A Horse Tale or How I Acquired a Dan Patch Engine

By Staff
article image
by Barney Kedrowski
You’d be happy too if you’d just traded for a Dan Patch engine! Barney Kedrowski couldn’t have cared less that it was raining as he loaded his newly prized possession for transport home.

 


Manufacturer: M.W. Savage Factories Co., Minneapolis, MN
Year: Circa 1913-1917
Serial No.: 3237
Horsepower: 5hp (rpm not listed)
Bore & stroke: 5-1/2in x 7in
Flywheel: 28in x 2-3/4in
Ignition: Spark plug w/battery and buzz coil
Governing: Hit-and-miss, flywheel governor
Cooling: Hopper
Price new: $107.75 (1913)


A couple of months ago, I made my first engine trade – a Galloway Handy Andy for a Northwestern Dan Patch. Do you want to know how a Peter Wright anvil set me off on an engine quest? When you have a love for engines and history, and dreams of building a blacksmith shop!

Old rusty engine being restored

This spring, Gas Engine Magazine ran a small ad for me to find a Dan Patch engine. That ad led to a call from Howard, an engine collector, in Duluth, Minnesota. Howard said he had some Patch engines, but he wasn’t sure if there was a Northwestern Dan Patch – he thought they were all Nelson Brothers – and he wasn’t interested in selling any; he just liked to talk about engines.

Although I was somewhat disappointed, Howard and I became friends. We shared many stories with each other. As Howard told me, he jumped into the hobby in 1988, with the purchase of 50 engines. He claims that the old iron bug is a disease, but the most fun he ever had was chasing and collecting engines. He also used GEM to find them. I later learned that he was trying to get to know me before he thought about trading any engine to me, to make sure I wouldn’t just flip it.

Rusty steam ending on trailer with two men shaking hands One in a white hat, red coat, and blue pants,, The other with a grey baseball cap, brown jacket and blue jeans.

 

In late August, I went to Duluth and met with Howard. He showed me around and found the Dan Patch. To my delight, it was a Northwestern! I again asked if he wanted to sell it, but he was not interested in money. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink! After talking, he said he might be interested in trading it for a Galloway Handy Andy, which was one engine he always wanted.

Now for the horse trade: Howard wanted a Galloway Handy Andy in exchange for the Dan Patch. Using some horse sense, I called one of my gas engine contacts, Jeff Holbrook, who told me there was a Handy Andy in an upcoming auction in Neillsville, Wisconsin. I was not going to be horsing around and miss this one! At the end of the auction, I decided to pony up, and put a sweet little Handy Andy in the back of my truck.

Name plate & serial number on rusty ending

The following Saturday, my good friend Dennis and I saddled up and hoofed it to Duluth. Howard was eagerly awaiting us – or should I say, the Handy Andy. We unloaded it and in no time, it was off and running! Howard used his skidsteer with forks to easily load the Dan Patch onto the trailer. We were both very happy with our trade.

You might be wondering why I wanted a Dan Patch so badly. I recently started blacksmithing, and my mom came to my shop and saw my anvil. She told me that my great-grandpa, Emmett, was a blacksmith, and the highlight of his career was when he shoed the racehorse Dan Patch when he came to our hometown in the early 1900s. I had no idea about Dan Patch or horses … I only know horsepower! So I looked up Dan Patch on the internet and discovered that he was the greatest racehorse in the world, and was undefeated when he was retired in 1909. Then I found out that there was a gas engine named Dan Patch, and I knew I had to have it to power the blacksmith shop.

Rusty antique Engine on a woo table

Now this is where the story gets unbelievable. My house is located in the middle of a small ghost town, and the former neighbor found remnants of a blacksmith shop when he excavated for his basement. When I read through some family history, I discovered that my great-great-grandfather, Jack, earned his apprenticeship in this ghost town – most likely next door to my house – in the 1850s. I just about fell off my high horse!

nail in the speed control for a rusty old engine

My horseshoe is full of good luck – a Northwestern Dan Patch engine is very rare find. How rare? As rare as rocking horse droppings! Oct. 27, 2018, was an amazing day getting the Dan Patch running and on video – or should I say rodeo, as a sticky governor turned the Dan Patch into a bucking bronco! You can see the video on YouTube.com, just search “Dan Patch engine” and it’ll come right up.

The front of the antique engine

I hope you enjoyed this horse tale, but it is time to rein it in. If you would like to talk engines, Howard Abrahamson has them and you can contact him at (218) 260-3003. That way you will get it from the horse’s mouth! I don’t want to “stirrup” trouble by calling him a horse … he is one fine old iron man!

Dan Patch engines

As Barney Kedrowski suggests in his article, the 5hp Dan Patch engine was almost certainly manufactured by Northwestern Steel & Iron Works, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for M.W. Savage Factories Co., Minneapolis, Minnesota.

black and white add for the Dam Patch engine from 1913

In common with many so-called “factories” at the time, Savage did not build engines, but contracted with established manufacturers, in this case Northwestern, which manufactured cement mixer engines, among other items. According to an article in the Dec. 31, 1911, edition of the Eau Claire (Wisconsin) Leader-Telegram, Northwestern Steel & Iron Works signed a contract with M.W. Savage to manufacture “at least $50,000 worth of gasoline engines” in 1912. That suggests 1912 as the first year for the Northwestern-built Dan Patch. It’s believed, but not certain, that Northwestern continued to build the Dan Patch through 1917.

Dan Patch-badged engines – and the smaller Dazzle Patch engines – appear to have been produced by at least three different companies: Northwestern; Nelson Bros. Co., Saginaw, Michigan; and Gray Motor Co., Detroit, Michigan.

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