Associated Manufacturers Co.

A brief history of the Associated Manufacturers Co., of which surprisingly little is known.


| October/November 2015



Associated Manufacturers Co.

Illustration of the Associated Manufacturers Co. grounds.

Image courtesy Associated Manufacturers Co.

Despite a 1913 ad showing that Associated Manufacturers Co. of Waterloo, Iowa, had 11 branches across the United States, along with about a dozen distributors, surprisingly little is known about the history of the company. Established as the Iowa Dairy Separator Co. in 1898, the company added engines to its line in 1909 before reincorporating under the Associated name. For the next 20 years, Associated produced a wide variety of highly regarded gasoline engines including the Chore Boy, Mule Team, Iowa Oversize, (including the Twin Cylinder) as well as a few clunkers like the 3/4 hp Colt engines of the 1920s.

As C.H. Wendel writes in American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, “The former Factory Superintendent of Associated’s Independence, Iowa, plant once told the author that ‘for every 100 we shipped it seemed like we got 200 back.’ These were subsequently junked and the whole venture was chalked up to experience.”

Nevertheless, Associated engines of all types were popular. As Wendel notes, “A number of companies, particularly mail order houses, sold engines quite similar to the Associated. Apparently it was a matter of buying large quantities and affixing their own name tag,” common practice back in the day.

Associated tractors and trucks

“Associated experimented with a great many machines including the tractor and the motor truck. None of these ventures were successful and wasted large sums of money in the process,” Wendel writes. Thus came the Iowa Twin Cylinder engines, which were the largest of the Iowa Oversize line. It was essentially a tractor engine adapted to stationary use by the addition of a big cast iron pedestal. “A study of (a) photograph reveals some striking similarities to the tractor engines being built in Waterloo by the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company,” Wendel notes. “While there may be some doubt whether this engine was actually built by Associated, there is no question that the remainder of the Associated line was built in Associated’s own factories. No financial or corporate arrangement existed between Associated and Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company.”

The first branch

The only semi-history of Associated seemingly available was printed in the company newsletter, Chore Boy, and reprinted in the Jan. 31, 1916, issue of Farm Implements. More promotional tract than anything else, it was written by F.C. Ohly, manager of the Minneapolis branch of Associated Manufacturers Co. As Ohly wrote, “In making our official bow in the pages of the Chore Boy, the Minneapolis branch of the Associated Manufacturers Company feel no trepidation or stage fright, for we are fortified with age and encompassed with experience. We claim the distinction of being the first branch in the vast field now covered by ‘Associated’ interests, and in these days of history making, we would beg leave to recount some of the history we have made in our line of endeavor.”

He added that the Minneapolis branch was opened in 1904, and had done so well that “Mention an ‘Iowa’ today to dealer or customer in this section and you have at once attentive ears.”