Nelson Brothers Company History

By Staff
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This is an update for GEM readers concerning work that is being done on the history of Nelson Brothers Company. This process is still in the information gathering stage, requiring much more input from Nelson engine owners, and the holders of literature pe

11 Pleasant Street Milford, Massachusetts 01757

A brief outline of important progress that has already been made
is presented in this article. As we all know, Nelson Brothers was
the maker of the ‘Jumbo Line’ of gasoline/kerosene engines.
They were also the maker of a nearly identical line of trade-name
engines, likely sold through Nelson’s marketing arm, Royal
Engine Company.

Current Trade Names Attributed to Nelson Bros. Engines

2,3 Bluffton

1,4 Gray

1,3,4 Monarch

1,2,3 Sattley

1,3,4 Bohon

3 Hapgood Plow

4 National

M. W. Savage Co. (see Patch & Northome)

2 Brown (Fence & Wire Co.)

3 Hertzler & Zook

1,3,4 National Chief

4 Sheldon

Charles Williams (see Maynard)

4′ Hush

National Farm Equip. Co. (see Chief)


4 Dairy King


4 Nelson

4 John M.Smythe(1? HP)

1,2,3,4 Dan/Dazzle Patch

1,2,3,4 (Little) Jumbo

4 New Model

Smyth-Desspard (see Krackerjack)

1,2,3,4 Detroit (Engine Works)

1,3 Krackerjack

1,2,3,4 Northome

4 Standard Motor Parts Co.

4 Drew


4 Ohio

Stover (small air-cooled)

4 Dunn’s

4 Lyons

1,4 Ontario (Wind Engine Co.)

1,3,4 Sun (Power)


1,3 MacLeod

1 Page (Wire & Fence Co.)

1 Thorndike

4 Efficiency

4 Mandt

1,2,3,4 P&O Plow

4 (Little) Trojan

4 Elbro

1,2,3,4 Maynard

1,3 Pittsburgh Pump

3 United Type C

4 Essex


Royal (see Monarch)

United Factories (see Unito)

1,3 Essick

4 Michigan

1,2,3,4 Samsco

1,4 Unito

4 Ever-Ready

4 Minnekota


4 Winnipeg Boy

4 Franklin


4 Sandow

Key to notations: 1) visual verification of tagged engine; 2)
visual identification in original advertisement; 3) identification
of photo in book or magazine; 4) named in period literature
(Webster booklet, Millards directory, etc.).

In the box below is a current list of trade names commonly
attributed to Nelson Bros. Additions continue to be made. Preceding
each are marks indicating its current verification status. Note,
Nelson was not the only supplier of some models.

Only notations 1 & 2 in the table of current engines on the
previous page are considered conclusive evidence. I will carry no
listing in the final draft for which conclusive evidence has not
been presented. Any information on the above listings is needed.
Names such as Bluffton, Maynard, Sattley, Detroit, Gray, Unito, and
others were supplied at one time or another by manufacturers other
than Nelson, or indeed started out building their own engines. In
most cases, Nelson was the final supplier; providing a most
price-competitive, full product line including cement mixers,
generators, grinding mills, saws and pump rigs.

These trade-name vendor changes, Nelson models and years
supplied, must be identified for all listings. Any existing
literature, ads, or mail-order sales catalogs containing Nelson
equipment is needed. Based on current information, the Nelson
engine models offered were as follows:

Nelson Models & HP Ratings

A 1? HP

F* 6-7 HP

B 1? HP

FB’ 6-7 HP

C* 2?-3 HP

J 12 HP

CA’ 2? – 3 HP

N’ 1? – 1? HP

CB 2? – 3 HP

P 1?-1? HP

CC* 2? – 3 HP

T* 1? HP

D* 4? – 5 HP

TA 1? HP)

DA* 4? 5 HP

U 2 HP

DB’ 4? – 5 HP

Small, high-speed engine line:



HB, XB 5/8 HP





Symbols: (*) denotes Jumbo Line only; (‘) denotes trade-name

As noted in the box at bottom left, horsepower ratings were
increased at some point, I believe without any change in design. An
initial identification of an engine as Nelson Bros. can be made by
finding one of the model designations given above in most all of
the casting numbers on the engine. There was some parts interchange
between models.

The casting letter on the cylinder would coincide with the exact
model, as the main difference between most Jumbo and trade-name
models was the separate cylinder and base castings on the Jumbos.
The trade-name models were all one-piece. The official Nelson model
and serial number on many engines is stamped on the face of the
pulley-side flywheel. This is an important number, as some vendors,
like Smyth-Desspard and Gray, were allowed to put their own series
of serial numbers on the tag. Nelson serial numbers listed so far
range from a low of 158 on a model P to 19434 on a model TA pump

Some 400,000 Jumbo engines may have been produced. It appears at
this point that Nelson properly issued its serial numbers in order.
There may be a casting date stamped on the bottom edge of the base,
facing the skid. This stamp may have aided monitoring the
casting’s curing period. If present, it would be the best way
currently to date a Nelson engine.

As more literature is obtained, and more Nelson owners list
their engines, it will become clearer in what years certain models
and configurations were offered. This will aid both the engine
dating and authentic restoration process. Colors also need to be

Some information on the beginnings of the Nelson Brothers
Company in Alma and Saginaw, Michigan in the early 1900s, including
a history of the Nelson family, was obtained from Mr. David Babcock
of Cass City, Michigan, who did some research several years ago.
More information is needed here also. The existence of Alma Engine
Co./Re-public Motor Trucks, also of Alma, tends to confuse early

I have concluded my investigation into the end of Nelson Bros.
with a recent trip to a company in Auburn, Indiana; the end of the
trail that the Nelson Company name, records, and repair parts
inventory followed after their bankruptcy sale in 1940. Mr. Dallas
Winslow, purchaser on that date, owned many similar companies and
repair parts businesses bought in or near insolvency. The story of
this man, millionaire philanthropist, and charismatic entrepreneur
of the time, would be an interesting biography itself.

Little was done with the Nelson inventory. As a result of
Winslow’s various company consolidations in the late 40s, when
it was clear that no production of parts would take place, most
Nelson Company records, blueprints, and literature was burned. I
talked with the gentleman who remembers being told to burn barrel
after barrel of records from many of Winslow’s holdings that
were no longer active. Indeed some of the surviving Nelson
documents now discovered show burns at the edges, attesting to the
narrowness of their escape.

Original patents, trademarks applications, including both the
Jumbo and Monarch trademarks, are just some of the many records
which did survive to be included in my Nelson Company History.
There is not space enough here to go through all the information
that has been gathered, or sidelights like Nelson Motor Trucks, the
Nelson Associated-like engine model sold without tags or numbers,
or other issues.

As to the demise of the company, legal documents recovered
reveal a number of patent infringement suits lodged against Nelson
in the final years. This, combined with possible labor troubles,
debt load, and the death of H.B. Nelson, president and founding
member, may have brought the end of official operation.

Further information on Nelson Bros., related companies, and
engines, is requested by the author. My thanks to those who have
already responded to my ads in the GEM Wanted section.

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