4023 Anthony Highway Fayetteville, PA 17222
The latter half of the 19th century was a period of mechanical invention and progress and industrial growth, and the Waynesboro-Quincy area of south central Pennsylvania was in the center of that activity, jsut to name Geiser, Frick, Fahrney, Emmert, and Metcalfe as examples of early machinery attesting to that fact. If the circumstances had been different, Quincy just might have developed into a manufacturing center to vie with Waynesboro for industrial recognition, and in the process, the Metcalfes might have received the recognition they deserved. But such was not to be.
Industrial activity was a part of the Quincy scene almost without interruption from 1850 to 1916, and the Metcalfes, John L., the father, and John T., the son, were closely involved for most of that entire span. There can be little doubt that the two men were mechanical geniuses and that the engines and improvements they invented were among the best of their day.
John L. Metcalfe was born in England in 1831, and came to America with his family when he was still a boy. When in his teens, he learned, as an apprentice, the millwright trade, which occupation he followed for many years along with his manufacturing activities.
Metcalfe settled in Quincy in the early 1850's and purchased the Fahrney property there in 1855. In 1856, he began the business of manufacturing and repairing grist and saw mills. For the next six or eight years, John L. Metcalfe continued to make, repair, and improve the mills, machines, engines, implements, and tools of his neighborhood customers. During this period he invented and patented a threshing machine, the rights to which he sold to the budding Frick Company in neighboring Waynesboro. For just a short time he joined Frick as superintendent of the woodworking shop.
A very early Metcalfe product, this steam engine was built by Metcalfe Manufacturing Company in about 1860.
In 1864, competition in the machine industry in Quincy was started by Josiah Fahrney, who announced made-to-order threshing machines with particular attention to repairing. He also built the treble-geared Pelton's engines in three sizes-8, 6, and 4 horsepower. This competition was short-lived, however, as he transferred his interests and abilities to the Waynesboro firm of Geiser, Price and Company in 1866. Just a month or so after forming a partnership with Jacob F. Hess. After Fahrney left the partnership, Hess formed a partnership immediately with Joseph F. Emmert, which continued until 1868, when it became known as the Quincy Foundry and Machine Shop.
Meanwhile, after that brief stay with Frick, John L. Metcalfe, in 1864, purchased the sawing and chopping mills of V.B. Gilbert at Roadside and began chopping grains and sawing lumber, each service to be performed at short notice.
In those 1860's in an agrarian society and in the infancy of the mechanized industry, the fencing of fields and property was evidently being done by many owners. In 1869, Mr. Metcalfe was given competition in posthole-boring by Jonathan Null, who patented a posthole-boring machine on March 2, 1868. This inventor made the usual boast of that day, as is also the case today, - 'mine is superior'. The Null machine could be operated with any of the powers then available: hand, horse, steam, or water. Output could be 25 to 300, post a day, depending on the power used.
But John L. Metcalfe meets his competition. He invents and patents on April 16, 1872, the Excelsior Post Boring and Wood Sawing Machine. He has purchased the Quincy Foundry and Machine Shop about 1868 from Hess and Emmert. This shop was located just west of the Metcalfe property. This inventor also boasts that his machine 'excels anything of the kind now in use'. In addition to building this new machine, repair work of all kinds was undertaken.
The very first gas engine produced by the Metcalfes in 1905. The photo was given to Charles Carbaugh by John T. Metcalfe's daughters.
The Quincy Foundry and Machine Shop evidently continued to expand its activity. In 1875, his son John T., aged 21, had joined his father.
John T. Metcalfe, the son, was born in Quincy, 1854, and grew up in a mechanical environment. We can see the son as a boy watching his father making and repairing all kinds of machines. We know that John T. worked in his father's shop and in the Waynesboro shops, and that he made a specialty of the gasoline engine.
Father and son were now working together and in 1876 they improved the threshing machine and developed the Centennial Thresher, Cleaner, and Bagger, which was patented June 12, 1877. Also being further developed at the time were steam engines, called 'powers' in the parlance of that age. It seems that the Metcalfes were ready to move from miscellaneous and small manufacturing and repairing activity to a concentration on heavier and fewer products.
On April 1, 1879, they commenced business this day under the name Metcalfe Manufacturing Company (Limited) for the purpose of conducting the manufacturing and repairing business at Quincy, Pa.
Associated with the Metcalfe's in this venture was H. M. Benedict. The company's property was located near the west branch of the Little Antietam west of the Metcalfe property and without a doubt was the former Quincy Foundry and Machine Shop. The two main products of manufacture were threshers and engines, the latter, as noted above, called 'powers' by the bookkeeper.
The first year was an active and seemingly successful business year. No repair job was too small and none was too large. Approximately 20 threshers were built and most sold to Centennial Threshers. By the early 1880's a Metcalfe 25 HP engine furnishes power for an electric light station at the park at Williams Grove, Pa.
Advertising was used by the Metcalfes, illustrating their progressive-ness in going after business. The Chambersburg and Waynesboro papers ran Metcalfe advertising on long-term contracts, and their brochures, pamphlets, and circulars were distributed in bordering states.
Before tracing the successes and failures of the Metcalfes and manufacturing in Quincy beyond 1885, perhaps some picture of local industrial conditions in 1880 to 1885 may be interesting. The work week was 65 hours11 hours Monday through Friday and 10 hours on Saturday. The chief mechanic received 12 to 15 cents an hour with no overtime. Piece work was unknown. All workers could run all machines. The apprentices earned four and five cents an hour, which amounted to ten to eleven dollars per month.
Production was all for one and one for all. The assembly line was unknown. Cost accounting was very non-technical. The same man probably never produced the same components of the different engines and machines. In this day and age such production would be called leisurely.
The repairs undertaken were of all types and for all people. Engine repairs were numerous. Stove and iron work made up many jobs. There were little repairs and large repairs. Post-hole boring continued. Plow points were made. Chains were mended. Commodities were sold. Most of these were engine and stove and agricultural implement parts. At times lumber was sold. Flour was handled for selected people.
Much business was charge or trade. A shoemaker would have his stove repaired. Some time later a partner would have boots made. Settlement would be made by charging the partner's account, after which the shoemaker's and the company's accounts would be written off against each othera three-way transaction. Many accounts were even more involved.
Although this early Metcalfe company seemed to progress satisfactorily in Quincy, there was a need for capital to expand to take care of the demand for more engines and threshers. Whether the reason for the move from Quincy in 1889 was need for additional funds or whether some Shippensburg capitalists saw an excellent investment opportunity, The Metcalfe Manufacturing Company did locate in Shippensburg. This search for capital seemed to underlie the 'ups and downs' of the Metcalfe companies during the next sixteen years.
By August 22, 1889, the relocated company was ready for operation in Shippensburg. The machinery had been taken from Quincy and put in place. The products were the same as were made in Quincy. Special attention would be given to repairing and foundry work. The high speed engines could be throttled to control speed or would automatically speed up or slow down according to the load being worked on. Engines generating from 1 to 20 HP would be made to order. Mr. Metcalfe spoke of his experience and boasted that the first engine he made was still running.
Metcalfe may have gone to Shippensburg with his son, but it is the opinion of the writer that he stayed in Quincy and maybe even continued to conduct a repair business individually or with the help of several men. This Shippensburg venture was not successful and, within a year two , John T. Metcalfe was back in Quincy and again in business as The Metcalfe Manufacturing Company. John L. Metcalfe died in 1894, but the son continued business without interruption.
However, the day of the little shop operated by a small group of employees was fast drawing to a close. If a product was excellent, (and the Metcalfe engine was), the resulting larger plant and work force would be expected to yield success and prosperity. Twice within the ten years after 1900, outside capital was placed with the Metcalfes in Quincy, but each time the reorganized company was not successful.
In 1901, John T. Metcalfe gave an option on his entire business to John G. Corbett, an intelligent and skilled master mechanic, and John E. Demuth, a conservative capitalist, both of Waynesboro. Capital was set at $25,000.00, and plans were made to move the plant to Waynesboro, but this deal fell through.
A variety of Quincy engines await loading on a freight car in this picture. John L. Metcalfe is on the left.
Less than a year later, in February, 1902, four Geiser Company directors and two Quincy residents capitalized a reorganized Metcalfe Manufacturing Company with $50,000.00. The Waynesboro Herald described Metcalfe as the 'inventor and patentee of the gas and gasoline engine which the company will manufacture and (one who) thoroughly understands his business so that he will make a most efficient manager of the shop'. This time the shops were to stay in Quincy. In the formation of the company story, Geiser Company is not named as the purchaser, but evidence indicates that the officers were acting for the Geiser Company, and the older residents of Quincy probably have been correct in always commenting that Geiser bought the Metcalfes out 'in the early 1900's'.
Plans were big; hopes were high; and the picture was rosy. The prosperous little town is to take on new growth and acquire a new stature in the manufacturing world, so said the papers. Engines are to be built on a large scale. Business is to be of very large proportions. Employees would number 200 in two years. A 40' by 80' foundry and machine shop is planned.
An advertising brochure of this period illustrates the confidence of the manufacturers in their product:
'A maker of the Gas and Gasoline Engines claiming to have an engine of superior merit should give good and valid reasons for making this claim or it will have little weight with a careful buyer. Also, the business reputation and financial standing of a manufacturer is a factor which should be considered in making a purchase.
'In advertising the Metcalfe engine we make no claims which we are not preparedd to substantiate, and in our brief description will endeavor to show a few of our points of superiority over other makes of engines, as we do not wish to burden our readers with a long, superfluous description.'
But those big plans, those high hopes, and the rosy picture literally went up in smoke, for on May 28, 1904, the Metcalfe Manufacturing Company burned to the ground. The only items saved were some blueprints, a few documents, three engines, and tools. The monetary loss was $40,000.00, with insurance of just $13,000.000.
By the middle of the week following the fire, possession was taken by the Geiser Company of a building in Greencastle which had been purchased just a short time before. Patterns were made and by October, the Metcalfe gas and gasoline engine was being built in the Greencastle shops. Twelve engines were on the floor, and this number was increased to 100 in a few weeks. Sixty workers were employed.
But John T. Metcalfe remained in Quincy, making plans to use the damaged shops if he could. Enough space was salvaged for him and Mr. Alfred J. Miller to begin building gasoline engines with the assistance of only a few helpers as they were needed. Several Metcalfe-Miller engines were produced in this manner. Harry E. Snyder, the Quincy correspondent for the Waynesboro papers, called this concern the Metcalfe and Miller Company and noted that the demand for its products had increased so rapidly that it was found necessary to enlarge the plant.
The Quincy Engine Company exhibit at Williams Grove Park during a farm equipment show.
Certainly, the Metcalfe genius in making and improving the gasoline engine and other machines was the basis and surety for the investment of $25,000 by a group of men in a corporation named the Quincy Engine Company, formed in September, 1906, for the purpose of manufacturing gas and gasoline engines, air compressors, spraying outfits, power pumps, and pump-jacks. Directors included John T. Metcalfe, and Alfred J. Miller. Five directors were from Quincy, three from Chambersburg, and one from Kauffman's Station. John T. Metcalfe was named general superintendent.
The location of this new company was several hundred feet east of the former company plants and adjoined the Metcalfe residence with the machine shop and office fronting on the Waynesboro-Mont. Alto road. Other shops were between the machine shop and the railroad.
Within a year the capital was raised from $25,000.00 to $35,000.00 to gain funds for building and equipment. Without salesmen or sales agencies, the demand for Quincy products was larger than could be supplied.
For four years the Quincy Engine Company seemed to prosper, to run smoothly without internal conflict and dissention. News accounts extolled the virtues of its products, forecast banner years, and usually referred to the demand being greater than the supply. In November, 1910, there was an unprecedented rush in orders and the shops were busy at night trying to meet the demand. There were 57 men employed, and 29 engines had been sold in the month, more than double the number sold during any previous month since the establishment of the works. Possibly the only advertising catalog in existence (issued in late 1911 or early 1912) is flowery in its adjectives and has an illustration of the shops which must have existed only in the imagination of the publicity agent. Each product is described in detail with accompanying illustrations. In addition to newpaper and brochure advertising, the engines were exhibited at the Granger's Picnic at Williams Grove, at the York Fair, and at the Hagerstown Fair.
By 1912, although the engines produced were meeting with gratifying success, there were the first signs of trouble and disagreements among the directors and stockholders. The conflict seemed to arise from a desire on the part of the Chambersburg faction to physically move the plant from Quincy to that town. At the annual meeting in 1912, a proposed move to Chambersburg surfaced for the first time. No move was made, but the idea did not vanish.
This air compressor engine, approximately 6 HP, is the only one known to have been made during the year in Shippensburg. It eventually became the Domestic engine.
A rare copy of a 1910 price list of engines manufactured by the Quincy Engine Company of Franklin County, Pa. details the following products:
STATIONARY AND SEMI-PORTABLE
4 to 8
5 to 11
7 to 13
18 to 22
The Semi-Portable 1 to 6 Horse Power, mounted on wood sills, completed with Gasoline Tank and a circulating water pump, dry batteries or magneto. Self contained, ready to start.
8 to 22 Horse Power completed with iron sub-base, anchor rods, exhaust muffler and exhaust pipe, gasoline tank, water tank, or circulating water pump, gasoline pipe not exceeding 30 feet, water pipe 15 feet to connect with the engine. Fit with batteries or magneto.
4 to 8
5 to 10
7 to 13
18 to 22
22 to 24
Portable engines completed as follows:
1 to 4? HP mounted on wood sills, steel axles, iron truck wheels, and hand tongue.
6 HP Portable and up, mounted on steel channel truck, including brake, tongue, double trees, either plunger or centrifugal water circulating pump, dry batteries or magneto, ready to start.
The only two Quincy tractors known to remain in existence are pictured here. The one on the left belongs to Elmer Rice, of Hagerstown, Maryland. The one on the right is owned by a collector in Pennsylvania.
At the annual meeting one year later more Chambersburg directors were elected and the four officers were re-elected. John T. Metcalfe remained as general superintendent, but left the company in December in protest against the internal conflicts of the company, but later events showed that behind-the-scenes negotiations were taking place.
At the annual meeting in 1915, Lester Miller, who had been with the company and with whom Mr. Metcalfe had had some disagreement, was named general manager. During most of 1915, secret efforts to move the Quincy plant to Chamberburg were again being developed, and the plan broke into the open in early 1916.
There were denials that a move was to be made to the T. B. Woods Sons Company plant at King and Third Streets. But in a few weeks the directors met in Chambersburg and ratified the move, which tooks place within a few weeks.
When the Quincy Engine Company moved to Chambersburg in March and April, 1916, it was free of debt and there was a surplus. Employees numbered 38 persons. The product was in demand. However, the move was fatal and the Quincy Engine Company, in the words of a Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce publication, published in 1945, 'struggled along for three years before giving up the ghost'.
Quincy engine number 218, 1 HP made in 1905 or 1906, owned and restored by Elmer Rice.
Model designed and built by Charles Carbaugh 3 HP Quincy, 1/3 scale, from a 1907 or 08 original.
Quincy loyalists would like to believe that the Quincy Engine Company would have gone on to greater fame if it had remained where it startedin Quincy. And it is certain that Metcalfe adherents are firmly convinced that the company failed after the move because John T. Metcalfe was no longer on hand to apply his genius and expertise and reputation to the product.
Charles M. Carbaugh, of 17 Frick Avenue, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania 17268, has compiled a list of known Quincy engines, and has supplied some facts concerning the Metcalfe and Quincy engines. Only one engine of the 1879-1890 Metcalfe Manufacturing Company era is now known, and it is located in White Post, Virginia. Mr. Carbaugh has restored (see GEM Sept/Oct 1975) the only known existing engine of the 1904-1906 Metcalfe and Miller Company era, and it is owned by Ron McVey in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Carbaugh has owned six Quincy engines at various times, putting each of them in operating condition. About forty Quincy engines of the 1906-1916 Quincy Engine Company period are now recorded. Just two Quincy tractors are now recorded and these are located in Lemasters, Pennsylvania, and Hagerstown, Maryland.
Roger Mowrey is president of the Kittochtinny Historical Society. This article was condensed from one originally published in that Society's papers, Volume XVI.