THE MESSINGER STORY

#26 old style with carrier and manual feeder

#26 old style with carrier and manual feeder.

Content Tools

3225 Nazareth Road Easton, Pa. 18042

Circa 1910. Southeast end of Messinger Manufacturing Company. Left to right: woodshop and office wing, blacksmith shop, railroad station on right edge.

The foundation of the Messinger Manufacturing Co. was started by S.S. Messinger in 1857, through the influence of David Whittner, a comparative stranger. After an explanation of the operation of a foundry, S.S. Messinger decided to start on a small scale and to employ Mr. Whittner to do the moulding. The start was made in the spring of 1857 by improving a dam and building a raceway to the foundry, which consisted of a wheel-wright shop 18'x 24'. The latter had to be moved a short distance so as to be rightly located for the water power.

The foundry was completed and the first castings made in August, 1857. These castings principally consisted of plough shares and cast iron boxes for iron wagon axles. Later the manufacture of ploughs, threshing machines and sweep horse-powers was started.

This enterprise was conducted under the name 'S.S. Messinger' until 1859, at which time he took in Werkheimer and Allsfeld'. This continued for only a few months. In 1861 the famous Excelsior Mowing and Reaping Machines were built, the dropping attachment being added later.

The property was leased to Henry Brunner, who continued to manufacture machinery for a period of 18 months, after which S.S. Messinger resumed operations in the spring of 1864.

Reuben Shimer, S.S.'s brother-in-law, at this time was taken in as a partner, this partnership continued until 1868, when it was dissolved by mutual consent. The firm's name being 'Messinger & Shimer'. In 1874 S.S. Messinger admitted his son, G. Frank to partnership and the firm's name was changed to 'S.S. Messinger and Son'. At this time one hundred to one hundred and fifty machines were manufactured yearly.

An agricultural machine shop became idle in Nazareth, Pa., which was leased and operated by S.S. and his son. All castings were made at Tatamy, six men being employed at the Nazareth shop, which operated for only two years. The shop at Tatamy, better known as 'Bushkill', was operated under S.S. and G. Frank until 1878, when S.S.'s other son, Charles S. purchased his father's interest. The name was then changed to 'S.S. Messinger's Sons'. This continued until 1883 when S.S. bought back his interest and the name changed back to 'S.S. Messinger and Son' until the death of S.S. on Jan. 31, 1900, at age 77.

On December 31st, 1886, fire completely destroyed all the buildings, together with six houses. The approximate net loss was estimated at $62,000.00. Rebuilding was immediately started by April 1st, 1887 and manufacturing was resumed.

After the death of S.S., G. Frank changed the name to 'Messinger Manufacturing Co., Inc.'. In 1912 the firm was incorporated under the name of 'Messinger Manufacturing Co., Inc.', with the following stockholders: G. Frank Messinger, George S. Messinger, Joseph Happel, Mrs. Lizzie Albert, Homer Albert, Mrs. Carrie Metler and Karl Metler. The officers were President G. Frank Messinger, Vice President Joseph Happel, Secretary & Treas. George S. Messinger.

G. Frank remained President until 1925 when George S. took over as President. His father remained active and toured the many local farms until he died July 18,1928. He was known for many of his inventions, two being the open-end grain binding attachment (the unit that tied the knot in the string.) and the Messinger Gasoline Engine. In 1925, a Mr. Slawdecker and Tommy Jordan were hired for an operational reorganization. George S. and his son, Clyde, were the two engineers who directed the design for everything from this point on. One item was the entire Duster Line.

When the company was reorganized in 1930, A.C., son of Charles Shimer Messinger, the grandson of S.S. Messinger, was made President and George S. became the Vice President. At this time the Messinger Co. had 85 to 125 employees.

The Leggett Co. of N.Y. had a duster line which was bought out by the Messinger Co. They remained the sole salesmen of the duster line for a short period until Messinger Co. decided that they were not selling enough and they were let go as sole-salesmen. This all occured prior to 1930. The duster line was expanded and newer models were made. If you had an old car or truck, you took it to the factory and they removed the body and mounted a duster onto the back and you were able to dust 4 to 6 rows of your crop at a time. They made units which would fit on many types of tractors, as well as other units which were horse drawn or pushed or dragged through orchards and fields. Several trips abroad created new models and the foreign market was born. At one time 7000 to 8000 dusters were made and sold to foreign countries to dust banana plantations and other crops.

#44 Messinger thresher with blower and manual feeder. R.R. track is end of coal dumping trestle. Photo used for catalog engraving.

A.C. remained active and in charge of the company until his death in 1957. Following his death, all the buildings and contents were eventually sold and thus ended a 100-year old company.

Messinger's was a unique company. Workers had to speak Pennsylvania Dutch and chew tobacco until the 1920's to be like the other fellows. There were no production lines, just different shops paint shop, blacksmith shop, wood shop, machine shop,..., one or two fellows worked on one item until it was complete and then it was sent to the next shop. For most of the equipment, there were no written plans the workers knew exactly how to build the equipment. When a new machinist came to work, he would have to go to an already built engine and learn how and where to machine the castings to build the engines, the same as in any of the other shops. The only written plans were notebooks that the workers made of the dimensions and instructions and these went with them when they left.

Messinger built many one of a kind items a veneering machine that was sent to Russia, a gas engine propelled trolley for the Philadelphia Trolley Company, a self-propelled thresher, a chain driven truck used for delivering threshers, a five -wheel truck with the driving wheel in the back so that when you went over a gulley, you lost all traction. This truck had a large spike that dropped and dug into the road to prevent you from going backwards when shifting gears going up hills. Messinger had the Samson tractor and the Cameron car dealerships, both of which did not last very long. The Cameron car was unique in that it had a hickory frame and very little metal used in its construction.

Very early style 1903 16-20 HP gravity fed cooling tank, flyball governor, rocker arm operated valves. Fuel pumponly model to have a fule pump. Photo became catalog engraving.

1908 style 4-6 HPold style oil drip, old style water jacket, new bevel ground valve and ignition caps; push rod; flywheel gov. weight.

Messinger made, at one time or another, everything needed for a farm, from corn shellers right up to a heating system for the home. They made a washing unit that consisted of two tubs connected together, run by a % air cooled engine while the one washed, you could ring out the clothes in the other tub. They made many steams engines and other items that I have not detailed at this time due to the length of this article and I really wanted to give an overview of the company as a whole and deal specifically with the engines, as this was Messinger's main area of interest.

Facts from Old Catalogs

The following information on the gasoline engines was derived from old catalogs and other literature. One problem was that all the catalogs did not have publication dates so some dates are not exact.

The first engine was sold in July 1903, the horse powers being 4 to 6 and 16 to 20. In 1908 the 'Packless' models were introduced in 4 to 6 and 16 to 20 HP. In 1912 or 1913 the 1 HP to 18 HP models were started. In 1915 the air cooled model was introduced. In 1923 or 1924 the 18 HP engine was dropped from production. In the 1925 price list, the to 12 HP were listed, but in the 1920 price list, the entire engine line was dropped. A worker that came to Messinger's in 1923 orl924 said that the engines were not being produced but some were still around and probably were made if an order came in for them. I have talked to several people in the Blue Mountain Gas & Steam Engine club and no one knows of any old style engines still around. Only the newer 'packless' style remain, but I am sure some of the old style still exist. I know of several air cooled models, several 1 and 4 HP models, one 6 HP, four 9 HP models and only one 1 HP air cooled engine.

The gas engines were painted a darker shade of vermilion enamel with primary gold striping and white secondary striping. All the air cooled parts of the air cooled engines were painted silver and all the machined surfaces were painted with a gun blueing paint that was tranparent. The machinery was painted with a powder vermilion paint. Axles and wheels were yellow and then everything was varnished.

A unique feature of the later model was that the piston was oiled from a reservoir cast into the hopper, which dripped into a cup cast onto the backside of the hopper and ran down a tube that went to the piston. The main bearings had oil reservoirs only the air cooled had oilers that were only for the piston.

The following information was derived from a 1901 catalog that was marked up for the printer to become the 1902 catalog.

In 1902, 'Successors to S.S. Messinger and Son' was dropped from the front cover. They listed the company as manufacturers of: Imperial Thrashing Machine, Empire Horse Powers, Empire Fodder Cutters, Improved Burrall Corn Shelters, Empire Feed Grinders, Shell Mills, Star Wood and Empire Wood Saws, Champion Potato Planters, Mengel Corn Planters, Empire Land Rollers, Steel King Cultivators, Keystone Chilled Plows, Reynolds Hay Tedders, Steel King Hay Rakes, Empire Mowers, Fine Gray Iron Castings, Steam Engines from 3 to 25 HP Stationary, Portable and Mounted.

On the back cover, S.S. Messinger And Son was at the 1892 Columbian Exposition.

1912-1925 New style -6 HP up to 18 HP model -not sure. Cast iron crank guard. New reservoir in water jacket with drip valve under gas tank. Engine looks like a portable with base added for photono pin striping on base. Photo became catalog engraving.

1912-1915 Newstyle 6-18 HP Model-not sure. Cast iron crank guard, new style oil reservoir in water jacket with drip valve and cup under gas tank. Photo became catalog engraving.

A note to the seat collector from my data, cast iron seats were only made for the Empire Mowers, Steel King Hay Tedder, Steel King Rake, Empire Land Rollers, Empire Clod Crusher and Pulverizer, Vertical Boiler Buggy and two seats for the Empire Mower with Reaping Attachment(all the others had one seat). This last item had two, one for the person driving the team of horses and another for the person taking care of the wheat. He would have to make sure the wheat would fall backwards and not over in front of the mower. To the best of my knowledge, there are at least six variations of seats and all of these are hard to find.

The following information is from a catalog estimated to be from 1909.

This catalog has in addition to the 1901 catalog items, 1 to 25 HP Stationary, Portable and Mounted Gasoline Engines, Iron Fences, Hog Troughs, Water Troughs and Feed Troughs.

1915-1925 HP air cooled Mcssinger. Later style, has tin guardearlier ones had a cast guard. Photo became catalog engraving.

  

         Gasoline

Engine Specifications

 
 

     The

 following char

 was from the

1911 price list:

 

HP.

Weight

Speed

Pulley

Price

Dealer Price

4-6

1100

375

5x18

270.00

160.00

6-8

1900

300

6x24

450.00

260.00

9-11

2400

275

7x26

600.00

350.00

12-15

2800

260

8x28

750.00

440.00

16-20

3000

260

10x28

900.00

540.00

  The following chart was from the 1917 price list:

Size

HP.

Speed

Pulley

Price

Dealer Price

Weight

0

%

500

4x3

50.00

32.00

135

1

1

475

4x3

75.00

43.00

200

l?

l?

475

4x3

82.00

52.00

250

2

2

425

6x4

104.00

65.00

425

2?

2?

425

6x4

120.00

76.00

450

3

3-4

400

18x4?

175.00

115.00

850

4

4-6

375

20x5

220.00

145.00

1100

6

6-8

300

24x6

375.00

242.00

1900

9

9-11

275

26x7

500.00

350.00

2400

12

12-15

260

28x8

625.00

425.00

2800

18

16-20

260

28x10

750.00

500.00

3000

Dates that are useful for dating equipment:

 

Firms Name

Years

S. S. Messinger

1857-1859

Messinger, Shimer, Werkheimer and Allsfeld

1859-1860

Messinger and Shimer

1864-1868

S. S. Messinger and Sons

1874-1878

 

1883-1900

S. S. Messinger's Sons

1878-1883

Messinger Manufacturing Company

1900-1957

Other Dates:

Date

Incorporation of Messinger Manufacturing Co. (Inc. was not painted on any equipment)

1912

Easton and Northern Railroad (Some catalogs mention this R.R. route)

1890

Tatamy Post Office Established September 22,

1892

(Stockertown used at some point before this date)

 

The first Gasoline Engine was sold in July 1903. The cylinder and base was one casting, with a drip oiler for the cylinder, governed by a geared ball governer, ran on gas, gasoline or denatured alcohol. The top of the hopper was flat with a conical like casting bolted on to the top. The hopper had a water sight glass, in 1908, they came out with a 'pack-less' engine in 4 to 6 and 16 to 20 HP. The valves were placed in cages which are clamped against a ground bevel seat, as well as the sparker. The governer became a weight on the flywheel, the pushrod and other pieces became motionless when the engine coasts. The speed is regulated by a thumb nut.

Messinger's would repair any piece of equipment that the farmers would bring in, including the gas engines. I asked a former employee what was the most repaired part of the gas engines - he said the ignitor. The springs broke or the mica wore out or the points wore out. Messinger's made all of these parts, bent the spring wire to make the springs and cut their own mica. This employee said that this was the only part that would usually be brought in for repair, as the engine was well built and seldom broke.

Between 1905 and 1910, George Messinger, A.C. Messinger and others created the 'Tatamy Heat, Light and Power Co.'. The boiler and generating equipment was in the foundry and the lights went off at 11:00 P.M. and on at 7:00 A.M. This same unit powered the foundry. P.P.&L. bought the Company before 1930, at this time the Company was buying electricity from P.P.&L. and reselling it to Tatamy.

Before Tatamy had it's own post office, mail went through Stocker-town. In 1893, Tatamy was Incorporated, but how did it get it's name? The names 'Empire' and 'Messinger' were sent to the Post Master Office but were rejected because other towns in the U.S. had the same name. Tatamy was then chosen in honor of a local indian chief and in 1892 Tatamy had it's own post office. Some equipment is able to be dated due to this address difference painted on the equipment.

In 1890, the Easton and Northern Railroad was built from Stockertown southward through Tatamy to Easton. Before this, the manufactured products of the foundry and the other shops and the material and goods were hauled by heavy horsedrawn wagons or in lighter vehicles to and from Easton or Belfast.

I asked an employee, who was hired in 1923 or 1924 what was not being produced at this time. Tread mills, fodder cutters, grinders, shell mills, potato planters, corn planters, land rollers, cultivators, hay tedders, hay rakes, mowers, steam and gas engines were not regularly produced but several of these were still in stock. Steel fence was discontinued in 1930. A few plows were made, corn shellers were then made out of steel instead of wood and made for several more years. Wooden threshers were still being made and around 1926 the metal threshers were introduced.