Tracing the Career of Frank M. Underwood Part 6

The Buckeye engine of Delta, Ohio, and the Toledo years — Part six of an ongoing series

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by Gas Engine Magazine archives
6hp Buckeye gas engine, Delta, Ohio.

In the previous article, we followed Frank M. Underwood through his departure from Elmore, Ohio.

The following information appears five years later in the Elmore Tribune dated May 24, 1906:

“The Buckeye Gas Engine Works, better known here as the ‘Underwood’ works, have been removed to Delta where a large building has been erected by the company. The removal of the plant at this place was contemplated at the beginning of the year, but owing to the destruction of the building by a storm when half completed, the removal was delayed.

“The plant was brought to Elmore seven years ago by F.M. Underwood, the businessman paying a bonus of nearly $1,500. Later it went into the hands of Chase Reed, and last fall was merged with the Buckeye Engine Co.

“The plant has given employment to from three to six men during the past seven years and has been a great benefit for repairs, to people having machinery.

“The plant takes with it the following people: Mr. & Mrs. Chase Reed, Welby Ames and family, Geo. Coger and family, and Harry Rice.”

It seems the Elmore firm continued building engines with the Underwood name until well into 1905.

I found the above article over 25 years ago and assumed that I had hit a dead end, although I looked for possible connections to the Buckeye Engine Co. of Salem, Ohio; the Buckeye Gasoline Engine Co. of Aurora, Illinois; the Buckeye Engine & Foundry Co. of Joliet, Illinois; the Buckeye Machine Co., of Lima, Ohio; the Buckeye Motor Co. of Columbus, Ohio; and the Buckeye Mfg. Co. of Union City and Anderson, Indiana. I found no hints of connections between the Underwood/Elmore business and the above Buckeye companies.

In the summer of 2020, I was perusing the Kenny Wolf auction bill and discovered pictures of a Buckeye engine built in Delta, Ohio. Delta is about 43 miles west of Elmore.

Buckeye Gas Engine Co., Delta, Ohio

Fortunately, a piece of original Buckeye Gas Engine Co. marketing material has surfaced, showing us excellent detail of some of their features, as well as the fact that they also built some large engines (up to 25hp).

Delta, Ohio, is not far from the Wood County, Ohio, the site of an oil boom during this approximate time period. There would have been a ready market in the oil fields for engines in the 10hp to 25hp sizes.

Toledo Machine and Motor Co.

Our chief source of information regarding F.M. Underwood and the Toledo Machine and Motor Co. comes from the Toledo Critic dated February 8, 1902:

“The half-tone accompanying this article is a portrait of Mr. F.M. Underwood, of the Toledo Machine and Motor Company. Mr. Underwood is favorably known all over the country as the inventor of the Underwood gasoline engine and a pioneer in this business. He enjoys the distinction of being the first in his field for utilizing his motors for various purposes, such as well drilling, stake driving for fishing purposes in Lake Erie and elsewhere. Mr. Underwood has recently introduced new features and principals of meritorious value, in the construction of 2-cycle engines, which he claims absolutely prevent any firing in the base. These gasoline engines are especially adapted for use in motor vehicles, marine and electric purposes. The company also manufactures all kinds of stationary and portable engines of the 4-cycle type, and claims for all of them the greatest simplicity, power, durability, and light weight. The company is now in first-class position for the prompt execution of all orders for gasoline motors, all possessing new and important improvements, which it is claimed are not found in other engines. The Underwood engine of the 2- to 6hp type is especially a favorite among printers. Catalogues describing gas engines can be had on application.

“Mr. Underwood has had an exceptionally varied career. Born in West Virginia, in 1854, he came to Columbus, Ohio, eleven years later with his parents. Thus, he received the larger part of his schooling in that city. Among his early positions after leaving school was in 1875, when he superintended the wood sawyers for the Michigan Central railway and retained this about a year, when the railroad began using coal. He has been superintendent of the Columbus Wheel and Bending Works; traveled for the Estelle Harvest Machine Co., of Whitewater, Wisconsin, five years; superintendent of the Conklin Automatic Cultivator Works, Wauseon; superintendent of the J.L. Lockhart Machine Works, Bellefontaine; foremen of the machine department of the Buckeye Mfg. Co., Union City, Indiana; superintendent of the Cummings Mfg. Co., Upper Sandusky; superintendent of the Quais Gas Engine Co., Bucyrus; superintendent of the Austin Automatic Boiler Feeder Co., Marion, Ohio; organized the stock company in Sandusky known as the Underwood Motor Co., and became its superintendent. This move was in 1896. In 1898, he sold out and bought the Quais plant of Bucyrus, and moved it to Elmore, Ohio, and called it the F.M. Underwood Gas Engine and Motor Co. Last June, he sold this out and was attracted to the East side where he began making preparations to start a plant here. The concern started business the first day of the present year at 412 Front St., and bids fair to become a leading industry. It is the only plant of its kind in Toledo and the outlook is indeed encouraging. The concern will also handle, aside from their own product, second-hand machinery. Mr. Underwood may be brought to the mind of many who have forgotten him when it is told that he, who with a few others, sunk their dollars in opening up the old White’s Hall as a dime museum in the early 80s. He was succeeded by Brady and Garwood.”

The building at 412 Front St., East Toledo, served both as F.M. Underwood’s business and residence. In 1995, I went in search of it and found a yellow-brick, single-story store-front building about 30 feet wide and 50-60 feet deep. The building appeared to be of an age that it could have been the same building as in 1902. I took pictures, but regrettably, have not been able to relocate them.

There are two 1902 Toledo directories; one directory does not list either Toledo Machine and Motor Co. or any pertinent Underwoods. The other directory lists Frank M. Underwood residing at 412 Front St., The Toledo Machine and Motor Co. at 412 Front St., plus an advertisement for the company on its back flyleaf. The Toledo Motor and Machine Co. is not listed as an incorporated company.

The advertisement is the only picture of the motors that the Toledo Machine & Motor Co. built that I have been able to find. The engine appears to be nearly identical to one that Underwood advertised in the Elmore Independent of March 8, 1901. Note the “double-faced” flywheel, which seems to be common to many Underwood engines. In the “For Sale” section of Gas Power, June 1904, someone advertised a used 18hp 3-cylinder Toledo motor, “Auto or Marine.” Particularly in light of the “Auto or Marine” phrase, it seems likely that it was built by the Toledo Machine and Motor Co; thus indicating that they built multi-cylinder motors, but it also could have been built by another company using the tradename “Toledo.”

American Gasoline Engines Since 1872 Vol. 1 mentions the Toledo Gas Engine Co. and a “Toledo” engine built by the Universal Machine Co. of Bowling Green, Ohio, but neither of these companies appears to have a connection to the Toledo Motor and Machine Co.

The 1903-1906 Toledo City Directories list the Toledo Machine and Motor Co. at 412 Front St., and, separately, manager Frank M. Underwood at the same address.

For 1907-1909, the Toledo City Directory information remains the same except now there is also Charles H. Underwood, machinist, boarding at the same location. Recall from a previous segment of this writing that in the 1900-1901 Sandusky City Directory appeared a Charles W. Underwood, machinist. Despite the reported different middle initial, I presume this is the same person, possibly a son to Frank M. Underwood.

For 1910 and 1911, the Toledo Motor and Machine Co. moved a block away to 56 Main St., which is also listed as the residence of F.M. Underwood. There are no remaining buildings at this address today. Charles H. Underwood does not appear in this or any subsequent Toledo directories through 1915. Also listed is John V. Hershberger, machinist, residing at 435 Clark (about six blocks away). Mr. Hershberger’s relationship to the Toledo Machine and Motor Co. is only assumed at this time.

For 1912, the information remains unchanged for the Toledo Motor and Machine Co., F.M. Underwood, and John Hershberger. The 1912 Toledo Directory also lists Raymond G. Hershberger (apprentice), boarding at the same address as John Hershberger.

On August 6, 1912, newspapers in both Sandusky and Toledo, Ohio, reported the death of F.M. Underwood. He was found unconscious in his shop and died while being transported to a hospital. Heart disease was believed to be the cause of death. He was a member of the Detroit Motor Boat Club and the Toledo Power Boat Club. He was said to have had a wife and son in some other city, although little was known of his family.

For 1913, neither Frank M. nor Charles H. Underwood is listed in the Toledo City Directory. The Toledo Machine and Motor Co. is still listed at 56 Main St., now with John V. Hershberger as manager. John V. Hershberger’s relationship to the Toledo Machine and Motor Co. has now become explicit. Raymond G. Hershberger, now listed as a machinist, remains boarding at the same address as John V. Hershberger.

In the 1914-1915 Toledo City Directory, listings remain unchanged for the Toledo Motor and Machine Co., John Hershberger, and Raymond G. Hershberger.

For the 1916-1917, Toledo City Directory, listings remain unchanged for the Toledo Motor and Machine Co. and John Hershberger, but Raymond G. Hershberger is not listed. Likely Raymond G. Hershberger has joined the war effort and is no longer living in Toledo.

In 1918, the Toledo City Directory information remains unchanged for the Toledo Motor and Machine Co. and John V. Hershberger. Raymond G. Hershberger has returned to his home address but is listed as a chauffeur, therefore he is not employed with the Toledo Motor and Machine Co.

The Toledo Motor and Machine Co. does NOT appear in the 1919 directory, although John Hershberger is still listed as a machinist.

In the 1920 directory, the Toledo Motor and Machine Co. reappears, now listed at 93 Main St., with John V. Hershberger as manager. Raymond G. Hershberger is again listed as a machinist, rooming at the same address as John V. Hershberger.

The 1921 Toledo City Directory, as well as subsequent directories, does not list the company nor the two men. Seemingly the Toledo Machine and Motor Co. has come to an end. This, in combination with the sale of the Ohio Motor Co. buildings (of Sandusky, Ohio, announced December 31, 1920), brings to an end the production of engines designed by F.M. Underwood.

John V. Hershberger died in Toledo in 1950; his obituary mentions his time with the Toledo Motor and Machine Co. I have not been able to trace Charles H. (or W.?) Underwood, the presumed son of F.M. Underwood.

Although information about the Toledo Motor and Machine Co. is sketchy, it appears to have been a two-person operation spanning 18 years. They built marine single-cylinder, 2-cycle engines, possibly also multi-cylinder engines. The number of engines built was probably small. No remaining samples are known to this author. As engine technology increased greatly during the years the company was in business, it is likely that although they began building engines, by the latter years they may have been existing on general repair and machine work rather than continuing the manufacture of engines.

As we review the career of F.M. Underwood, we see a person who was able to grasp the workings of very early gas engines and duplicate them, but despite holding at least four patents, I don’t view him as a prolific inventor. Definitely F.M. Underwood was a skilled promoter during the 1890s, with an ability to lead the startup of several engine-building ventures. This record displays not only his promotion abilities but also the number of investors available and the fact that times were fairly prosperous. His later years in Toledo appear to be very different, he no longer uses trade magazines to advance himself, he doesn’t seem to aspire to build a large trade, he is separated from his family — first his wife, then his presumed son.

Minneapolis firms

During my research on the career of Frank M. Underwood, I saw in American Gas & Gasoline Engines Since 1872, Vol. 1, the mention of the Underwood Machine Co. of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Could the Minneapolis-based firm be related to F.M. Underwood, a man who spent most of his career in northwest Ohio? Or perhaps connected to Charles H. (or W.) Underwood; presumed son of F.M. Underwood?

Much of what we know about the Underwood Machine Co. (Minneapolis, Minnesota) and its successor, the North Star Manufacturing Co. (Minneapolis), comes from a series of advertisements in Gas Power magazine from June 1903 (the magazine’s first issue) through February 1904.

The Minneapolis City Directories also yield some information. The 1901 directory does not list any pertinent Underwoods or the North Star Machine Co. The 1902 directory does not list the North Star Machine Co., but it does list Elmer A. Underwood, Henry A. Underwood, and Emma Underwood, all of the Underwood Machine Co., and all boarding at 3411 Irving Ave. N.

The 1903 directory lists the following entries: the North Star Machine Co., G.E. Young, manager, of 530 Temple Court, and the North Star Machine Co., George Stewart, Fred A. Jahnke, Jeremiah G. Hoffken, brass founders, of 21 High St. The 1903 directory continues to list Elmer A. Underwood, Henry A. Underwood, and Emma Underwood, all of the Underwood Machine Co., and all boarding at 3411 Irving Ave. N.

The ad in the July 1903 Gas Power magazine includes a seperate note that the engines of the Underwood Machine Co. (Minneapolis) have been built for “a number of years.”

A near-identical advertisement appears in the August 1903 Gas Power, except the address has changed to 1320 20th Ave. N., Minneapolis. This ad listing the new address is repeated in the September and October issues of Gas Power magazine. After this, there are no more advertisements for the Underwood Machine Co. of Minneapolis.

The November 1903 Gas Power reports “The North Star Manufacturing Company, of Minneapolis, is a new concern organized for the building of gas and gasoline engines, which has purchased the patterns, good will and stock, together with a contract from C.M. Giddings, of Illinois, for the manufacture of the gasoline engine heretofore built by the Underwood Machine Co., of Minneapolis, and will hereafter make and sell this engine under the name ‘North Star.’ The special motor to be made under this name is a 2-cycle, which its designers, after much experiment and experience, have been able to put on a footing with 4-cycle engines, which they also make.” In light of the fact that North Star only advertised 2-cycle engines for about six months before apparently going out of business, it seems unlikely that they built any large 4-cycle engines.

Also in the November 1903 issue of Gas Power is the advertisement above (Figure 1). A review of a C.M. Giddings article in Gas Engine Magazine (January 1901) makes it clear that when this Figure 1 advertisement says “engines in sizes from 1-1/2 to 12 horse power,” the increase in power was to be gained from adding cylinders rather than engines with larger bore and stroke.

The December 1903 Gas Power yields the advertisement at left (Figure 2). The picture is different, but is of the same side of essentially the same engine. The engine now sports a pulley, a different mixer (or crankcase breather), oiler, and may now have a governor.

The January 1904 issue of Gas Power includes a duplicate North Star advertisement as well as a “For Sale” advertisement placed by H.A. Underwood, 1215 23rd Ave. N., Minneapolis, advising “We have gone out of the engine business and wish to sell what machinery and tools we have left. Lathes, shapers, drills, and a lot of small stuff.”

The March 1904 Gas Power includes a duplicate North Star advertisement, and also an advertisement for the Belle City Mfg. Co. of Racine Junction, Wisconsin (see Figure 3). The Belle City Mfg. Co. ad depicts the same engine as was previously advertised by the Underwood Machine Co. It seems likely that Underwood and/or North Star bought their castings from the Belle City Mfg. Co., as the Belle City firm advertisement featured castings, not complete engines. This advertisement is repeated in the April 1904 issue, but not in the May 1904 issue. No further notice of the North Star engine was found, so we may assume that it was a short-lived venture.

The 1904 directory lists Henry A. and Emma Underwood residing at 1215 23rd Ave. N; Emma is listed as a grocer and Henry A. is listed as a machinist at North Star Mfg. Co. Elmer A. Underwood has moved to Dawson City, Alaska. Henry and Emma’s information remains the same in 1905, except while Henry is still listed as a machinist, there is no employer cited.

C.M. Giddings design in use

Stepping back a few years, the Gas Engine Magazine of January 1901 has an article describing engines for which C.M. Giddings had drawn up plans with the intent to market the plans without building the engines. We finally get to see the other side of the engine, and can verify the second eccentric is for a coolant pump (see Figure 4).

However, C.M. Giddings was marketing plans for this design even earlier as the engines in Figures 5 and 6 appeared in the February 1900 edition of Modern Machinery.

Earlier in this investigation I raised the question whether there could be a direct connection between F.M. Underwood, who built engines in several locations around northwest Ohio, and the Underwood Machine Co. of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I think the answer is a conclusive “no direct connection,” based on the fact that none of the Underwood initials match, and also the Underwood Machine Co. of Minneapolis was building engines using a C.M. Giddings design.


In the next and final part of this series we will wrap up the F.M. Underwood investigation with more on the C.M. Giddings connections as well as the Lambert/Underwood legacy.

Sources: Modern Machinery, February 1900; Gas Power, June 1903-March 1904; Gas Engine Magazine, January 1901; Minneapolis City Directories, 1901-1903.Toledo City Directories, 1902, 1903-1922; Toledo Critic, February 8, 1902; Gas Power Magazine, June 1904; Toledo Daily Blade, August 6, 1912 and March 18, 1950; Sandusky Register, August 6, 1912; C.H. Wendel, American Gas & Gasoline Engines Since 1872 Vol. 1; Elmore Tribune; April 26, 1906 and May 24, 1906; Buckeye Gas Engine Co. catalog.


Will Cummings is a regular contributor to Gas Engine Magazine and can be reached at will.cummings1927@gmail.com.

  • Updated on Sep 24, 2022
  • Originally Published on May 6, 2022
Tagged with: Buckeye, Frank M. Underwood, Toledo Motor and Machine Co.
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