The 1/2 HP Fruit Jar Maytag is, without a doubt, the most sought after, and the most colorful of all the Maytag engines. I believe production on this engine was started in March 1918 and ended about mid-year 1919, thus making them produced less than two years. The reason they were called “Fruit Jar” was because a Mason fruit jar was used for the gas tank. Of course, this made them very dangerous. In those days, women washed in the kitchen in the winter time. With a roaring fire in the kitchen range, one can only wonder how many accidents occurred. Because of the danger involved, it seems very strange today why these engines were ever produced. It is hard to find a reason why any engineer or company would come up with such a poor design. However, we are glad that they did, so we have this very rare and interesting engine to search for today to add to our collections.
Maytag started producing gasoline powered washing machines in, or near, 1911. Their first engine was a 1/2 HP two cycle upright, with battery and coil ignition. These engines proved reliable and satisfactory for a period of about 12 years. They were discontinued in 1923. During the last four years the uprights were produced, Maytag gave their customers an option of either battery or magneto ignition. Thy flywheel was changed on the magneto option from iron to aluminum, with the magneto enclosed inside.
In 1923 Maytag started powering their washing machines with their new Model 82, that was rated at 3/4 HP. This engine was a much-improved motor over the upright and the Fruit Jar models.
We must note at this time that the Fruit Jar engine was introduced four years before the uprights were discontinued, and it was four more years until the Model 82 was put on the market.
It is interesting to note the components of the Fruit Jar engine. They retained the cylinder, piston, connecting rod and crankshaft from the Upright. However, the position of the cylinder was changed from upright to horizontal. Also the same Type E carburetor was retained from the Upright engine. The flywheel and magneto were the same that were offered for the Upright option. The only thing that was really new for the Fruit Jar engine was the position of the cylinder and the crankcase and base. Of course, the gas tank was the radical change.
The Fruit Jar engine was used by Maytag to power their new Model 72 washing machines.
Though the Fruit Jar engine was a poor design it is interesting to note that they incorporated many parts from the Upright engine that was in production, and was continued for four more years. Maytag maintained this practice through most of their production of gas engines. The only complete new engine they ever produced was their last one-the TWIN cylinder Model 72. This fine little engine was made up of all new parts and design.
As we stated earlier, the design of the Fruit Jar engine was both poor and dangerous. However, Maytag did come up with a new safety feature. They provided a flexible exhaust pipe that enabled the user to pipe the exhaust out the window. This feature was continued throughout their entire production of gasoline powered washing machines.
A few years ago, I was given an interesting brochure. It was written by R. B. George Machinery Company of Dallas, Texas. It was dated 1922. In this brochure, along with farm machinery and tractors, was pictured a Model 72 Maytag washing machine powered by the Fruit Jar engine. Evidently, the Model 72 washing machine did not sell well, for they still had them for sale three years after production had stopped. Or could it have been that the farm economy was like it is today?
I receive an inquiry practically every week from someone wanting to know where they can purchase a Fruit Jar engine. The only answer that I can give them is to keep looking and inquiring. I am sure there are still several around that just need to be found and restored. Also, I have had tremendous success advertising in theGEM.