A Missouri collector traces the history of the Faultless Engine Co. of Kansas City.
In 1985 my father Jim Wise purchased a collection of 27 engines from local collector Oscar Smith. Dad disposed of most of the collection, but kept a few engines including a 3 hp Faultless built by the Faultless Engine Co., Kansas City, MO. When Smith found the engine it was missing its original mixer and had a replacement rocker arm that was probably blacksmith-made. He painted the engine and fabricated a crude mixer to get it running. A couple of years ago I decided it was time to find the engine’s missing parts (which is still ongoing), and to learn a little about the history of the Faultless Engine Co. Because of the engine's similarities to those built by the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co., many people have made the assumption over the years that it was a Waterloo contract engine. To complicate things, Waterloo did build a “Faultless” engine for the John M. Smyth Co. of Chicago, and George B. Miller, longtime president of the Waterloo Engine Co., purchased Kansas City's Faultless Engine Co. after selling Waterloo to John Deere. Based on the information I’ve gathered, and the basic differences between Kansas City Faultless and Waterloo engines, I believe the Faultless was an engine built in Missouri, but be your own judge as you read along.
The earliest mention of the Faultless Engine Co. I found was a small advertisement in the classified section of the Kansas City Star newspaper October 28, 1906 - “SEVEN GASOLINE ENGINES, 3 TO 20 H. P., cheap. Faultless Engine Co., 1937 Grand ave.” Similar ads for “second hand” and new engines from Faultless ran a couple more times in 1907. The company shows up for the first time in the Hoye’s Kansas City directory in 1907, with the company's officers listed as A. J. Bauer and Ira Botts. In 1908, the Gould’s Kansas City directory lists A. J. Bauer and Harry E. Clayton as officers, followed by just Andrew J. Bauer in 1909. The Faultless company was not officially incorporated with the state of Missouri until 1911. In their incorporation documents, A. J. Bauer is listed as the main shareholder, and the company officers were the other shareholders - Russell M. Smith, William S. Swift, and Francis C. Downey - there is no longer a mention of Ira Botts or H. E. Clayton. Some have assumed George B. Miller had a hand in starting Faultless, but Miller is not listed in any document the company filed with the state of Missouri or referenced with the company in any capacity until his later purchase.
It’s unknown when Faultless actually started to build its own engine. The company advertised new engines in the Kansas City Star in February 1907, but there is no evidence that they built those new engines. The Ottawa (Kansas) Daily Republic ran an article in their May 13, 1910 issue boasting that the Warner Fence Co. of Ottawa would begin building engines for Faultless, with castings made at the Ottawa Foundry Co. The article states, “The enterprise referred to as the Faultless Gas Engine company, organized for the manufacture of all classes of engine under the Bowers patents.” “Bowers” is obviously a misspelling of Bauer, though I could find no patents issued to company president A. J. Bauer. The newspaper followed up on September 26th with a mention of E. L. Warner installing a Faultless engine in a local steam laundry. “The engine is of the type that will be manufactured at the plant of the Warner factory if pending negotiations are carried out.” Those negotiations must have fallen through, as the April 29, 1911 issue of the Kansas City Star talked about the new $15,000 factory of the Faultless Engine Co. at 1511 Cypress Ave. The factory output was estimated to be ten engines a day, and A. J. Bauer and Russell Smith were listed as the president and secretary. Smith was also reported to be one of the owners of the American Scale Co. in Kansas City. A similar article in the February 27, 1911 issue of Industrial World magazine gives the contact address for Faultless as the American Scale Co. with W. S. Swift and R. S. Smith as officers. Though Faultless and American Scale were operated separately, there seems to be plenty of overlap, including shared addresses, officers, and even a gas engine sold under the American Scale name (that one can only assume was built by Faultless - to my knowledge none of these engines have survived). Though they shared business offices, the 1916 Penton's Foundry List gives separate foundry locations for each company - Faultless' foundry being in Independence, MO., and American Scale's being in Pleasant Hill, MO. The Faultless factory at 1511 Cypress Ave. in Kansas City is still standing, though its current owner/use is unknown.
Besides selling engines under their own name, Faultless also built engines for catalog companies like The Hartman Co. of Chicago; the Joliet Mfg. Co. of Joliet, IL.; Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co. of Chicago; Montgomery, Ward & Co. of Chicago; and D. T. Bohon Co. of Harrodsburg, KY. The Hartman Co. called their engine the Majestic, and while Faultless built some of the first Majestic engines, the Waterloo Engine Co. built a majority of them. Advertising on the Faultless style Majestic can be found until 1916, though images of the Waterloo style started to appear simultaneously in late 1915. Joliet advertised their Faultless type engine until 1913, when they started advertising Field-Brundage engines. Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett was a hardware catalog company that sold the Faultless engine as the Revonoc, which is Conover spelled backwards - named after longtime company purchase manager and eventual president Charles H. Conover. Montgomery Ward sold Faultless engines under the Neward and Dairy Maid names. Jim Martin, Austin, AR., was kind enough to share images from a 1913 Neward catalog on the online message forum Smokstak. This catalog, and ads from Joliet Mfg., both mention engines in stock at Kansas City. Reprints from an undated Bohon catalog showing the Bohon Dixie King engine built by Faultless can be seen in the April and May 2002 issues of Gas Engine Magazine (supplied to GEM by Mike Flint, Spottswood, VA.).
Besides these catalog firms some smaller companies also sold Faultless engines, as evident by Randy Hashmeyer's Starch Brothers engine. Starch Brothers manufactured dairy and creamery equipment from LaCrosse, WI. Randy lives in Camp Point, IL., although I originally saw this very nice original engine at the Lone Oak Lion's Club show in Paducah, KY., as displayed by former owner Dick Brown of Bowling Green, KY.
In October through December 1913 I also found advertisements in Popular Mechanics for the Union Gas Engine Works of Kansas City which pictured an engine identical to the Faultless. The ad makes the claim "This big factory has been making engines for 30 years," though I can find no evidence of the company outside of these few advertisements. It’s interesting to note that for a number of years “Union Giant” engines were built in Ottawa, Ks. by the Union Foundry & Machine Co., an outgrowth of Warner Mfg. - the firm that was in talks to build the Faultless just a couple of years earlier. The Union Giant/Warner/Ottawa engines I’ve seen are different from those built by Faultless, and I can find no connections between Union Gas Engine Works of Kansas City and Union Foundry & Machine Co. of Ottawa. Popular Mechanics carried ads for the Faultless Engine Co. picturing the same engine from October through December of 1914 before advertising ceased in that publication.
I believe Faultless also sold some engines locally to the Weber and Sheffield companies in Kansas City. Sheffield Gas Power Co. purchased the Weber Gas & Gasoline Engine Co. in 1909. When the Sheffield firm went into receivership, it was at first taken over by the American Gas Engine Co. around 1913, and was purchased by a group of investors from Iowa and reorganized as the Weber Engine Co. in 1915. While the larger sideshaft Weber and Sheffield engines are unmistakable with their unique features, some of the hopper-cooled, push-rod engines of the 1910s are identical to Faultless engines. My assumption is that Sheffield/Weber had Faultless fill a portion of their small engine orders so they could focus on manufacturing larger engines. The only proof for my theory are the engines themselves and their similarities to Faultless engines.
In 1916, the Faultless Engine Co. also put an air compressor on the market for automotive and garage use. It weighed 130 lbs., and boasted "from 4 to 7 ft. of free air a minute," for a cost of $32. Even after the company sold its gas engine line, they retained the manufacture of air compressors into the early 1920s, though the Vulcan Mfg. Co., Kansas City eventually took over production.
When Deere & Co. purchased the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. in 1918 for a reported $2,000,000.00, the April 25, 1918 issue of The Iron Trade Review said that Waterloo president George B. Miller planned to retire. Apparently retirement was more than Miller could handle, as the July 19, 1919 Implement & Tractor Trade Journal ran the article "Miller Gets the Faultless,” announcing the organization of the George B. Miller & Son Mfg. Co. in Waterloo, and its purchase of the Faultless Engine Co. The article lists the Faultless company officers as W. S. Swift, A. J. Bauer, and W. C. Bauer. Later issues of this and other magazines also reported the purchase of the Robinson Spreader Co., Vinton, IA., by Miller. George and his son DeForest wasted no time in building a new factory for their enterprise. The Waterloo Evening Courier reported on July 23, 1919, "the Faultless engine equipment at Kansas City, Mo. can be moved to the new plant in a few weeks." The new factory, which was located on Westfield Avenue in Waterloo, was pictured in the February 1, 1920 edition of Farm Machinery-Farm Power, which praised "Mr. Miller is a firm believer in the legitimate implement dealer as the proper point of contact between manufacturer and farmer and all Miller products will be marketed through implement jobbers and dealers." While this strategy worked well for Miller while with the Waterloo Engine Co., and for Faultless in Kansas City, it is unknown if Miller ever actually sold any of his engines through jobbers. All of the advertisements I was able to find from Miller Mfg. were for Faultless kerosene engines, all dating to around 1920-22. A 1922 fire destroyed much of the Miller & Son plant, so its likely that engine production was brief. Adam Bosch, Kandiyohi, MN, shared a 1980s letter and other information on Smokestack from a Waterloo historian stating local gossip claimed DeForest Miller was the cause of the fire, which started while he was throwing a party in the factory. I was unable to verify this story. The Iowa City Press-Citizen said that the blaze, which injured three firemen and caused around $500,000 in damage, was discovered at 10:15 PM, was of unknown origin and was believed to have started in the office. “The flames spread rapidly being fed by barrels of oil and paint stored in the plant.” The Fire and Water Engineering magazine gave a similar account of the fire, claiming that the fire spread so quickly that the night watchman had to flee before he could call for help. A watchman at the Galloway factory a block away saw the fire and phoned it in. The Miller & Son Company apparently did survive until 1930 according to Waterloo city directories, though there is no evidence that it manufactured engines after the fire.
While first compiling information on the Faultless Engine Co. of Kansas City, one name jumped out at me that I'm sure jumped out at many of you familiar with Missouri-built engines - BAUER. A. J. Bauer was with the Faultless firm from the beginning, and W. C. Bauer joined the company around 1910. Were these two men related to August F. Bauer of the Bauer Machine Works that also built engines for many years in Kansas City? It was difficult to track down A. J. and W. C. Bauer at first. Eventually I stumbled across the 1900 US Census for Kansas City, where I find 33-year-old divorced machinist Andrew J. Bauer living with his 31-year-old brother Aug. F. Bauer, Jr., who is also listed as a machinist. The Bauer brothers were born in Kansas, with parents from Germany. Going back to the 1870 Census I find the family of August F. "Bowers", Sr., living in Kansas, with infant sons August and Andrew. August, Jr., and Andrew also had an older brother George, who eventually had a son Walter. August started the Bauer Machine Works in 1894. Prior to that, both Bauer brothers operated saloons in Kansas City. In 1915 August started the A. F. Bauer Engine & Mfg. Co. with Otto Barth, formerly of Witte Iron Works. Looking at Kansas City directories prior to the existence of the Faultless Engine Co., I found Andrew and Walter Bauer both working as machinists for Bauer Machine Co. as early as the late 1890s. One can only assume that Andrew thought he could build a better engine than his younger brother and ventured out on his own to start Faultless, bringing nephew Walter into the company later. After the sale of Faultless, Andrew and Walter went on to start the Vulcan Mfg. Co. in Kansas City to build Faultless Washing Machines and Air Compressors. Walter died September 28, 1949, just five days after the death of his wife Anna. On his death certificate, Walter was listed as owner of the Bauer Mfg. Co. This Bauer Mfg. Co. was not the same company that his uncle August started, as August closed his company in 1919 (though a group of investors did operate it for a few more years in the 1920s producing oil engines). Walter's Bauer Mfg. Co. was listed in Kansas City directories in the 1930s and 1940s as a manufacturer of household appliances, and his obituary said he operated a sheet metal specialties firm. After Faultless, Andrew is found in later U. S. Census and Kansas City directories as head of the American Machine Co. (products unknown), a farmer, and finally a real estate dealer. He died in 1954 and was listed as a retired drug store clerk on his death certificate.
Most engine collectors can spot a Waterloo Boy or Waterloo contract engine at first glance. At that same first glance, most collectors could easily mistake a Kansas City or Miller-built Faultless for a Waterloo-built engine. The hopper style and basic look of the engines are very similar. I have no explanation for this, except that the Waterloo company did produce a very simple, yet very effective gas engine which would have been easy to copy with just the right amount of changes to by-pass any patent infringements. From the patent research I've done, the only parts of the Waterloo Boy that were patented were the Witry carburetor (patented 1909, number 935,718) and governor (patented 1907, number 862,599), which Waterloo didn't even use on most of their contract engines. Most of their contract engines used Lunkenheimer carburetors and governor weights in the flywheel. On the basic Faultless hit and miss engine there are three key things to look at to quickly differentiate it from a Waterloo engine (without looking at the tag) - the ignitor, the mixer, and the back of the cylinder. The Waterloo ignitor face is round, but the Faultless ignitor is more diamond shaped. Behind that face, the Faultless ignitor also has a tapered body going into the cylinder. Both engine companies offered a Webster magneto as an option. As mentioned, Waterloo-built engines typically use either a Witry or Lunkenheimer carburetor. The typical Faultless mixer is a simple needle valve body on a cast iron or pipe elbow. I have seen a 1912 advertisement that shows what appears to be a Lunkenheimer-style carburetor, and these carburetors are often used as replacements for missing originals (guilty as charged!). The May 2002 GEM Bohon reprint also shows a Lunkenheimer carburetor on the Faultless-built hit and miss Dixie King engine. The placement of the carburetor on the engine head is different on a Faultless as well, with the carburetor at the bottom of the head and the exhaust on the off side (reverse of the Waterloo). Because of this the rocker arm also sets at a different position than on the Waterloo (at an angle instead of horizontal on the head). Finally, the Faultless has a lip around the cylinder skirt, where the Waterloo does not. Looking a little more closely, the top of the water hopper sometimes has visible bolts that hold the hopper onto the cylinder/base. These bolts are inside the hopper and not visible on Waterloo engines, and not all Faultless-built engines have the visible studs on top of the hopper, but many do. The hopper opening is usually round or oval, though there are other slight hopper variations out there. The ignitor trip and detent arm are also different than those used by Waterloo, and Faultless engines are seen with two styles of governor - a governor weight behind the flywheel or weights in the flywheel (though the later is the more common). James Priestly also goes into great detail on his Majestic Engines website (www.majesticengine.com) about the differences between Faultless/Miller and Waterloo engines.
Faultless Engine Co. also offered a throttle governed engine, with a box-type carburetor that sat on the side of the head just in front of the ignitor, and a plunger-type fuel pump. I found references to Faultless kerosene engines as early as 1914. Jerry Nance, Odessa, MO., shared a great full color advertising brochure with me that covered nothing but Faultless "Type K" throttle governed engines. It boasted, "After seeing a Faultless throttle-governed engine run, you will never be satisfied with any hit-and-miss engine." The advertisement shows the carburetor in detail, and promotes the advantages of kerosene engines over hit and miss (even over their own line of hit and miss engines). All of the later Miller Faultless ads I found show the kerosene engine, but do reference a hit and miss version. I've heard of both types of KC and Miller Faultless engines existing in collections today.
While most Faultless engines are of the square hopper variety, there are a couple of exceptions floating around. The August/September 1979 issue of Antique Gas Engine & Tractor Magazine (Vol. 2, No. 3, pg. 31) has a photo of a Faultless seen at the 1978 Tri-State show at Portland, IN. I believe the engine was owned at the time by the late Red Buchanan, and is now owned by Mike Dietz of Waverly, NE. This Faultless features a round water hopper and a three-bolt, triangular-shaped dry head. The rest of the engine's features appear to be standard Faultless parts. It is missing its original tag, so it could have been a special order engine sold by another company. I have seen rectangular hopper Faultless engines with the triangular dry head as well, including one with the Dairy Maid name in the Reflections column of GEM, April 1987. I have heard of a couple of these round hopper Faultless engines in existence, but can find no references to them in any advertising. No other information is known about this model.
Miller & Son also made a variation that had the same governor and head as the typical Faultless, but with a completely different look. It was made in at least 1 ½ and 2 hp sizes (possibly larger), and featured a square hopper with a diamond-shaped opening on top. The engine had a round-faced ignitor with a Webster magneto bracket, a different mixer, no lip on the cylinder, and the main bearings mounted vertically on the rear of the base. All evidence points to this being a model exclusive to Miller and not offered by Kansas City Faultless. There are a few engines of this style still in the hands of collectors today.
Most of the Kansas City Faultless engines I've seen with original paint appear to have been painted red or green. Our engine was repainted green, and I assume that is because the previous owner found traces of green paint on it when he originally restored it. Jerry Nance's brochure shows a green engine trimmed in red, while Jim Martin's Neward booklet clearly shows a red engine, as does the Bohon reprint in the April 2002 GEM. The September 1, 1917 issue of Automobile Trade Journal mentions that Faultless belt-driven air compressors are “finished in engine-green enamel.” The standard Faultless hopper decal was a large eagle with wings spread atop an American flag. Below the flag it either read “Faultless" "Kansas City USA” or simply "Faultless Engine Co." From pictures I've seen of engines with original paint it appears Miller-built Faultless engines were the same color and used a similar eagle logo. A nice original Miller Faultless can be seen on the front cover of the April 2001 GEM, and C. H. Wendel makes reference to a green Miller engine in an original catalog in his possession in GEM, April 1998. Jobber engines had their own decals, though advertisements from Joliet Mfg. Co. show the standard eagle decal with "Faultless" clearly visible along the bottom. Faultless-built Majestic engines appeared to use the Hartman's lion logo, and they have a distinctive square hopper opening instead of the round or oval opening of typical Faultless engines. It would also appear that jobber engines had a letter prefix in front of the serial number, probably to show who the engine was built for. For instance, James Priestly has pointed out on his Majestic website that Faultless-built Majestics have an "H" serial number prefix (possibly for Hartman), while a Faultless style Sheffield seen in the October 2005 issue of GEM listed an "S" serial number prefix. Miller engines appear to have used a "B" prefix to their serial numbers (GEM April 1998). Randy Hashmeyer’s Starch Bros. engine is missing its tag, but has a "B" prefix serial number stamped into the end of the crankshaft.
The Faultless Engine Co. offered a nice selection of engine sizes based on their advertisements. Ads from 1914-1916 mention both gasoline and kerosene engines in 8 sizes from 1 1/4 to 14 hp. You could get the engines stationary (on wood skids or sub-base) or portable (by hand or horse trucks), and even with an optional saw rig. The 1913 Ward's Neward catalog lists 1 3/4, 2 1/2, 4 1/2, 6 1/2, 8, 10, and 12 hp hit and miss style engines, and a 1916 Majestic ad lists 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 14 hp sizes. The Bohon reprint in GEM May 2002 lists 1 1/2 & 2 hp gas engines, and 3, 5, 7, and 10 hp kerosene engines. A 1918 reference in a National Gasoline Engine Association bulletin lists 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, and 15 hp sizes available in both gasoline or kerosene engines. Jerry Nance's brochure lists these same sizes in kerosene, and only references hit and miss gasoline engines in sizes 1 1/4 to 15 hp, and also notes that the hit and miss gasoline engine was also available with a kerosene attachment. A 1922 Miller Faultless ad lists the 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 and 15 horsepower sizes in both fuel types.
Looking at Weber/Sheffield engines that are similar to KC Faultless engines, I have seen pictures of small Weber and Sheffield engines with a similar water hopper, the diamond-shaped ignitor face, same governor, and the lip on the cylinder skirt. The February 1994 issue of Gas Engine Magazine even features a nice photo on the back cover of an American Gas Engine Co. Weber that was obviously built by Faultless. A 1913 catalog from the Campbell Iron Co., St. Louis, features a single page advertisement for Weber engines of the Faultless style, listing engines in 2, 3, 5, and 7 hp sizes in both stationary and portable models. Later Weber push-rod, throttle-governed engines looked similar to Faultless engines, but carried different features.
According to C. H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, Vol. 1, Bauer Machine Works started to manufacture their hopper cooled engine line about 1907, with their "Ever Ready" line coming out by 1914. Bauer engines share a similar hopper with Faultless engines, as well as the lip on the cylinder skirt, but are otherwise quite different. The Bauer’s ignitor has a diamond-shaped face, but operates differently from the Faultless, and the Bauer has a different mixer, governor, an open or "skeleton" base, and a ported exhaust. Quite different engines despite the fact that the key figures in each company were brothers.
Despite a few visible similarities, there are far too many small differences between engines built by the Waterloo Gas. Engine Co. and those built by the Faultless Engine Co. That, combined with the information I’ve compiled on the company’s history, will hopefully give a clearer picture of this engine manufacturer and its history. As tracing the history of these early agricultural-based companies can be very difficult, what I have presented here is probably not the definitive history of the Faultless Engine Co. of Kansas City. You never know what new information may come out in the future. That is the thrill of the hunt - whether its finding the engine, or tracing the history behind it. I welcome comments or information from anyone with knowledge of Kansas City or Miller Faultless engines or their histories. I want to thank Jim Martin, Adam Bosch, Jerry Nance, Dick Webber, Randy Hashmeyer, Ron Mixer, the late Ted Brookover and his wife Jennifer, Ted Shultz, Mike Dietz, and others who shared information, literature, support, or pictures of their engines online or in print. I also want to thank the Waterloo Public Library, the Missouri Secretary of State, the Iowa Secretary of State, and Christine Windheuser with the Smithsonian National Museum Archives for their help in obtaining information on the Faultless and Miller companies.