For the most part, the history of Weber Gas Engine Co., Kansas City, Mo., has been fairly well documented. One of the earliest manufacturers of gas engines in the U.S., Weber started operations in the mid-1880s building stationary engines for farm and industrial use, with a decided focus on the latter.
The early days of the gas engine industry were not unlike the early days of the computer industry, with new ventures seemingly launched daily, and folding just as quickly. Unlike most of its counterparts, however, Weber thrived, staying in business until at least the 1970s.
A curious footnote to Weber's history, however, is Sheffield, a name in the company's history that's escaped solid documentation.
According to C.H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, in 1908 company founder George J. Weber sold Weber Gas Engine Co. and retired. At that juncture Weber Gas Engine Co. became Sheffield Gas Power Co., even though the Weber name continued to be used on engines.
About 1910, the reorganized company started producing a new line of engines under the Sheffield name. Both hopper- and tank-cooled Sheffield engines were produced, although in what range of sizes we don't know, as only two engines, the 6 HP hopper-cooled engine featured in this issue and a 25 HP tank-cooled in California, are known to survive.
Production appears to have lasted at least three years, until 1913, when Sheffield Gas Power Co. reorganized as the Sheffield Gas Engine Co. At some juncture after 1913 (it's not clear when), the company returned to its roots, once again becoming the Weber Gas Engine Co.
When Bill Anderson and his father, also Bill, took on the restoration of their 6 HP Sheffield, they knew they were restoring more than simply an engine. They were also helping to revive a link with a history that has to a great extent been lost. Save for Wendel's notes on the company, nothing is known of Sheffield. And with only two surviving engines, it's almost impossible to divine the company's aspirations with the Sheffield name.
Weber had an enviable reputation, known for quality construction and unflinching reliability. Perhaps Sheffield was simply trying to broaden its market, or perhaps the company was hoping to lose the Weber name and move forward with a new identity.
Whatever the case, one thing is clear: Sheffield disappeared and Weber persevered. But thanks to the Andersons, Sheffield's almost forgotten role in gas engine history has been restored. Turn to page 4 to learn more about the restoration of their engine.
We're putting the finishing touches on our plans for the 55th Annual Midwest Old Threshers Reunion at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, Sept. 1-5, and it's looking like more fun every day.
You'll want to make sure to swing by our booth and pay us a visit, as we've teamed up with some of your favorite engine parts and shop suppliers for a giveaway featuring everything from a quality bead-blasting cabinet, parts certificates, videos to tools and die cast toys. Check out our ad on page 47 for full details, and don't forget to check us out while you're enjoying the show.
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