Hometown Pride

Cities we love and the engines named for them

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Kansas City Lightning engines were used to power K.C. Hay Presses, like this one.

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Civic pride was certainly one of the reasons gas engines were named after the cities in which they were manufactured. But there were other, more practical reasons, as well. In the days when most of the economy was local, it paid to have a gasoline engine that farmers could use that was named after their area city, and at least 170 companies took advantage of this idea.

Engine-City Connections

Though two Anderson, Ind., companies had "Anderson" in their name - P. Anderson Motor Co. and Anderson Foundry and Machine Co. - only the latter made Anderson engines. They were produced from about 1917-1920 in 10 to 100 HP sizes, and 1-, 2- or 3-cylinder styles. Blowtorches were required to start the engines. The company claimed Anderson vertical engines were superior because of their easier maintenance compared to other gas engines of the time. The largest Anderson engine clocked in at 325 HP and used six cylinders. It weighed 57,000 pounds, and required 17-1/2 cubic yards of concrete for the foundation.

Angola engines were manufactured by Angola Engine and Foundry Co. of Angola, Ind., starting in 1904. Their small 2-1/2 HP engine weighed an incredible 700 pounds, and its sideshaft design was typical of Angola engines. Other Angolas ranged from 1-1/2 to 20 HP. Angola portable engines, with a large cooling tank, were self-contained power units, and attractively painted, to boot. By 1911 the company was out of business.

Des Moines, Iowa, had 10 different engine manufacturing companies, only two of which had "Des Moines" in their names (Des Moines City Gas Engine Works and Des Moines Gas Engine and Electric Co.), but only the latter company produced Des Moines engines, starting in 1904. The 2 HP air-cooled model was their only production, and when the company relocated to Chicago in 1905, it became Phillips Motor Works, and like so many small engine companies, it disappeared.

Elgin Comet engines were the product of three different companies: Elgin Gas Engine Co. of Elgin, Ill., Auten Machinery Co. of Chicago (which sold the Elgins for EGEC), and Parcelle Engine Co. of Elgin (the successor company of EGEC). The Elgin Comet was a 75-pound engine of 1-1/8 HP, 2-cycle design and 1,000 RPM speed. It had a 2-1/2-by-3-inch bore and stroke. It sold for $39.25 in 1916.

A trio of companies had "Fairmont" in their names, but two were from Philadelphia, and the third, Fairmont Railway Motors Inc., was from Fairmont, Minn. Many people over the age of 50 would recognize the distinctive sound of the Fairmont engine carrying sections gangs down the rails looking for breaks.

As far as can be determined, only one engine company of the five in Goshen, Ind., manufactured Goshen engines, and very little is known about that one. Oswald Motor Co. made Oswald engines, Pease Engine and Machine Works made Pease engines, and it cannot be determined what named engines Alford Motor and Machine Co. or Kelly Foundry and Machine Co. made. Goshen engines were manufactured by Goshen Motor Works, sometime from 1906-1913. A couple of advertisements in the 1910 Gas Review magazine shed a bit of light on the company, but not much. Goshen Motor Works made marine engines of which they boasted, "Our 1910 engines are perfection in general design as well as being refined in every small detail. These engines have no competition on the point of power and boat speed. Our 1909 records prove our engines superior." Nothing else is known about the company, except that it existed from 1906-1913. Like many companies of the era, records have been lost.

Kalamazoo, Mich., was home to Burtt Mfg. Co., which started building Kalamazoo engines in 1902. The early models were 2 and 5 HP vertical models. In 1909 they sold for $55 and $110 respectively. A 2 HP horizontal model came out in 1910. Ten and 15 HP horizontals were added in 1913, and that year the company claimed they had sold more than 4,000 Kalamazoo engines. Burtt also built Cannon automobiles, but in 1912 it all fell apart as the company filed bankruptcy.

Fort Wayne, Ind., was home to five gasoline engine builders. Very little is known about four of them, but the fifth, Fort Wayne Foundry and Machine Co., sold Wayne engines starting at least by 1900, and continued through 1913. The company adopted the make-and-break ignition system instead of using the hot tube method, which was then more popular. Wayne engines came in 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25 and up through 150 HP. Standard equipment for those of 25 HP and larger included an air starter. 100 HP Wayne engines were of 16-1/2-by-22-inch bore and stroke. Wayne portables had no cooling tanks, which was the owner's problem.

Kansas City Hay Press Co. in Missouri made Kansas City Lightning and Kansas City Jr. engines, starting about the turn of the 19th century. Their earliest engines had a peculiar steam cooling method. As C.H. Wendel writes, "Briefly, it consisted of a steam-tight water jacket arranged so that steam generated within was carried to the engine intake and aspirated with the air-fuel mixture. The steam vapor promoted a cooling effect, retarded pre-ignition, and served to keep the cylinder free of carbon." The company was best known for their hay presses, developed in the 1880s. Kansas City Jr. engines were built from 1-1/2 to 12 HP.

Heavy-duty stationary engines were one of the major products manufactured by Minn-eapolis-Moline Engine Co., formed after the uniting of three other companies in 1929. They were produced until 1972, when Oliver Corp. bought the company.

One of the most famous gas engines named for a city is the New Holland, manufactured by New Holland Machine Co. of New Holland, Pa. The history of the company is well known. Abraham M. Zimmerman founded a machine shop in 1895, and many different products were manufactured there: hay balers, feed grinders, rock crushers and engines, of course. An article in the December 1910 issue of Gas Review magazine says, "The New Holland Machine Co. … are doing their share to solve the problem of country roads. If all other people would do as much all our roads would be macadamized. They have recently put on the market a new portable rock crusher that is operated with a gasoline engine. This is just the outfit for a farmer to own. He can crush all the stone he needs for concrete or for roads on or about his farm. The capacity of the machine when equipped with a 4 to 6 HP engine is about thirty tons per day."

Oshkosh, Wis., was the home of at least 11 different engine-manufacturing companies, the best-known probably being Termaat and Monahan Co., but only one took the name of the city, Oshkosh Mfg. Co., which only lasted for a year or so starting in 1911. These engines are extremely rare, and were built in sizes up to 6 HP. (See table of contents for Oshkosh engine photo.)

Nine engine companies had "Quincy" in their name, two each in Pennsylvania and Massa-chusetts, and five in Illinois. Two of the Illinois companies, Quincy Engine Works and Quincy Engine Co., manufactured Quincy engines. Quincy engines from the Quincy Engine Works, organized in 1901, are extremely rare. No advertising for the company has been found, nor any information on the Williams engine they also mentioned. It appears the company died the same year it was born. On the other hand, Quincy Engine Co., which came into existence in 1912, had one of their Quincy engines featured on the cover of the April 1912 issue of Gas Power Magazine. The company also started manufacturing Quincy tractors the same year, using identical engines to those in their stationary and portables. Quincy engines of several different types came in 1-1/2 to 25 HP, and were built through 1916. Small Quincy engines had an unusual engine design, with the cylinder being carried on a riser block, which cleared the flywheels when the engine was set up on skids.

At least five companies in Rock Island, Ill., made gasoline engines, but the best known was the Rock Island Plow Co., and their Rock Island engines, which were built for them by Alamo Mfg. Co. of Hillsdale, Mich. Early lines of Rock Island engines were re-badged Great Western and Chanticleer engines, which they also resold.

Syracuse Gas Engine Works was one of eight gas engine companies in New York City, and appears to be the only one that called their machines "Syracuse" engines. Their smallest marine engine was a 5 HP Model 1-B, which had a 4-by-4-inch bore and stroke. The 2-, 3-, 4- and 6-cylinder engines up to 42 HP were of the same bore and stroke. Prices in 1912 ranged from $140 for the smallest to $1,200 for the 6-cylinder Model 6B. Model C Syracuse engines were available in 12, 24, 26 and 48 HP sizes, with each larger size adding a cylinder to the one found in the 12. They cost $295 to $1,000. Model D engines of 5-1/2-inch bore and stroke had one, two, three, four or six cylinders. The 100 HP model cost $1,850. All Syracuse engines were marine-type.

Waterloo, Iowa, is one of the best-known cities in America because of the many gasoline engines made by at least two-dozen companies. Only three carried the city name, however: Waterloo Foundry Co., Waterloo Motor Works, and the best-known, Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co., the offshoot of John Froehlich's Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Co., where the first tractor was invented. Froehlich left the company two years later to pursue his love of tractors, while the company removed the "Traction" from its name and pursued the manufacture of gasoline engines. Some engines from the company were called Waterloo, Waterloo Boy and Beat-Em-All.

None of the three companies that manufactured gasoline engines in York, Pa., named their company after their town: neither A.B. Farquhar Co., Henry Millard and Co. or Flinchbaugh Mfg. Co., though it did manufacture a York engine. The company started making gasoline engines in 1898 in 1-1/2, 2, 3 and 5 HP sizes. Portables came in the same sizes, along with 7 and 10 HP sizes. York engines were exceptionally heavy, with the 10 HP weighing 3,600 pounds and selling for $410 in 1910. The 1-1/2 and 2 HP engines sold for $117 at the same time. Eventually the company made York engines in 12, 15, 20, 25, 35 and 50 HP sizes.

Many More

By no means does this list come close to covering the names of all the engines built that took the names of the towns and cities where they were manufactured. A few others engines named after cities include Alma (Mich.), Bethlehem (Pa.), Chicago, Fairfield (Iowa), Muncie (Ind.), Ottawa (Kan.), Rockford (Ill.), Sandwich (Ill.), Williamsport (Pa.), and many more, according to C.H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1872.

New York City was the big winner with 108 different gasoline engine manufacturers, Chicago was second with 105, followed by Detroit, 78, San Francisco, 49, Milwaukee, 41, Minneapolis, 35. With the world much smaller in those days, it's obvious to see why companies would name their products after the cities and towns where they lived in the hopes of getting loyalty from people who lived in the area.

Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact Bill Vossler at: Box 372, 400 Caroline Lane, Rockville, MN 56369; (320) 253-5414; bvossler@juno.com