Ziegler-Rawleigh-Schryer – What?

Rare Ziegler-Schryer engine comes with remarkable history


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Tom Snodgrass of Shannon, Ill., has plenty to be proud of in regard to his Ziegler-Schryer engine. While the name Rawleigh-Schryer is one known to many people, the history and companies leading up to that name are not widely known. Tom's 4 HP engine is one of only five known to exist, and its serial no. d1798 makes it the oldest.

Ziegler-Schryer Co. appeared in the 1909-1911 Freeport, Ill., directory under the manufacturers of windmills and gas engines title. Rawleigh-Schryer Co. appeared in 1912-1915 as a gas engine manufacturer. And 1916 was the only year the Rawleigh Co. was listed. But let's dig deeper.

Oscar Ziegler and a man by the name of Roy Bennethum formed The Freeport Windmill & Mfg. Co. around the turn of the 20th century. The two were formerly employed by Stover Mfg. & Engine Co., Bennethum as works manager and Ziegler as superintendent of manufacturing. Another Stover employee, Paul Schryer, who assumed Ziegler's job when he left, joined the pair in mid-1909. The name was then changed to the Freeport Windmill & Gas Engine Co. Two months later, in August, the name was changed to Ziegler-Schryer Mfg. Co.

The 1910 History of Stephenson County states: "No new company ever began under more favorable auspices." The company was evidently successful from the beginning because of the experience of the men. They specialized in horizontal gas engines. "In addition to the engine business the company does a general machine shop work and makes high grade gray iron castings. The company puts out an attractive line of goods and is meeting with such success that it has already become necessary to enlarge the plant and increase the output. Eighty men are employed at present and the number is constantly increased."

However all was not positive as the company was apparently held back by a lack of capital, which led W.T. Rawleigh to buy out the controlling share of stock at the end of 1912. The company name was changed to Rawleigh-Schryer Co. and in February of 1916, it became Rawleigh Mfg. Co. Bennethum, who served as secretary for Ziegler-Schryer went back to Stover where he served as vice president and eventually president.

According to Michael McCracken, who began a Ziegler-Schryer, Rawleigh-Schryer and Rawleigh engine registry a couple of years ago, Ziegler also went back to Stover, at least that is what people say. But his name was not listed in the Freeport directory after 1911. More research is needed to find out what really became of Ziegler, as in 1911 he was still listed as president of the Ziegler-Schryer Co. At the time, however, he did hold a patent on a money transfer. This was used to transfer money from one part of a building to another through ropes and pulleys, much like the vacuum tubes of today's bank drive-thrus.

On Jan. 12, 1917, the Rawleigh factory burned, losing all of its records and just less than $200,000 in estimated loss. The company would never make another engine.

The only difference in the Rawleigh-Schryer line of engines is the governor, which was changed from a single-weight striker type to a double weight. Owners of engines built by this ever-changing company can easily estimate a manufacturing date, as Ziegler-Schryer built engines from Aug. 25, 1909 to Dec. 12, 1912; Rawleigh-Schryer built engines from 1912 to 1916; and Rawleigh built engines from Feb. 17, 1916 to Jan. 12, 1917.

Tom can certainly be satisfied that he has an engine with a noteworthy history. He found this engine in northern Michigan and brought it back to Freeport to restore. He sincerely hopes more of these rare engines surface.

On a side note, The American Thresherman Assn. 48th Annual Steam, Gas and Threshing Show will be featuring the Rawleigh-Schryer line of engines at the 2007 show Aug. 16-17, in Pinckneyville, Ill. Then the road leads to Freeport in 2009 for 100 years of these engines.

For more information on the Rawleigh Co. see the January/February and March/April 1985 issues of Gas Engine Magazine.

Contact Tom Snodgrass at: homus221967@yahoo.com

Michael McCracken has gathered historical information as well as started a registry with 104 engines currently registered. Contact him at: 7879 State Route 309, Galion, OH 44833; (419) 468-3544; mmccrack53@hotmail.com

Some information for this article was gleaned from an article written in 1969 credited to Vergil Gerdes, Roy Bennethum, the Stephenson County Historical Society and the Freeport Chamber of Commerce.