A Buck's Worth of Information


| November/December 1990



234 E. Greene Street Waynesburg, PA 15370

While looking over the truckloads of stuff for sale in the flea market at the recent Portland, Indiana engine show, I found and bought a book for the sum of one dollar. The thing that is surprising is finding something in that flea market for a buck! And what a find! The book is over two inches thick, 1469 pages, and the title is Biennial Census of Manufacturers, 1925.

You and I are interested in old engines. We know where to hunt them, how to fix them, and enjoy showing them, and probably to some extent telling tales about the ones that got away. In my dollar book I have found an interesting view of the industry that made them.

There were in 1925 thirty two establishments making internal combustion engines (for farm use), stationary and portable, of less than five HP. They made 155,469 engines and placed an average value of $50.68 on each of them! Thirty-four companies made five to ten HP engines, 20,925 of them at $ 119.40. Only 24 companies built 10 to 20 HP engines, 6,021 of them at $333.11. Would I love to find a warehouse full of those at those prices!

There were 33 companies building wheeled gas tractors and they built just over 158,000 that year at $524.51 each. Seven companies built tracked tractors, 6,060 of them at $2,878.05. There were still seven companies building steam traction engines. They report building 97 that year and they cost $5,312.39 each!

Here there is an oddity in the reported figures, for though the traction engine manufacturers report building the above number of engines at the above prices they also report that they sold 200 engines during the same period at an average sale price of just $2,595.30 per unit!