It is difficult to precisely determine where and when the wheelbarrow was invented. Derived from the Latin word birota, the French term brouette designates a two-wheeled vehicle, yet the singlewheeled wheelbarrow became the norm from the Middle Ages onwards. In 1751 Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie defined the wheelbarrow as a ‘small machine with the form of a cart that has only one wheel’. Easy to handle and enabling one person to transport 100 kilos or more, the wheelbarrow could also be pushed along narrow paths. Although wheelbarrows were already in use during the construction of cathedrals in the 13th century, it seems to have been unknown in several French regions until the early 19th century. This model, formerly in the Academy of Agriculture and Forestry in Hohenheim, Stuttgart, bears testimony to the slow spread of use of the wheelbarrow in rural Europe in the 19th century.


  • Title: Swiss wheelbarrow
  • Creator: Anonymous
  • Date: 1818
  • Date Created: 1818
  • Location: Germany
  • Physical Dimensions: 1:5 scale model
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Contributor: Author: François Mathias. English translation: David Wharry
  • Inventory number: Inv. 02529
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Sylvain Pelly

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