Big Time In Baraboo

Fuller & Johnson

Fuller & Johnson 5 HP Model DE, serial number 5250, shipped out in 1910. Owned by Gordon Ferguson, Morris, Illinois.

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Keeping our noses to the grindstone day in, day out to get the pages of Gas Engine Magazine together for our readers doesn't always leave us here at GEM with much time to get out to as many shows as we'd like. Of course, we always try to get to the ones in our own backyard, and some of us rely on the Show Directory to help us plan our vacations, but we never get out to see as many of our engine friends as we'd like.

I did get a chance this summer to make a special trip to Baraboo, Wisconsin, home of the Badger Steam and Gas Engine Club, for their 29th annual show August 21-23, 1992. The featured event at this year's show was 'The Great Fuller & Johnson Rally.'

The sun shone hot and bright on the Sauk County Fairgrounds as exhibitors gathered from points far and wide to show off their engines, tractors, and steam traction engines. By the close of the show, over 8,000 spectators and several hundred exhibitors had enjoyed the well-organized displays.

Several steam engines took their turn at working the sawmills, threshing, and hulling clover. Bleacher seats were provided for spectators at the sawmill, and they were filled with young and old to watch the action.

Rows and rows of tractors were on hand, lined up like soldiers ready to do battle with the farm chores.

The show boasts an extensive flea market, which grew this year by 20% over previous shows. Items for sale ran the gamut from engine and tractor parts (new and used), owner's manuals and assorted literature, crafts, gadgets, and scads of antiques.

Let's see, what else was there? Oh, yes, the engines! Engines, engines, engines! Hundreds of engines were on display throughout several areas of the showgrounds. A good portion of the engines were in working order, and popped along all day.

Unique displays abounded, including a solar hot air engine designed by Phil Manke, and a colorful collection of hog oilers shown by Badger club president Bob Coates and his wife Louise. There is also a large building devoted to small scale models, and a building housing the club's collection of stationary steam.

Over 180 Fuller & Johnson engines were registered for exhibit, and a full range of F&J models could be seen. Helping you keep track of time as you viewed these engines was the original whistle from the Fuller & Johnson factory, which blasted out a deep bellow on a regular schedule.

Verne W. Kindschi of Prairie du Sac, Wi., Badger club member, spearheaded the organization of the F&J Rally with the help of his wife Pearlie; they sure did a fine job! Verne currently has in his possession all the records of the Fuller & Johnson Company, and recently authored The Fuller & Johnson Story, a brief history of the Fuller & Johnson Manufacturing Company.

Fuller & Johnson engines were manufactured in Madison, Wisconsin, which is located less than an hour away from Baraboo. One of the special activities of the Rally was a bus trip to Madison to view the old F&J factory buildings. The company's office building, now vacant, looks much the same as it did when the company was in operation. The factory building still retains its sawtooth roof, and the smokestack is still standing, although the exterior of the building has been 'modernized' and now houses offices. The warehouse to the rear of the factory is still recognizable as well, although it too has had modern touches such as metal siding added to it.

Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the warehouse to find an F&J engine sitting on the loading dock waiting for shipment! A nice touch, Verne!

After walking around the company buildings for a short time, rally participants loaded back onto the buses for a guided tour around the city of Madison, a gem of a city nestled around five sparkling lakes.

On return to Baraboo, Rally-goers were ready for a delicious banquet. Highlights of the evening were a presentation to Verne Kindschi of a plaque naming him 'Mr. Fuller & Johnson' and thanking him for his tireless efforts to make F&J information available to all who need it, and a keynote address by GEM's own 'olde Reflector,' Charles Wendel.

The evening was capped off with a dance in the grandstand pavilion back at the fairgrounds.

Sunday opened with church services on the grounds, and continued with an easygoing day of engine, tractor, and machinery exhibits.

The Badger club is already working hard on plans for the 1993 show, scheduled for the third full weekend of August. Special plans include the Midwest Corn Collectors' annual meet.

I can encourage anyone to attend the Baraboo show. The Badger club obviously puts a lot of work and thought into organizing their show, and it was quite a pleasure to attend. And they are the friendliest people! I had a great time, and I guarantee you will too.