Nameplate on Walter Sanborn's Fairbanks Co. 2-1/2 HP gas engine, date of manufacture unknown. This engine was probably built by Bates & Edmonds Motor Co., Lansing, Mich., in the early part of the 1900s. Fairbanks Co., New York, N. Y, never built any engines, instead contracting with various companies to build engines to suit. One of those companies was Blakeslee Manufacturing Co., Birmingham, Ala., which built an engine almost identical to the Bates & Edmonds vertical.
Several issues of Gas Engine Magazine have shown pictures of Fairbanks Co. engines, along with discussions about who manufactured them and when (see GEM, April 2002, page 5, and June 2002, page 3).
I own a Fairbanks Co. engine that came with a flat belt-driven Fairbanks Co. three-piston triplex pump equipped with gear reduction for slowing the pump's speed. The pump (which I haven't restored yet) is complete, and it's as heavy and large as the engine itself.
The engine is in very good shape, just as it was when I picked it up 20 years ago. I have it belted to a small, rotary-gear pump that circulates the engine's cooling water and also drives two water motors. One of these motors is a water-driven fan originally used for circulating air in a school ventilating system, and the other motor is for show, setup driving a red wheel when I'm exhibiting. My cooling tank is an old gas tank from a Farmall tractor.
Other engine collectors have told me this engine was made by Bates & Edmonds Motor Co. of Lansing, Mich., but in the recent discussions in GEM other owners of Fairbanks Co. engines claim they were made by Blakeslee Manufacturing Co. of Birmingham, Ala. A look at pictures of Blakeslee engines and Bates & Edmonds engines as shown in C. H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1872 shows just how similar they look to each other. But according to Wendel, Bates & Edmonds made thousands of engines while Blakeslee only made a few, so it would seem logical that most of the surviving Fairbanks Co. engines were made by Bates & Edmonds.
The nameplate is still on my engine, and on the very top it says 'Junior,' and below that 'The Fairbanks Company.' In the center of the name-plate the words 'The Fairbanks' are formed in a semi-circle, and inside the semi-circle is what looks to be either a gear or a star. Just under this is the word 'Improved,' and under this it says 'Gas & Gasoline Engines.' On the left bottom the name-plate is stamped number 4669 and on the right it's stamped 2-1/2 HP. Each side lists the cities in which Fairbanks Co. engines were sold:
Albany, N.Y.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Baltimore, Md.; Providence, R.I.; Boston, Mass.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Montreal, Canada; Hartford, Conn.; Toronto, Canada; New Orleans, La.; Vancouver, B.C.; New York, N.Y.; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Philadelphia, Pa.; London, England.
I still don't know for sure what I have, but with any luck someone out there will have the missing information so we can finally determine who made these engines.
Contact engine enthusiast Walter Sanborn at: 53 Main St., Chichester, NH 03258-6509.