100 Years of JOHN BEAN SPRAY PUMP COMPANY
20531 Black Road Los Gatos, CA 95030
Upon advice of his doctor, John Bean retired to a more healthful
climate in 1880 and settled in the little village of Los Gatos on
the western side of the Santa Clara Valley in California. Here he
bought ten acres of almond orchard and found that he had to spray
for an insect that threatened to eliminate the whole orchard.
Unable to find a satisfactory sprayer and being an inventive man
with several patents in his name, he soon perfected a sprayer with
an air chamber which revolutionized the orchard sprayer business.
First demonstrated at the California State Fair in 1884, the demand
for this sprayer forced the little Company to leave Los Gatos and
move to San Jose, about ten miles away.
By 1910 they were using 2 HP Fairbanks-Morse engines on their
horse-drawn spray rigs and had expanded to a branch factory in
Berea, Ohio. They soon became the largest manufacturers of orchard
spray equipment in the world. Along with the spray pumps, it was
logical that they made other agricultural machines and they went
into large pumps for irrigation projects throughout the West. They
bought the Ostenberg Engine Company, also in San Jose, and added
this two-cylinder opposed engine to their line. These were
ultimately built in five sizes from 10 HP to 32 HP.
In 1914 the Company built the new plant in Lancing, Michigan and
closed the smaller facility in Berea. this move also put them close
to the Novo engine Company in Lancing and Bean Spray Company
ordered the first carload of Novo engines that the Novo Company
produced. This association lasted for many years and old sprayers
still show up with Novo engines as original equipment.
Many new lines developed as a natural growth of their
agricultural interests and plows, fruit grading machinery,
high-pressure fire pumps and a host of other equipment were built.
One of these, the Bean Track-Pull tractor, came out in 1916. Unique
in design, this tractor is articulated with a single track and a
riding sulky which carried the plows, cultivators and mowing
The TrackPull, powered by a four-cylinder LeRoi engine is rated
at 6 HP at the drawbar and 10 HP at the belt. It turns in a
five-foot radius, making it quite handy for row crops and orhard
work. We have a picture from the San ]ose Herald in 1917
showing 17 Track Pulls leaving the San Jose factory. The caption on
this picture says ‘These will help win the War’! In
what way, it doesn’t say. We had one of these on display at
the recent county fair and our search has turned up only four
others known in California. When Fordson tractors came out a few
years later at a much lower price, the TrackPulls were phased out
in the early 1920’s.
Meanwhile, the spray pump business was booming and the Company
brought in E. B. Cushman who, with his brother had started the
well-known Cushman Motor Company and he designed a new, totally
enclosed vertical engine which the Bean Spray Pump Company then
produced in 4 HP and 6 HP sizes. These first engines had the
circular, stationary radiator enclosed inside the single flywheel,
then went to a hexagonal radiator behind the flywheel and in later
models had a taller, rounded top radiator with straight sides. Many
other improvements were made between 1921 and 1927 when the last
run of castings were produced.
While orchard spray rigs were still the major product of the
Company, they continued to expand their interests and made many
types of machinery for the food processing industry from growing to
canning or drying of all kinds of fruit, especially the prunes and
apricots for which the area was famous.
Another item was the smaller ‘Huski Ridemaster’ garden
tractor, first built in San Jose by the Bean-Cutler Division and
later assigned to the Bolens Division in Wisconsin. This was an
articulated riding tractor with two pneumatic tired wheels in
front, powered by an air-cooled engine directly over the driving
wheels. The operator sat over the cultivating tools which were
suspended between the two wheels of the riding sulky.
As the firm was expanding into other fields, the name was
changed to The John Bean Manufacturing Company and after a few
years, it became the Food Machinery Corporation.
It has been most interesting to follow the growth of this
company which started in a little shed with the help of a local
plumber in a small town and grew to an international, world-wide
To help celebrate the 100th Anniversary of this Company, the
major emphasis of the members of Branch 3, Early Day Gas Engine
& Tractor Association was on the many products which were
produced locally. We had an entire section at the Santa Clara
County Fair devoted to Bean products, including the following; A
Bean hand-powered sprayer, built in Los Gatos and dated 1886, two
complete spray rigs, many models of Bean Spray Pumps, including the
famous ‘Magic’ model, Bean engines from the very earliest
to the latest models, a Bean ‘TrackPull’ tractor and a
‘Huski Ridemaster’. Many other engines specially built for
Bean including the Novo, Witte, Cushman Cub Bean Special and others
were also in the display.
The picture shown above is an Ostenberg engine, 1912 opposed,
two-cylinder, 10 HP built by the Bean Spray Pump Co. See other Bean
pictures on the back cover of this issue.
1917 ‘TracPull’ tractor built by John Bean Spray Pump
Co., San Jose, California. Owner is Tom Sharpsteen of Orland,
We would like to express our thanks to the FMC Corporation which
is the outgrowth of the little one-man project that started it
FMC provided the transportation for the tractor, special
colorful buttons for all exhibitors, as well as certificates of
participation, posters, exhibit bulletin boards and many other
Many spectators came to visit the exhibit, among them many
old-timers who had stories to tell of using those old spray rigs
and tractors when the Valley was all covered with orchards.
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