Engine History: The Brownwall Engine and Pulley Co

By Staff
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Frank A. Wall, Secretary-Treasurer and co-founder of the Brownwall Engine & Pulley Co.
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My engine, built in Holland, MI around 1915, is a 1 1/2 hp hit and miss, battery ignition,high tension coil, 1/2" spark plug. Originally painted blue, it came off of a Flint & Wallinghousehold pressure water system. Some engines were painted green,with black trim on the flywheels.

In the September/October 1967 issue, Mr. Don Petree of Gig Harbor,
Washington, asked for information on his Brownwall engine.
I’ve made inquiries into this concern for Mr. Petree and the many
readers of Gas Engine Magazine interested in engine history.

The main persons concerned with this company are dead, their
families and friends don’t remember too many of the facts, nor
do they have any records. I was not able to locate any records of
the company through companies that succeeded Brownwall, so I
assume that all of the records have been either lost or
destroyed.

I would like to thank the following for the information they
contributed: Mr. Mannie Bolles, who worked in the testing room; Mr.
Ben J. Dalman, a foreman; Mr. L. J. Wall, son of Frank Wall; and
Mr. Ford Ceasar of the Lansing Historical Society.

The Brownwall engine was built by the Brownwall Engine &
Pulley Company, which was organized about 1911 at 325 East Michigan
Avenue in Lansing, Michigan. The officers were: Homer D. Parker, President; Edsill
A. Brown, Vice-President; and Frank A. Wall,
Secretary-treasurer. Brownwall is a combination of the Brown and
Wall name.

Mr. Parker helped finance the company. For many years he was the
proprietor of a jewelery store in Lansing and was in that business
at the time of his Brownwall connection. (There was also a Parker
Manufacturing Company at Lansing that made governor pulleys. I
haven’t been able to positively identify this company name with
Homer Parker, president of Brownwall Engine & Pulley Company,
but have every reason to believe that this Parker Mfg. Co. was used
to form the Brownwall Engine & Pulley Co.).

Mr. Brown had the mechanical know-how of the management. He had
been with the Air Cooled Motor Co. at 504 Hosner in Lansing,
Michigan as plant superintendent. The Ideal Gas Engine Co. was
also located at this same address.

Mr. Wall was a salesman and a factory representative. In the
1903 era he was working for the Olds Motor Works. In 1906 he was
setting up dealerships for the Reo Motors Co., and was also
purchasing agent for Reo Motors Co. Both companies were
manufacturing concerns of Ransom E. Olds, who of course built the
Oldsmobile car.

So with Mr. Parker having the Parker Mfg. Co., Mr. Wall
concerned with sales and dealerships, and Mr. Brown in plant
management and engine knowledge, they formed the Brownwall Engine
and Pulley Co. for the manufacture of gasoline engines and governor
pulleys.

The governor pulley was mainly used on cream separators, when
being powered by a gasoline engine. The governor pulley enabled the
separator to be started slowly, increase the speed gradually,
prevent over speeding, and give a steady speed.

In the summer of 1914 the company moved to Holland, Michigan.
The Dutch interests there had built a new factory building to
induce Brownwall to move to Holland. It was a small company,
employing up to 35 men at busy times. Mr. William Arendshorst was
general manager of the Holland Plant.

Mr. Mannie Bolles, now 73 years old, a former employee, who
worked in the testing room, recalls that 12 engines a day was a big
day’s run. The 1 1/2 hp was their big seller.
Mr. Bolles remembers his wages were $10.33 a week, which was
considered big pay in those days.

A 1913 advertisement for the air cooled engine built at Lansing states “Made in sizes 1 hp up.” The 1 hp was discontinued at Holland, where they made
1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 5,
and 10 hp water cooled and a 1 1/2 hp air
cooled. At one lime Brownwall built a 3 hp water cooled engine
for a firm in England. Mr. L. J. Wall, son of Frank Wall, recalls
his father going into Canada to sell engines. So it appears that
even though it was a small concern they had a sizeable export
trade.

Mr. Ben Dalman of Holland recalls the factory moving to Holland
in the summer of 1914. He went to work for Brownwall in October of
1914, operating a lathe and later became a foreman.

While Brownwall was in Lansing, the company cast its name
and town in the flywheel. Engines built at Holland seemed
to have dropped this feature. Instead, early engines used a brass name plate and
later ones used a decal. The decal was about 4″ x 5″ and very
colorful, using a white background, gold letters, and red trim
around the letters and the edge of the decal. Of course the use of the decal
makes engines hard to identify today, as the decal is usually either
gone or worn beyond recognition. On these engines the serial number is
stamped on the end of the crankshaft.

Engines were advertised as guaranteed for 5 years. “Runs
Right Always;” “So simple–so few parts and needs so
little care.” In their design of engines they did have fewer
parts by having the gas tank cast in the base, no cylinder head or
non removable exhaust valve in line with push rod eliminating the
rocker arm. I believe the Brownwall engine was a good engine. The
main feature of a Brownwall over most other engines was their
valve arrangement. Valves are horizontal opposed in a valve box
cast with block on right side. Exhaust valve in line with push rod,
with push rod working direct on valve stem, through a spring loaded
sleeve coupling. Valve box opening plate carrying intake valve and
seat, it must be removed to remove the exhaust valve.

So, like everything, there comes an end. Brown wall’s came
in 1924. Bankrupt. It was taken over by the Holland Furnace Co. The
Brownwall Engine & Pulley name was changed to Holland Engine
Co. Evidently they still made a few engines using the Brownwall
name, but the rest were built under the Holland name. There are
some of these Holland engines around Michigan yet. This Holland
Engine is sometimes confused with the New Holland Engine built at
New Holland, PA by the New Holland Company, who also built
engines.

The Holland Furnace Company management has no records or
knowledge of these engines today. Holland Engine Co. went bankrupt,
thus ending production. Parts and service business was taken on by
the Holland Service Machine Co. This concern has changed management
several times, and the present management has no knowledge or
records of these engines, so I assume all records have been
destroyed.

Brownwall was a small company, one of the hundreds building
engines in the early 1900’s. They were in production for about
14 years and with top production of 12 units a day, naturally there
were as many of their engines as of the larger companies. There
seems to be very few of the Brownwall engines left.

I know of one other in Ohio, and there are some around the
Holland area. Of course Mr. Petree and a Mr. Hale in Missouri
have one. I know when I have mine on display at some of the shows in
Ohio, it is the one people ask about the most. So if you have one
of the Brownwall engines, it would seem you have one of the rarer
makes. Lets hear from other Brownwall owners, surely there are
more than a dozen engines left.

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