History of Post Hole Diggers

The history of the post hole auger goes back 100’s maybe even thousands of years.  As long as humans needed water and wells and holes, there has been augers to drill them. 

Let’s take a look at the history of post hole diggers and who came up with the idea for a powered version. 

history of post hole auger
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What are Augers Used For? 

Augers are used for a ton of things.  Ice fishermen use ice augers to drill holes in the ice all winter long and catch fish.  If you have a foundation, footing, decking or fence to build, you would use a dirt or post hole auger to drill holes into the ground to secure your projects. 

Gardeners use garden augers and landscapers use tree planting augers to plant trees, bulbs and vegetable starters.   

Large agricultural augers are called 3 point post augers and are attached to tractors and large machinery.  They drill large wells and/or holes on an industrial scale. 

You even use them to bore into trees and collect maple syrup. 

Post hole diggers have been used for centuries to dig holes for fence posts, decks, and other outdoor structures. The earliest post hole diggers were likely simple hand tools, such as a shovel or a pointed stick, that were used to manually dig holes in the ground.

Post Hole Digger History

History of the Manual Post Hole Auger 

A manual auger can come in different styles.  1 style is just a plain old drill bit with a handle at the top that your twist as you drill your hole. 

The first known auger type screw wasn’t even used to drill holes.  When was the first auger made? It was invented in Greece around 250 BC to remove water from large ships. 

The second kind is a clamshell digger, named that because of the way the 2 bits come together like a clam shell to grab and lift dirt out of your hole.  The blades are sharp, which lets you dig and twist into your hole.  Exactly who invented the first post hole clam shell auger is not well known because it happened so long ago. 

Clam-shell-type pole diggers were finally patented in 1908 by J. Lawry of Lenior City, Tennessee. The patent has the traditional clam-shell design with an extra spike in the center.

In the 19th century, manual post hole diggers began to evolve and become more efficient. The first patented post hole digger was invented in 1856 by a man named Frederick W. Frink. It was a two-person tool that was operated by two people working together, one person on each end of the tool, and it could dig a hole in a fraction of the time it took to manually dig one.

History of the Post Hole Auger: Who Invented the Post Hole Digger

The history of post hole diggers is simple. Necessity is the mother of all invention and this is the case with powered post hole augers.  Where were post hole diggers invented? History has it that a farmer out in Kansas needed to drill a 1,000 post holes to fence in his property and livestock. 

Doing this by hand would have been a ridiculous undertaking. So he set about solving his problem with a mechanical post hole digger. When was the first post hole digger made: post hole diggers were invented in the mid 1940s.

Source: KSHS.ORG

The farmer, John Habluetzel, scavenged pieces from other equipment (or course he did, farmers are the best) and built himself the world’s first mechanical post hole digger.  The post hole auger he built was attached to his tractor, so really it was the world’s first 3 point post hole digger or tractor auger. 

He later went on to use it to run a side business, drilling post holes for his neighbors at 10 cents a hole.  Smart guy. 

In 1999, he donated the original machine he built to the Kansas Museum of History.

Today, post hole diggers come in manual, gasoline-powered, and even electric or cordless models. They are an essential tool for any construction or landscaping project that requires digging holes.


There you have it, a brief run down of the history of post hole augers. Check out our reviews of the top post hole diggers on the market and pick yours out today.