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The Termaat and Monahan Company

Author Photo
By Max F. Homfeld | Jan 1, 1993

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John D. Termaat, from Motor Boat Magazine.
2 / 4
The first Termaat & Monahan engine, from Motor Boat Magazine.
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Louis J. Monahan, from Motor Boat Magazine.
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The Universal Model C as built in 1924, from Motor Boat Magazine.

7964 Oakwood Park Ct. St. Michaels, Maryland 21663

The principal players in our drama were Louis J. Monahan and
John D. Termaat. Monahan was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1876,
the son of John and Mary Monahan. Termaat was born in Holland in
1867. He came to Oshkosh as an immigrant and became a
‘successful photographer. The two men shared an interest in
mechanical things.

Living on Lake Winnebago, they saw the need for power boats for
fishing and recreation. From 1898 to 1900 they experimented until
they felt they had a practical engine design. In 1901 they began to
build engines, one at a time, in a small shed. In 1902 they
organized the Termaat and Monahan Company to produce engines, still
on a small scale. The range of engines in 1906 was made up of 1? HP
to 4 HP single cylinder engines and 5 to 8 HP two cylinder engines.
Termaat & Monahan engines were all two-cycle. Quite a number of
the single cylinder engines still exist. Characteristics are four
round holes in the flywheel disk, a grease cup on the end of the
crankshaft for the rod bearing, and a small wet surge chamber
bolted to the exhaust port.

In 1906 the men accepted outside capital, and the period of
1906-1913 was a period of steady expansion. The 1907 catalog shows
a much wider range of engines, still all two-cycle:

Bore & Stroke

Cyls.

HP

Wt.

3 x 3?

1

1?

120

3? x 3?

1

2?

160

4? X 4?

1

4

195

4×4

2

8

300

4? x 4?

2

12

475

5? x 6

2

20

700

4? x 4?

3

18

690

4? x 4?

4

24

775

5? x 6

4

40

1500

7×7

2

30

3000

One can see that they used seven different cylinder sizes. I
conclude that the engine line just grew like Topsy, with not enough
standardization for low manufacturing costs. Exception are the 4? x
4? cylinder which was used in 2, 3, and 4 cylinder models and the
5? x 6 cylinder which was used on 2 and 4 cylinder engines. These
models may have been newly introduced in 1907.

A Termaat & Monahan advertisement in the Sept. 10, 1910
issue of Motor Boating states that they then had 20 different
sizes, from 2 to 120 HP. I’ve no idea how they achieved 120 HP.
The ad shows a racing boat with their 36 HP model B (there had been
no model letters in 1907).

With considerable outside capital, Termaat and Monahan no longer
had control of policy. The majority of the directors wanted to
abandon engine manufacture and build machinery. Therefore, both
Termaat and Monahan left the company, though they retained some
stock ownership.

There were other marine engines that look remarkably like
Termaat and Monahan designs. Detroit and Wright are examples. That
may be the result of copying, buying castings from Universal
Foundry, or perhaps the design and tooling were sold in 1912.

Enter the third player in our drama: E. Homer Fahrney. He was
one of two sons of Dr. Peter Fahrney, the ‘Patent Medicine
King.’ E. H. Fahrney was born in 1876, educated in Chicago
public schools and Mount Morris College. He entered his
father’s business in 1895 at age 19. E. H. Fahrney and his
brother E. C. Fahrney inherited the family patent medicine fortune,
estimated at two million dollars, a real fortune in those times.
Both brothers established summer homes in the Oshkosh area, E. H.
on Lake Butte des Morts and E. C. on Lake Winnebago. E. H. had his
home in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and he was
president of the Peter Fahrney drug Company. Both of the brothers
bred fine dairy cattle at their summer estates. There is an
indication that E. H. was interested in things mechanical, as he
had a machine shop at his summer home. No doubt he was an early
Termaat & Monahan customer.

In 1913 or 1914 the three men organized and incorporated the
Universal Motor Company with Monahan president, Termaat
vice-president, and Fahrney secretary-treasurer. Their objective
was to produce a modern four-cylinder, four-cycle marine engine
with the smoothness and flexibility of automobile engines. Monahan
was the designer, as he had been for the T&M engines. They
called the engine the model C. I helped to restore one of them for
the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum a few years ago. It was a four
cylinder L-head engine with battery ignition and had serial number
C-1268. Bore and stroke were 29/16 x
41/16. The engine was rated 9-12 HP at 1200
rpm. It had only two main bearings. The reverse gear was integral
though its housing was not sealed; the gears were grease-packed for
lubrication. The starting crank was as in the figure, except that
it had no chain cover; no doubt the Museum’s engine was built
before 1924. There were priming cups. The water pump was gear-type.
A plunger oil pump was driven by an eccentric on the camshaft; it
supplied oil to troughs in the crankcase into which scoops on the
connecting rods could dip. The carburetor was a Mayer, made in
Buffalo, NY. The model C is a neat-looking, smooth running
engine.

During WWI, Universal built a stationary version of the engine
coupled to a 4 kw DC generator and it was used by the army to power
portable machine shops. After the war, the unit was sold
commercially as a farm light plant and as a standby marine
generator.

A year or two after Universal Motors was founded, Universal
Foundry Company was formed to supply castings. Robert Ziebell was
president, Monahan vice-president, and Arthur Ziebell
secretary-treasurer.

Tragedy struck in 1920 when Louis Monahan died quite suddenly.
He was only 43 years of age. The cause of death was pneumonia
following influenza. From his obituary we learn that Monahan had
inventions for other things than engines. His latest was a device
for dispensing air and water for automobiles at street curbing. The
device kept the air hose up out of the street by suspending it from
an arm of a crane. There were several of these in Oshkosh with more
to be installed. Another invention was a new type of corn
cultivator. At one time he was associated with a Mr. Dichmann, and
they developed a machine for making grass twine. With C. J. Pope,
an employee, he secured a patent on a process for making artificial
milk from soy beans. That couldn’t have pleased Wisconsin dairy
farmers.

Monahan was a member of the American Society of Mechanical
Engineers and the Society of Automotive Engineers. He was a member
of the Oshkosh Association of Commerce and of its industrial
committee. He helped organize the Elks Fife and Drum Corps and
played in the group. He was commodore of the Oshkosh Power Boat
Club. He was a member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, the
Knights of Columbus, and the Rotary Club.

It appears that he had never married. The obituary mentions only
his, mother, three aunts and a cousin. In his obituary he was
treated as a man of great local importance.

A new factory was built in 1927. Engineers were hired and a line
of 1, 2, 4, and 6 cylinder engines were developed. 1927 was the
year that Termaat retired at age 60.

Universal Motor Company managed to survive the Great Depression
but production was mostly of replacement parts during those years.
E. H. Fahrney died suddenly of a heart attack in October, 1935. He
was 59 years of age. He was sole owner of the Universal Motor
Company but still was president of the Peter Fahrney Drug Co. with
his home in Oak Park, Illinois. He must not have spent much time at
Universal. He was survived by his wife Marian, a son Peter, and
daughters Mary and Myrtle. His Chicago obituary predicted that the
daughters would inherit the patent medicine fortune. He was a
member of the Chicago Athletic Club, Union League, and the Oak Park
Country Club.

Ralph Klieforth, who had been general manager, purchased the
company from the Fahrney estate. Klieforth was the father of the
famous Universal Atomic Four, which became the most popular
auxiliary engine for small sail boats. It was a lightweight
four-cylinder L-head engine. It owed quite a lot to the original
model C, having the same 29/16 bore and the
same cylinder centers, though the stroke was reduced from
41/16 to 31/8. Like the
model C, it had a two-bearing crankshaft. It was rated for speeds
up to 3500 rpm where it produced 35 HP. In most installations,
speed was seldom over 2000 rpm. The Atomic Four was produced from
1949 through 1985.

The business was sold to Medalist Industries in 1961. Universal
is still in business, converting small Japanese tractor engines for
sail boat power. They are designed to easily replace the Atomic
Four, with identical mountings and output shaft location.

John D. Termaat died in 1950 at the age of 83. His wife had died
in 1942 and they had no children. His obituary was short and on a
back page. By 1950, Oshkosh had nearly forgotten John D.
Termaat.

Now we must backtrack to the 1906-1909 era. Like many others of
that time, J. D. Termaat and L. J. Monahan experimented with an
automobile that they called the T.M. After Fahrney joined them to
finance the venture, it became the T.M.F. According to the Standard
Catalog of American Cars and The New Encyclopedia of Motorcars, the
1906 version was designed by Alton Ripley, a company employee. The
car was a typical high-wheeled motor buggy of that time with an air
cooled engine. Serious production was not carried out, . but a few
were assembled for local use. The redisigned car, the T.M.F. of
1909, was also a high-wheeler. The Badger Manufacturing Company was
formed in Oshkosh to produce the car, but the project did not
survive more than a year. There is a statement by Wendel that the
Universal marine engine was built in the Badger Manufacturing
Company shop.

Wisconsin is the Badger State, so the badger name was used in
other automobile ventures. There was a Badger steam car built in
Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1901, a Badger four wheel drive car in
Clintonville, WI in 1909 (Wisconsin engine), and a Badger car in
Columbus, in 1910-11 (Northway engine). These seem to have had no
connection with Termaat and Monahan.

There was another car venture by Termaat and Monahan, however.
The 1914 Ziebell cyclecar was designed by company draftsman Arthur
C. Ziebell. The car is described in detail in the Standard Catalog
of American Cars. I have mentioned Arthur Ziebell earlier as
secretary-treasurer of Universal Foundry Company. The car had a
four cylinder water cooled engine that may have been the forerunner
of the Universal Model C marine engine. The Ziebell never saw
serious production.

There were other builders of marine engines in Oshkosh which
should be researched. These include: H. C. Dolman Co., United
States Motors Corp., Universal Products Co., H. Norman Co., and
Union Iron Works. I know that H. C. Doman was a very early builder
of marine engines, being incorporated in 1893. That company
eventually became the Doman Division of Universal Products.

There was a small single-cylinder Doman engine with overhead
valves and having some model T Ford parts. It was later built by US
Motors as the Model OK-1. Sears Roebuck sold it as the Motorgo.
Gray Marine Motor Company in Detroit built a mirror-image version
of it as well. These engines are popular with collectors.

My thanks go to Mara Monroe of the Oshkosh Public Library for
the obituaries and Gerry Lombard of Bakersfield, California for the
automobile data.

References

‘The Universal and Before,’ by J. D. Termaat, an article
in the April 10, 1924 issue of Motor Boat Magazine. 1907 Termaat
& Monahan catalog in the library of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime
Museum, St. Michaels, MD.

Obituary of Louis J. Monanan, The Daily Northwestern, Feb. 3,
1920.

Obituary of Elmer Homer Fahrney, Oshkosh Daily Northwestern,
Oct. 8, 1935.

Obituary of John D. Termaat, Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Nov.
20, 1950.

Personal letter dated 1987 from Alois T. (Louie) Grill, retired
from Universal in 1975 as sales manager. Began employment in
1927.

The New Encyclopedia of Motorcars, edited by G. N. Georgano.

Kimes & Clark, Standard Catalog of American Cars.

Wendel, C. H., American Gasoline Engines Since 1872.

Gas Engine Magazine

Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines