REPRINT: HOW Your Hobby Started PART 6

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This month we continue reprinting a series that first appeared in GEM in the March-April 1969 issue. We are now at installment number 6 (of 7), which appeared in the January /February 1970 GEM, and was written by Carleton M. Mull.

During the last ten years before the turn of the century, the excitement over the demand for the new type of engine came into practical utilization. The applications for power in 1900 were many time the uses found back at the event of the steam era around 1875.

As we contemplate this event of the coming of gasoline engine power from our present vantage point, the initiation of this new source of power can be compared to the diesel engine and atomic power era of our present times. It was a major turning point in the history of all nations. Its perfection led to an entirely new concept in the mode of transportation the manufacture of the automobile. It also gave great impetus to all types of mobile machinery in agriculture, construction and marine markets.

This new source of power encouraged small manufacturers of every kind of merchandise. It meant that in many fields of manufacturing a business could be started with a reasonable investment for the power required. As the business grew and it was necessary to expand to supply the demand of the product, all that was necessary to increase the power capacity, was to buy a second engine, or a larger one, to furnish power for a plant of twice the original output. All this, without the cost of additional boilers, building and overhead. Businessmen soon learned they could save considerably on labor in the cost of power, because the gasoline engines could in many cases, be operated by a regular member of their personnel.

So the demand for dependable and economical gasoline engines came to the attention of many well established machinery manufacturers desiring to build engines. One of these manufacturers was Fairbanks, Morse & Company of Chicago, Illinois.

Charles Hosmer Morse, one of America's pioneers in business, started as a young man selling scales for his uncle, Thadius Fairbanks, who invented the platform scale in 1833.

As an apprentice at $50.00 a year, he spent three years in his home state of Vermont learning the scale business. Mr. Morse was then sent out in the adjacent states selling scales.

From a typical New England family, Charles was raised among God-fearing people who taught him the fundamentals of good conduct and honesty which he practiced all of his life. He possessed a vision, remarkable energy and was an organizer who advanced from a scale salesman to that of a partner and founder of Fairbanks, Morse and Company.

Under his management, the company took the lead in developing what was a new untried device, the gasoline engine. Mr. Morse was always interested in new patents and was a good judge of what would make a profitable product for his new and growing company.

In 1893, after the great depression and panic, Mr. Morse purchased the Williams Engine Works at Beloit, Wisconsin. This company had been represented by Fairbanks Morse as a sales outlet for steam engines and power transmission machinery.

Events had been taking place in and around Chicago which brought to the attention of Mr. Morse the success of the Caldwell-Charter gasoline engines. Mr. Charter has been mentioned in a previous chapter.

During this same year, the Eclipse Wind Engine Company of Beloit was purchased by Fairbanks Morse and together with the Williams Engine Company, the 'Beloit Works' came into existence.

Now with the new manufacturing facilities, Mr. Morse made arrangements with Mr. John Charter to be associated with Fairbanks Morse as a designing engineer. He was to bring with him all of his plans and patterns from the Caldwell-Charter Engine Company and to start building the Fairbanks-Charter line of engines from 2 HP to 75 HP.

There was very little difference in the first Fairbanks-Charter horizontal engines as built at the Beloit Works, from those shown in the price list on Caldwell-Charter engines in the previous installment. However, constant development was conducted by Mr. G. Hobert and John Charter with their staff of engineers.

There were many early gasoline engine manufacturers in the middle west, in the states of Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. Two young engineering students at the University of Wisconsin went into the building of gasoline engines before they finished their college careers. Mr. Charles W. Hart and Mr. Charles Parr, became acquainted in 1892 while both were students of mechanical engineering and built several gasoline engines in the University shop for use on the campus. One of these upright engines is now on display there in the museum. After graduation, they built this upright single cylinder engine at Madison, Wisconsin until 1900. Their engines were well accepted and they required a larger plant and additional capital. They moved to Mr. Hart's home town of Charles City, Iowa where they put up a new factory and started in production in 1901. Here, the upright engine, similar to the original model, was built in the following sizes: (see chart on next page)

These engines were also built in styles 1,2, and 3 which offered the basic engine with choice of cast iron sub-base, with a provision for a water cooling tank, mounted on the sub-base.

Hart-Parr Gasoline Engines



Pulley Size


Price FOB Factory



10' x 8'

900 lbs.




15'x 10'

1800 lbs.




22' x 4'

3000 lbs.


Note:These engines equipped with hot tube ignition. Add $20.00 if electric ignition is required.

Then, another style offered an oil cooling system, instead of water, that would operate in the cold climates without freezing. A cast iron heating type of radiator was used for the oil cooler.

Another unique feature of the Hart-Parr engine was the arrangement of adjusting the piston pin and connecting rod bearings with a single screw. The bearing caps were hinged at the horizontal center line of each bearing, so the caps could be adjusted by a turn-buckle and rod connecting the inside part of each bearing cap. This feature was used for years in Hart-Parr engines. Later, they marketed a conventional vertical Style 41 HP oil cooled engine for $ 180.00 complete with sub-base and oil cooling radiator.

Early in 1902, this company built and marketed one of the first gasoline engine tractors in the United States. The machine was powered with a two cylinder engine developing 22-45 HP. This tractor (and the word tractor was coined by Hart-Parr Company) sold to an Iowa farmer, operated for seventeen years, which reflected the fundamental dependability of Hart-Parr design.

In 1903, the company built fifteen tractors which started the organization into a successful career. Today, through the consolidation of Hart-Parr, Nichols and Shepard Threshers, Oliver Plow Company and American Seeding Machine Company, the organization is known a the Oliver Corporation, a subsidiary of the White Motor Company.

At Froelich, Iowa, a man by the name (as the town was named for his father) John Froelich, had worked around steam traction engines and had learned the shortcomings of the heavy, hard to handle smoke belchers. He was mechanically inclined and figured there surely was a way to overcome some of the fire hazards and bulkiness of the steam outfits. In 1894, he went to work on building a tractor using a Van Duzen gasoline engine and a Robinson running gear. It consisted of steel rear wheels of the traction type with lugs and a single cylinder vertical engine. With his helper, William Mann, they designed and built the gears and transmission that would propel this outfit forward and backward.

When it was ready to run, they took it to a testing ground where there was plenty of grain to be threshed and where it took the place of a steam traction engine. It did a good job! This original outfit, traveling on its own power worked all the way from Iowa to South Dakota that year and threshed over 70,000 bushels of grain.

From this beginning, John Froelich organized a gasoline engine manufacturing company known as the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company at Waterloo, Iowa. In 1895 this company was incorporated and built the Waterloo engines. Mr. Froelich's interests were in the tractor, so he left the company and moved later to St. Paul. There was a big demand for Waterloo engines and a larger factory was built to meet the demand. At the same time, the company continued to experiment in tractor design and in 1914, the first Waterloo Boy Tractor, Model 'R' was introduced. This was a two cylinder, kerosene burning horizontal engine with cylinder heads back toward the steering wheel and driver. This machine was built up until 1923 and was the forerunner of the John Deere Model 'D' tractor, which put this company in the field of the 'New Generation of Power'after the Model 'D' came the Row-crop tractor Model 'A' in 1939 and then in 1952 Model '60' and in 1958 Model '730'and at the present decade the Model '4010'.

In the middle West during this same period, the Fuller & Johnson Company of Wisconsin was in the manufacture of farm type gasoline engines, and a worthy competitor of the other engine companies of that time. The story of this company has well been described by Vera Kindschi for the readers of GEM, so I will not comment further on this manufacturer.