A Study of the Bean Spray Pump Engines

Ken Robison
June/July 1994
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6 HP 1920, radiator in flywheel.
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Twenty-five years went by before the Bean Spray Company felt the need to mechanize the orchard sprayers by using a Fairbanks-Morse gas engine for power. It was a T' type of engine, approximately 2 HP, and for the moment it was enough to power the spray pump. The whole thing was drawn by two horses. About the same time, they bought the Ostenberg Engine Works from down on First Street in San Jose. The Ostenberg was an opposed, two-cylinder engine for use on pumps used in some irrigation situations where electricity wasn't available. These were produced in various sizes from 10 to 22 HP.

Then came the opportunity to open an Eastern branch and factory in Lansing, Michigan, and they gave the Novo engine people their first order for a carload of engines! This led to a long standing relationship with Novo.

The experience that the Bean Company had with manufacturing the Ostenberg led them to believe that they could start to make their own sprayer engine and thereby keep the cost down, so negotiations were started with E. B. Cushman, the famous engineer, who with his brother had started the outstanding Cushman Company in Lincoln, Nebraska. The challenge was to build an engine with the same size and be self contained and be of twice the horsepower as the previously used Novo. The first thing to get it rolling was to hire Cushman and he was put on the payroll. As an early catalog states, 'He was installed as head of the Engineering Department.' In early 1920 they had an engine of the first approved design with the radiator set within the flywheel, which was of open style with five spokes and with a crankshaft driven water pump. This was a comparatively high speed design of 800 RPM, which called for a positive valve lifter for the intake valve rather than the atmospheric intake valve. This engine was to produce 6 HP, compared with the same size Novo they had been using, with only 3 HP. Along with many other minor improvements, it went into production.

By the time the first 800 engines were built and on the line, Bean had a stronger crankshaft, three changes of the cylinder head, a change in water pump, and some minor changes. These engines were available with American Bosch magnetos, or battery ignition with a timer similar to a Model 'T' Ford. By the time serial number 800 came along, the radiator had been moved to between the flywheel and engine and was hexagonal in shape. Then they came out with a 4 HP and it was a bit smaller in every way, except it still came with an American Bosch magneto. This engine was used to power the dusters and smaller sprayers. Even serial numbers were assigned to the 4 HP engines and, for some reason, the odd numbers were assigned to the 6 HP engines. The smaller engines were more popular in foreign countries, and so we find the shipments of these to Jas. Robertson, Capetown, South Africa and Buzacott & Co., New South Wales, Australia among the foreign addresses. They also shipped to Mitsui &Co., Ltd., in Yokohama, Japan, as well as A. G. Kids ton & Co., Durban, South Africa; the Hawaiian Sugar Grs., in Honolulu Territory of Hawaii; Ivory Bros., Ltd., Napier, New Zealand; and to Agricola Bunster in Angora, Chile. These firms were Bean representatives in their respective areas.

There were many changes made in the Bean engines over the ten years of production, some being made for economy and some being made to improve the engine, for instance, the move to EK Wico magneto from Bosch rotary mag. The catalogs listed the EK Wico at $18.00, while the Bosch magneto was shown at $31.00! How inflation has changed the prices on some things!

At this time the change over to the so-called 'suction carburetor' was made. This carburetor eliminated the fuel pump and simplified the entire air feed to the carburetor. Constant changes were being made to the engine and it was evident that this was not the way to go. The late Bill Quanchi, who came to work for Bean in 1916 and never worked for anyone else, said that one day the Boss came storming through the plant and said, 'Get these things over across the street and stop the whole production line!' That was the beginning of the end for the Bean engine, and they went to Witte, Cushman Cubs, Continental, LeRoi, and several other makers of engines.

Hindsight is always 20-20, they say. It seems like bit off more than they could chew, and should have left the making of engines to the companies that were successful.

To my knowledge, the total of these engines, 4 HP and 6 HP, remains at less than 6500. This is estimated from the shipping numbers, which may be at risk as there are several blank areas. Were these engines never shipped out, or, were the numbers assigned to Lansing, Michigan, and not reported or what? Another question is the color.

We run across the local (San Jose) warm gray color most often, but that seems logical, as they were a local engine produced in this Santa Clara Valley for local orchardists. But we have heard from a man in the eastern part of the country and he reports that he has an engine that is dark green! If you have definite proof of a different color, please let us know and we will add that color to the second!

We almost never see one of these engines at an engine show or gas-up, and from that would rate them as 'collectible' and therefore desirable. Totally enclosed, no monkey motion, and with no splash-guards or other outside equipment they are an interesting machine.

For more information on this company, refer to the August 1985 issue of GEM. This interesting company has grown over the years to become one of the several who combined to become known as FMC. For more on their story, see Growing Orbit: The Story of FMC Corporation. We're indebted to the many engine collectors who contributed to this information.


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