europe’s vineyards in complete ruin. It became known in Europe as the Great Wine Blight and was recorded to show its effects in France in the mid-1860s. By the 1870s-1880s the epidemic had destroyed most of the vineyards of wine grapes in Europe, but most notably in France. 

The reconstitution of France’s vineyards began and by1880 was in progress. The ones that grafted were known as “Americanists” or “wood merchants”. Around the turn of the century, French producers began using hybrid vines derived from breeding Vitis vinifera with the rootstock of certain American species that were more resistant to pests, especially Phylloxera. The hybrids allowed for higher yields but created wine of poor quality and with low alcohol content. 

A division in the wine industry became evident; some “chemists” rejected the grafting solution that was determined to solve the destruction. They persisted with the use of pesticides and chemicals for the vineyards. I’m going to discuss in this article tools that were utilized to dust or spray those pesticides and chemicals on vineyards.


The method of applying insecticides and fungicides by use of air as a carrier instead of water came into commercial use around the turn of the twentieth century. For a considerable length of time the grape growers of France, Spain, and Italy were utilizing the dusting method for the protection of their vineyards against insects and diseases. The method of application and the materials used were crude and not entirely efficient.

In the southern part of the United States, dusting had been utilized for a time as a means of applying poisons and other materials primarily to cotton and tobacco. Orchard dusting was also done and was the subject of considerable experimental work. The original dusting machinery was entirely inadequate for the purposes, and the materials that were used were not fine enough to give the best results. There was a company though in the United States that by 1920 was focusing their production on crop and garden dusters.

The Wine History Project collection contains three dusters/sprayers. The first one I want to highlight is a Feeny Duster.

Vine Duster

Vine Duster

Date: 1910-1930

Origin: United States

Materials: tin, paint

Length: 20 inches

Object ID: WHP-V&F123

The Feeny Duster consists of a curved dark green tank, handle, black extension tubes, black discharge heads. There is a hinged door on the top of the tank. The lettering on the red, gold and black label near the top of the duster states, “Feeny / Duster / ‘The Best Duster Made’ / The Feeny Manufacturing Co. / Muncie, Indiana.

Edmund J. FeenyEdmund J. Feeny (2/1871-4/1922), was born in Ottawa, Illinois and married Bessie Melinda Whitcomb, known as Lennie or Belinda (10/1888-2/1986). He was the founder of The Feeny Manufacturing Company of Muncie, Indiana. In 1910, he established this manufacturing plant for the manufacture of mechanical appliances. He perfected a number of devices including oil pumps, cotton dusters, vacuum cleaners, cooling systems, and many other items.

Feeny Duster

Archive image from page 84 of Currie’s Farm and Garden Annual. Spring 1926. A publication created annually by Currie Brothers Company and Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog. Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

But in 1919, the company discontinued the manufacture of all special products and devoted the plant located at Washington and Ohio Streets in Muncie to “Feeny Dusters.”

As a note of interest for the owner of the company that published this catalog annually.
James Currie (1853-1922) established the Currie Brothers Company, a flower and seed business. He was an expert in horticulture, arboriculture, and design. He garnered the recommendation to be appointed to the position of Forest Home Cemetery’s superintendent, a post James Currie would hold for forty-two years. He was responsible for bright flower beds, extensive greenhouses, hundreds of trees, and the French parterre style laid out in mathematical precision of this well-known cultural landscape that was very important to the nineteenth-century rural cemetery movement in the United States.


We have two other vineyard tools which are labeled sprayers in the Wine History Project collection. The grape berry moth, the grape leafhoppers, the Japanese beetle, and the rose chafer are four insect pests who still attack vineyards. There are five diseases that also can threaten the productivity of the vines and they include powdery mildew, downy mildew, black rot, Phomopsis cane and leaf spot, and Botrytis bunch rot. Vineyardists are always aware that they need to “fight” these pests and diseases to obtain good grapes for producing the wine we get to enjoy.

I believe the difference between dusting and spraying is in interpretation and otherwise complicated. The first spray of the season is called a dormant spray and is prior to the bud burst of the grapes. This is done because it’s important to reduce disease pressure by lessening powdery mildew or black rot by approximately 30-50 percent. The vineyardist commonly applies sprays of lime sulfur and Bordeaux mixture, with copper and lime. This is usually completed by informed vineyardists who understand the toxicity issues that can occur.

After bud break the vineyardist needs to manage early season grapevine diseases. Generally, there are two phases for this fungicide application; early season and late season. Early season is approximately pre-bloom through two weeks after bloom, and late season is between bloom and harvest.

Vine Sprayer

Vine Sprayer

Date: 1899-1910

Origin: United States, Sonoma County

Materials: tin

Length: 24 inches

Object ID: WHP-V&F122

Vine SprayerAt first look I thought this sprayer to be handmade, because of its simplicity. But, on closer examination a date appears of February 7, 1899 on the side of the tin “can” portion of the tool. Tin quart continuous sprayers were made to spray potatoes, garden vegetables, disinfectants and other plants. They were sold at seed stores or through nursery catalogs at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Giovanni Battista Venturi (9/1746-9/1822)

An Italian physicist, diplomat and historian of science who discovered after experimentation inquiries the principle of the lateral communication of a motion in fluids, and the result was published as the Venturi effect in 1836 in Thomas Tredgold’s Tracts on Hydraulics.
It seems to me that the design of the sprayer includes the use of Giovanni Venturi’s theory culminating in the Venturi effect, where the pressure of the pumped air (“fluid”) through the long tubular portion of the tool is compressed, and when it joins with the liquid of the insecticide it is pressurized to blow out the horn end of the tool. A carburetor in an automobile uses this same theory.

The Venturi Effect

The Venturi Effect The pressure in (1) is higher than (2), and the “fluid” speed at “1” is lower than at “2”, because the cross-sectional area at “1” is greater than “2”.

Agricultural Companies during the late 1800s, early 1900s

Lowell Specialty Company

Found in: The Western Fruit Grower periodical, published in St. Joseph, Missouri Page Eleven, May 1904

One of the well-known sprayer / duster companies of the early twentieth century was the Lowell Specialty Company which was incorporated in 1905. The first meeting was held August 1, 1905 where John S. Bergin was presented as President, D.G. Look was vice president, William A. Watts as treasurer and J.B. Nicholson as secretary. After 1907, the distribution of the company became national. Agricultural colleges, state departments of agriculture, county agents and others spread the “gospel of spraying”, not only as a cure, but as a preventative.

In the fall of 1928, the Lowell Specialty Company sold their business to a competition, the H.D. Hudson Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois. The Lowell Sprayer Company, as it was then known, became a manufacturer of diversified farm operating equipment. To anyone outside the business, Lowell Specialty maintained its own individuality and the appearance was that they were a competitor of the H.D. Hudson Manufacturing Company.

H.D. Hudson Manufacturing Company, who states on their website that they were founded 09/05/1905, still manufactures and distributes sprayers and serves customers in agriculture, landscaping, pest control, and home and garden markets throughout the world. Their home office, according to Bloomberg, is currently 500 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.

Vine Sprayer

Vine Sprayer

Date: 1870-1900

Origin: Michigan, United States

Materials: brass, elm wood

Length: 26 inches

Object ID: WHP-V&F121

From looking at the photograph of the tool, the patent for the Fountain Pump was September 20, 1870 which makes it the earliest of all three of these dusters / sprayers in the collection. It has a tubular, discharging piston working telescopically in it. The type from our collection is single-acting and originally enjoyed a broadcast spraying solution on the (cotton) crop. However, ours was found in Petaluma, California so it seemed to have been adapted to the vineyards. J.A. Whitman of Providence, Rhode Island applied for this patent in 1870 and manufactured it for the trade as “the Fountain Pump” and “Whitman’s Fountain Pump” according to the Report of the United States Entomological Commission, Volume 4, Parts 1883-1885. The pump changed over time to be double-acting and sold under the name Hydronettes. The new one cast a constant spray or solid jet and was preferable instead of the single-acting. These single-acting ones had discharged by interrupted spurts. The price for this equipment at the turn of the twentieth century was from $8 to $10.

Some information helpful in research included a paper written by Thomas J. Zabadal, Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University, 1999 found at ( )

Information regarding James Currie was found in the book “Grave Landscapes: The Nineteenth-Century Rural Cemetery Movement”, written by James R. Cothran and Erica Danylchak, published in 2018 by the University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina.

Information regarding vineyard disease management was found at the Michigan State University Extension, by Thomas Todaro, dated April 30m, 2018.

Other information that was helpful for researching this article was found in The Lowell Ledger, 1931, Lowell, Michigan.