The patent for the Horizontal Action Impact Drive Sprinkler, filed on December 18, 1933, marked the beginning of seven decades of irrigation innovation by Rain Bird.

Rain Bird celebrates 75 years of irrigation innovation

Rain Bird, a leading manufacturer and provider of irrigation products and services, is celebrating the filing of the patent for its first product, the Horizontal Action Impact Drive Sprinkler Head, 75 years ago (December 18, 1933). That first sprinkler revolutionized the food production industry and ushered in a new era in irrigation. Over the ensuing seven decades, Rain Bird has been awarded more than 130 patents for its innovative irrigation technology focused on effective, efficient and responsible irrigation through the Intelligent Use of Water.

Rain Bird’s founders, Clem and Mary LaFetra, recognized the potential of this device, which was invented by their neighbor and citrus farmer Orton Englehart in 1932. Clem LaFetra urged Englehart to file a patent for the invention, which he subsequently did in 1933. However, Englehart preferred farming, and in 1935 he sold the business to LaFetra, whose family still operates the Southern California-based company today.

While Rain Bird initially focused on making irrigation products for use on citrus crops, one of the company’s first commercial customers in the early ’30s was the Los Angeles Country Club.  Today, 75 years later, Rain Bird sprinklers, valves and controllers are used to manage outdoor water use in varied applications — amusement parks, sports arenas, golf courses, botanical gardens, private homes, farms and vineyards — both domestically and internationally.

“We’re very proud of the pioneering role Rain Bird has played in irrigation,” said Director of Corporate Marketing, Dave Johnson. “Nearly eight decades later, we continue to strive for improvements to the efficiency of outdoor water management by providing products and services that use this precious resource as intelligently as possible.”

In 1990, the American Society of Agricultural Engineers designated the Rain Bird Impact Drive Sprinkler Head as a historic landmark of agricultural engineering. The Rain Bird sprinkler was recognized for its major impact on worldwide agricultural development and the efficient use of water in sprinkler irrigation.  This invention led to sprinkler irrigation development that currently exceeds 50 million acres worldwide.

Since its entrance into the marketplace, Rain Bird has become the largest manufacturer of irrigation systems in the world.  Rain Bird manufactures and sells over 4,000 irrigation products, meeting the needs of growers, golf course superintendents, homeowners, contractors and commercial property managers — in over 130 countries.

“It is a celebratory year for us,” said Johnson. “The anniversary underscores our ongoing commitment to leveraging our expertise and innovative technologies to drive the message of water conservation globally.”

More information on the invention of the original horizontal action impact drive sprinkler and Rain Bird’s history can be found in the Rain Bird Virtual Museum, at