The Little Monitor

Famous for Windmills and Pumps, Baker's Little Monitor Pump Rigs Helped Revolutionize Life on the Farm

Little Monitor pump rig

George Arney's restored circa 1934 Little Monitor pump rig, serial number 43769.

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Nowadays most of us take a plentiful supply of water for granted, but it wasn't too long ago that water was harder to come by, especially for people living in the country. The farm I live on has an old hand-dug well on it. It's about 25 feet deep and three feet in diameter, its walls lined with stones all the way to the shell rock bottom. It's located close by a wet weather creek, and in the dry seasons must have supplied the farm with all the water. I expect it's been abandoned for many years now, as there's no sign left of the old home place except for the well.

Before the time of the pumping engines, water from these wells had to be drawn up in a bucket or pumped by hand if you didn't have a windmill. Even if you did have a windmill there would be many days the wind wouldn't blow hard enough to pump water, so when gasoline-powered pumping engines came out they must have been very popular on the farms.

Baker Manufacturing Co. of Evansville, Wise, sold a lot of 1 HP Little Monitor pumping engines here in Missouri. These engine outfits came equipped with a pump jack and belt pulley and could be bought with a hand truck to make the engine easier to move around for other chores.

One book on the Little Monitor says it will do the washing for a week for an average-size family for a fuel cost of two to three cents. For a gallon of gas it would supposedly shell out 264 bushels of corn or pump 500 to 750 barrels of water from a 40 foot well.

The Little Monitor was also used in the construction industry mounted on trench pumps and cement mixers. Other uses for the Little Monitor were running cream separators, butter churns, feed grinders, corn shellers, vacuum pumps for milking machines, dynamos for charging batteries, grind stones, bone mills, line shafting, wood saws, and a number of other things.

The belt pulley could be used on the camshaft for equipment requiring a slow speed or on the crankshaft for a normal crank speed. The flywheel could also be used as a belt pulley for equipment requiring a higher speed.

When rural electric started making its way around the country many of these engines were converted to run with an electric motor. By removing the water hopper, cylinder and piston, an electric motor could be mounted on the engine base and belted around the flywheel. With the convenience of an electric motor, many Little Monitor engines saw their service extended for a number of years.

The first Monitor engines were built in 1905, with the Little Monitor pump engine appearing around 1911. The first ones had a round gas tank that resembled a canteen and were nicknamed the Canteen Monitor. The square gas tank was introduced around 1914. There were several more changes throughout the years, but in appearance they remained basically the same until production ended sometime in 1944. The Baker Manufacturing Co. remains in business to this day, and the Monitor name lives on in an array of pumps and pumping equipment manufactured by Baker Manufacturing.

Contact engine enthusiast George Arney at: 518 SE 921, Knob Noster MO, 65336, or e-mail: