How Your Hobby Started Part XXV

John Deere tractor

Courtesy of W. C. Meier, 603 S. Main Street, Kingfisher, Oklahoma 73750.

W. C. Meier

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3904 47th Avenue S., Seattle, Washington 98118.

This chapter deals entirely with the history of the gasoline engines sold by The Fairbanks Company of New York.

Considerable research was necessary to get all of the facts together on this company and it started from the one family of Fairbanks.

I also covered the two tangents of the development of Fairbanks, Morse and The Fairbanks Company which originated from the E & T Fairbanks Company of St. Johnsburg, Vermont.

'The Fairbanks Company gives you permission to have this article published but assumes no responsibility as to the information presented on engines. To the best of our knowledge and belief the historical facts are correct.' (This paragraph signed by J. E. Bates, Field Sales Manager, Fairbanks Company, Box 1077, 2-22 Glenwood Avenue, Bing-hamton, New York 13902.)

It may require a considerable stretch of the imagination to calculate just how the invention of a plow with a cast-iron mouldboard and the platform weighing scale could have a motivation for the development and sale of gasoline engines. In the course of events of American industry such historical sequence did occur in two companies.

It all started when immigrant Jonathan Ffayerbanks arrived in this country from Yorkshire, England in 1633. Forethought and well-laid plans for a home in the new world and with a bit more money than most, he brought well-seasoned oak and small glass windows to build in Dedham, Massachusetts. It is one of America's oldest wooden homes, having been built in 1636.

During the decades from the time of the arrival in this country of the progenitor of this family until 1793 when Joseph Fairbanks was born, the spelling of the name had been changed from Ffayerbanks to Fairbanks.

At Brimfield, Massachusetts, Joseph Fairbanks had taken up farming. In 1790 Miss Phebe Paddock and Joseph were married. The founders of the companies in which we are interested were sons of the Joseph Fairbanks', Erastus, the eldest, then Thaddius and Joseph, Jr.

At the age of 23, Erastus moved to St. Johnsburg, Vermont. Later the family of his father and brother, Thaddius, joined him. Joseph, Sr. and Erastus started a saw and grist mill on the Sleeper River, where they constructed a dam for water power.

Thaddius became interested in making wagons and he started an iron foundry where he manufactured parlor and cooking stoves. Being of an imaginative nature, Thaddius invented a cast-iron mouldboard plow. It also became apparent to him that there must be a more convenient method of weighing bulky and heavy commodities other than lifting them up to a steelyard.

He set to work on a combination of levers that could be installed at or under the ground level, that would transfer the proper ratio of the weight on the platform to be indicated and read on the steelyard. So it came about with his experiments that in 1830 he invented the platform scale. This original application lead to many modifications of the scale and he obtained thirty-two patents. From the development of these commodities, the family founded E. & T. Fairbanks and Company at St. Johnsburg in 1830.

The demand for scales for this new system of weighing came from all sources of industry and agriculture throughout the world. It did require hard work by their itinerant agents--or salesman, to introduce the scales and a firm was established in Boston under the name of Fairbanks, Brown & Company, to sell scales. Zelotus Hosmer started as a young man selling scales at this Boston Branch.

His nephew, Charles H. Morse of St. Johnsburg Center, went to work for E. & F. Fairbanks and Company as a clerk. After serving his apprenticeship, he moved to the Boston office and later to New York. In 1857 he went to Cincinnati and in nine years became a partner in the firm. At the conclusion of the Civil War, he went to Chicago where the company of Fairbanks, Morse & Company was founded in 1865.

After the great Chicago fire, the company had been burned out. They relocated and soon were doing business selling scales and windmills and other heavy hardware products for agriculture, mills, railroads and mining.

1925 John Deere tractor which was shown at the Waukomis Threshers Show. I am an old separator operator.

Wind power was sufficient to pump water for cattle on the farms and water stations on the railroads, but a greater demand for mechanical power was needed for all sorts of applications where steam power was too cumbersome.

The internal combustion engine had been developed in Europe and was being introduced in this country. Mr. Morse was a very resourceful organizer who soon became interested in this new source of energy. He purchased the Williams Engine Company of Beloit, Wisconsin and made arrangements with John Charter, a very successful American inventor of gasoline engines of Sterling, Illinois, to bring his engine designs and patterns to Beloit and start to develop and produce engines. And it was from this beginning that Charles H. Morse became the head of one of the world's largest manufacturers of internal combustion engines.

During all of these years, one of America's oldest companies was also developing and selling heavy hardware and industrial supplies together with Fairbanks Scales, which the company had originated.

This engine is old enough to vote three times over. It has been restored by Roy Gobel, Charleston, Illinois. It is a 2? Hp. Gray Brother gas engine. It is one of twenty gas engines that Roy has restored.

The E. & T. Fairbanks and Company, New York Branch office was opened by Charles Fairbanks, son of Thaddius. The company incorporated in 1874.

The New York Company continued under this name with William Paddock Fairbanks as secretary from 1888 until his death in 1895. Thaddius Fairbanks passed away in 1886. The New York City Branch was then incorporated under its present name--The Fairbanks Company in 1891. This historical background of the original branch of the Fairbanks family has been supplied through the courtesy of The Fairbanks Company as compiled by Mr. Robert Brewer.

The Fairbanks Company is a manufacturer of many types of valves and they build a complete line of warehouse trucks. During the era of stationary gasoline engines they distributed engines of various styles and ratings, which now brings us to the subject of how the invention of a plow and the platform scale lead to the development and sales of gasoline engines in two branches of the Fairbanks family in American industry .

Through the courtesy of Roger Kriebel of Mainland, Pennsylvania and Phil King of Granville, Massachusetts the following data and specifications pertaining to The Fairbanks Company gasoline engines are available.

Pictured here is an old timer. It is a 1? Hp. Sandwich gas engine. Note the unusual gas tank-I believe it is a peanut butter jar. It is owned by Wilbur Jolley, Tuscola, Illinois.

From the Fairbanks Catalog the following statement offers a date at which this company started in the engine business. 'We are pioneers in the gasoline engine business and can refer to Fairbanks Engines that have been giving service since 1900'--from a 1907 catalog No. 11, second edition.

There are no records to show the original type of engine offered, but assuming like many other styles of equipment, the Model or Type 'A' would have undoubtedly been the original unit sold.

Recently a fine Fairbanks Type A vertical 6 HP single cylinder engine has been found and rebuilt by George S. Clark of Mil ford, Connecticut. He is to be congratulated on the discovery of this engine and the excellent reconditioning of the unit.

The Type A engines were first built in sizes of 1, 2 and 4 HP and then later in ratings of 1?, 2?, 5, 6, 8 and 10 HP. As stated above, they were a vertical single cylinder four-cycle engine with cast-iron open crankcase and base with the cylinder all cast in one piece. The open crankcase was fitted with the lower main bearing housings and with removable bearing caps and grease cups for lubrication. The fuel tank was in the lower base.

The mixing valve was mounted on the side of the water-cooled cylinder head. A plunger fuel pump was located near the bottom of the engine which pumps fuel to the intake valve with an overflow pipe back to the fuel tank in the base. In the water-cooled cylinder head was located the mechanical exhaust valve and automatic intake valve. The valve pushrod operated the valve and the igniter which was located on the cylinder head. The timing gear was gear-driven from the crankshaft and was located under the crankshaft.

This type of engine was advertised as the 'Outdoor Engine' and was made up in portable units, the smaller ratings on four wheel hand trucks. Other assembled cord wood sawing outfits were available as well as walking beam deep well pumping units and concrete mixers. Water cooling tanks and battery boxes were placed on the truck for complete units. Specifications were given of the weights of this Type A engine as follows:

1860 Lenoir Gas Engine in the museum of Kloeckner, Humboldt Deutz A. G. Cologne, West Germany.

The Fairbanks Company gasoline engine types consisted of the following according to the catalogs that are now available:

The Type 'B' series of engines comprised of ratings of 8, 10, 12, 18 and 25 HP were vertical single, two and three cylinder units of a heavy duty construction. They were built with closed crankcase with hand holes on both sides and with a flyball governor running in a vertical position in an enclosed case. The mechanical valves were operated from eccentrics on the crankshaft extension. On the two and three cylinder units these eccentrics were at both ends of the crankshaft. The cylinders were bolted to a box type crankcase and the water-cooled cylinder head contained the overhead valves.

Prototype Otto and Langen four cycle gas engine constructed in 1876 situated in the Kloeckner Humboldt Deutz, Cologne, West Germany.

The mixing valve was mounted on the side of the cylinder head. Engines could be had with either igniters or jump sharp with the timer on the side of the crankcase. It was possible to get either a hit and miss or a throttling governor. The main bearings were babbitted made in halves and had an adjustment for taking up the wear.

The connecting rods were of the steam engine style and adjustable wrist pin bearings. Splash lubrication was used in the closed crankcase.

An unusual designed rocker arm valve mechanism with removable valve cages was employed. The valve pushrod actuated one long rocker lever which in turn came in contact on top of another lever arm that depressed and opened the valve. The shorter rocker arm moved on a pivot on top of a stationary support on top of the cylinder head.

The Type B specifications were as follows: (SEE CHART C)

Further specifications on Type 'B' engines from Catalog No. 10: ENGINE HP.-8-10-12-18-25-35-60; BORE & STROKE-6? x 7?-7 x 8?-8 x 9?-7 x 8?-8 x 9?-9? x 10?-9? x 10?; R. P. M.-350-350-335-350-335-300-300; DIA. FLYWHEEL-38-43-48-43-48-53-53; FACE FLYWHEEL-3?-3?-3?-4-4?-5-5; WEIGHT FLYWHEEL-400-450-500-600-750-1200-1200; NO. PISTON RINGS-4-5-5-5-5-6-6; WIDTH PISTON RINGS- 3/8-3/8-3/8-3/8-3/8-3/8-3/8 ST. PULLEY DIAM. IN.-18 x 6-20 x 6-24 x 6-20 x 8-24 x 8-30 x 10-30 x 10; EXHAUST PIPE IN.-2-2-2ft-3-3ft-4-4; GAS PIPE IN.-1-1-1-1-1-1?-1?; WATER PIPE IN.-1-1-1-1-1?-1?-1?; FLOOR SPACE IN.-44 x 38-45 x 43-50 x 48-61 x 43-67 x 48-79 x 53-101 x 53; HEIGHT IN. -65-72-79-73-79-89-89; SHP. WEIGHT LBS .-2000-2500-3000-4000-5000-8600-12,000.

Two other popular models were the 'Bull Pup' and the 'Bull Dog' units and as might be expected the smaller size was built in ratings of 1?, 3 and 6 HP. These were the lighter weight horizontal, four cycle, single cylinder, water hopper-cooled with open crankcase having the engine base, crankcase and cylinder all in one casting.

The timing gear ran off a pinion on the crankshaft and the hit and miss governor was of the flywheel type with the cam operating a flat siderod that opened the mechanical exhaust valve and tripped the igniter. The intake valve was automatic. The mixing valve was a simple needle valve type with an air control.

These units were shipped on a wood skid with the battery box and gas tank mounted behind the engine.

The specifications for the Fairbanks 'Bull Pup' engines are as follows: ENGINE H. P. 1?-3-6; R. P. M.-400-400-375; CRANKSHAFT DIA.-l 3/8-1?-2; BORE & STROKE IN.-4 x 4-4? x 6-6 x 8; FLYWHEEL DIA. IN. -16?-23-39; EXHAUST PIPE DIA. IN.-1-1?-1?; GAS TANK GALS.-1-2-4; FLOOR SPACE IN.-24 x 43-26 x 56-33 x 60; HEIGHT IN.-19-23-33; NET WEIGHT LBS.-200-400-875.

The Fairbanks 'Bull Dog' engines were of a heavy duty type built in ratings of 8, 12 and 16 HP. They were also horizontal, single cylinder, water hopper-cooled with open crankcase. These units were mounted on a cast-iron sub-base, with the cylinders bolted to the crankcase. A cast support was used under the main bearings and under the overhung cylinder.

Various modifications were offered with portable units mounted on steel wagon trucks, with the friction clutch pulley and the battery box under the driver's seat. Cord wood saw outfits were available with tilting table in sizes of 5, 6, 8 and 12 HP.

A drag saw unit with a 1? HP engine was part of the combination outfits for sale and also piston pump engine driven units, and diaphragm pumps, contractor's hoists and concrete mixers.

Specifications covering these Fairbanks Bull Dog engines are as follows: ENGINE H. P.-8-12-16; R. P. M.-350-350-350; BORE & STROKE IN.-7 x 7?-7? x 8?-8? x 9?; CRANKSHAFT DIA. IN.-2?-3-3; DIA. FLYWHEEL IN.-33-38-40; EXHAUST PIPE IN.-2-2-2?; GAS TANK GALS.-6-8-10; FLOOR SPACE IN.-56 x 3943 x 63-43 x 66; HEIGHT IN.-37-42-46; PULLEY DIA. IN.-18 x 7-18x7-18x7; NET WEIGHT LBS.-1800-2100-2750.

Quoting from the 1908 Fairbanks Catalog No. 5 describing their Type 'F' engines, they say--'The Fairbanks Company is the largest supply house in the world'--and--'The Fairbanks Company handles more types of gasoline engines than any other house in the world'.-- In this catalog it further states--'These engines are made in a modern shop'-- From these statements it is quite evident that a great many Fairbanks engines were sold, and present day collectors should find them to add to their collections.

The Type 'F' engines were horizontal, single cylinder, four cycle water-cooled with an open crankcase, built on a cast iron sub-base for heavy duty service.

These engines were very much in appearance and similar to the Angola engines. The cylinder and head were cast in one piece and the head was of the same design as used in the Angola engine. The combustion space was an elongated space at the end of the cylinder with the exhaust valve mounted in a cage under this cavity. The valve stem was lubricated by a separate oil feed tube. The fuel mixing valve was located on the opposite side from the long heavy sideshaft which was arranged with cams and a gear to operate the valve rocker arms and the governor. The flyball governor is vertical and runs in enclosed ball bearings. The engine speed can be changed while the engine is in operation.

The cylinder is bolted to the crank-case by horizontal flanges along each side of the crankcase, and has an open end water jacket with a flange for cleaning at the crankcase end.

There are no detailed specifications for the Type 'F', other than the speed and horsepower as follows: TYPE 'F' HP. 4-5-7-10-12-15-20-25-30; R. P. M. -350-350-300-275-250-250-250-200-190.

There were no bulletins or catalogs available for the Fairbanks Types 'E'-- 'K'-'O'-'R'-and 'L'.
































2 cycle


13 Marine


2 cycle




4 cycle




4 cycle