SHAW MFG. Co. History

Mr. Stanley Shaw

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306 W. Anthony, Corydon, Iowa 50060.

This story goes back to around 1928 when I was a small boy living on a farm in Northwestern Kansas.

Another boy and I were rummaging around in the attic of the home where I lived and we came across a number of old 'Popular Mechanics' magazines. In the advertisements we saw in there we came across an advertisement for a rig made by the Shaw Manufacturing Co., Galesburg, Kansas for an attachment to convert bicycles to motorbikes. I remember we each clipped out an advertisement because someday we planned that when we got bicycles we were sure going to get one of these attachments. I guess somehow in our boys' imagination we thought these motorbike kits were always going to be available. I remember I kept my advertisement for a long time but when I finally got an old bicycle around 1931, I had lost my advertisement and money was so scarce I never even thought much about it.

I do remember that about this time I had already begun to have to work in the garden as part of my farm chores and the Shaw Manufacturing Co. of Galesburg, Kansas was now advertising garden tractors. These were very appealing to me at this time but again money was too scarce and 1 never even wrote for one of their catalogs or folders. No one in our community ever had a garden tractor of any kind that I ever saw. However, around 1940 I visited a cousin near Galesburg, Illinois. He lived on a small acreage and he had a complete line of Shaw equipment that he used on this small place. This was the only time I ever saw a Shaw Garden tractor.

In these later years I have become very interested in old Gas Engines, tractors, etc. I kept thinking about the Shaw Manufacturing Co. and about 4 years ago I wrote them asking for history of the Shaw Co. but I never received any answer. Around a vear ago, I wrote to an antique Motorcycle collector in Kansas. I found out in writing him that Mr. Shaw was still alive and that he had sold out the plant in 1962 to Bush Hog whose main address seems to be Selma, Alabama.

This last Easter, my wife and I went to Owasso, Okla. to spend the weekend with our daughter and family. I saw on my Kansas map that Galesburg was just seven miles off our route so on returning home, when we came to Thayer, Kansas, we went on a county road east to Galesburg. As we came to the town from the west, I saw a large building to the right that said 'Shaw Mfg. Co.'

Galesburg, according to my Kansas map, has a population of 126. It is a nice friendly, pleasant looking little country town. I saw a new looking, modern grocery store, a small filling station, post office and the town looked like a town that could meet your average daily needs. Homes and churches were neat appearing and the people were very friendly.

I went into the office of Bush Hog and asked one of the office girls where I could get some history on the Shaw Mfg. Co. She said 'Go see Mr. Shaw. He lives down the street one block.'

I went to Mr. Shaw's home and he was the one who came to the door. I explained to him who I was and what I wanted and he invited me in, offered me a chair and then began spinning yarns. I learned he built a steam engine when he was a small boy. I learned later from an article written in the 'Antique Motorcycle' magazine by Robert Deering of Admire, Kansas, that this steam engine was made out of a couple of bicycle tire pumps and some babbit and the thing worked the first time he tried it out. Mr. Shaw told me that one time when he and a brother were working around a large gas engine in a grain elevator run by their father, he told his brother that he was going to make a gas engine and put it on a bicycle. His brother doubted it naturally. However, Mr. Shaw designed a motor and built it.

At left is Mr. Stanley Shaw, founder of Shaw Manufacturing Company, Galesburg, Kansas on his 90th birthday. This is the home of Shaw Motorbikes, garden tractors, etc. There is a larger building of later years across the road from the building.

Mr. Stanley Shaw's crankshaft and flywheel of the first gas engine he built.

After some problems with the bearings, he found he had a worthwhile engine. In 1903, at the age of 22, he started in business. He said he ran an advertisement in a new magazine called 'Popular Mechanics' and that for a while no inquiries came, then one came and then 3 and from there on he had business.

In 1911, he went to Kokomo, Indiana and purchased the entire Kokomo Motorcycle Co. except the building. According to Mr. Shaw, one reason he bought it was that he needed the tools. However, he redesigned the engine some and came out with the Shaw Motorcycleas well as his motorbike attachment.

By 1922, motorcycles, etc. were going out of popularity so he started making garden tractors. The first ones he made were powered by his motorbike engines to which he added a fan for cooling. Mr. Shaw manufactured many items I never knew of including mounted sprayers, attachments for converting Model T Fords into tractors, air cooled and water cooled upright gas engines, railway inspection cars, and in the early '20s made a small cycle car called the 'Shaw Speedster'.

After visiting awhile, we went out into his garage and there I saw one of the original wood forms used in casting the cylinder for the air-cooled stationary engine. I saw his old desk and various other items of his early days in the business. He told me the first gas engine he ever made had an adjustable connecting rod so he could adjust the compression on it. He said the crankshaft and flywheel was still out behind the garage so we went to see it and I took a picture of it which I'm enclosing with this letter. The crankshaft had originally been a Pitman shaft from a mowing machine and the flywheel came from a hand corn sheller. To me this was a thrill seeing the remains of the first gas engine he made.

Mr. Shaw was 90 years old the day I visited him. He said the day before there had been quite a birthday party for him. I wish I could have spent the day with him. There were still a lot of things I forgot to ask him. I don't know who did his foundry work for him, casting his engines, etc. There were several other questions I thought of later but I sure learned a lot of interesting things about his company just listening to him talk.

Maybe some of you gas engine collectors from down that way can find out some more and tell us about it. I sure hope so.

1911 to 1914 era International Harvester Company Gas Tractor owned by Ralph G. Maddox, Purgitsville, West Virginia. Photo by Dave Egan, R. D. 5, Mech-anicsburg, Pennsylvania at the Berryville, Virginia Show, 1971.

1929 Minneapolis Cross-mount owned by E. M. Forrest, Box 54, McLean, Virginia. Picture by Dave Egan, R. D. 5, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania at Berryville, Va. Show, 1971.

1923 16-30 Rumely owned and operated by Mr. John Fenton, Berryville, Virginia. Mrs. Fenton is passenger.

Photo by Dave Egan, R. D. 5, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania 17025.