Following the Faultless Engine Co.

A Missouri collector traces the history of the Faultless Engine Co. of Kansas City.


| February/March 2016



Faultless engine advertisement

This wonderful full color picture of a Faultless type K throttle governed engine graces the cover of an undated original advertising brochure from the Faultless Gas Engine Co., Kansas City, Missouri.

Image courtesy Jerry Nance

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.

Company History

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.