Having a degree in history, my interest in the gas engine hobby goes beyond the mechanical to an interest in the history behind the engines we collect, and being born and raised in the “Show-Me” state gives me a particular interest in Missouri-built engines.
One day while indulging these combined interests, I was researching historic Missouri newspapers online for engine-related articles when I found a reference in The Jasper News to the Hardenbrook-Rice engine. Jasper is a small town between Lamar and Carthage, Missouri, in the southwestern part of the state. The town’s population in 1900 was only 627 people, and had only grown to 931 by 2010.
Hardenbrook and Rice
At the turn of the 20th century, Frank Hardenbrook and William Rice were well-known inventors in Jasper. In April 1901, The Jasper News reported Hardenbrook and Rice had patented a gasoline engine “and will manufacture and place them on the market.” The May 9, 1901, issue of the paper mentioned their engine was “on exhibition at Cozatt’s store,” followed on May 22 by an article boasting of a horseless wagon built by the duo, which was powered by one of their engines. “It made its first appearance on the streets last Saturday and as it wound in and out through the town the people gazed on it with opened mouth amazement.”
Hardenbrook and Rice applied for a patent on their engine Aug. 28, 1902, which was granted May 17, 1904 (No. 760,333), covering a “valve-gear for explosive-engines.” The patent documents illustrate an air-cooled engine with a belt- or chain-driven mechanism that acts upon the exhaust valve with a latch-out mechanism operated by a governor weight in the flywheel, and a ported exhaust on top of the cylinder.
Hardenbrook and Rice wasted no time putting their engine into production, most likely on a very small scale. It is unknown who did the foundry work for their engines, but it is assumed they did the machine work and assembly. The May 15 and May 22, 1902, issues of The Jasper News carry brief accounts of local farmers in Jasper and nearby Carthage using Hardenbrook-Rice engines on their farms. By Jan. 8, 1903, the paper carried an article titled “Will Move To Iowa,” which reported on a new partnership between Hardenbrook, Rice, and Carl Gade, and the move of the enterprise from Jasper to Iowa Falls, Iowa.
According to the article, Gade had an interest in a mining operation southwest of Jasper known as the L.G. & P. Mining Plant. A Jan. 28 article tells how Jasper residents Dave and William Lowe found zinc ore on the farm of Jasper Rice in 1900, and soon brought George and Frank Peisen, and Carl, William and Frank Gade in as partners. Jasper Rice was a brother of William Rice. George Peisen owned a shoe store in Jasper, while his brother Frank lived in Iowa near the Gade brothers. By the April 2 issue of the paper, the Hardenbrook-Rice Engine Co. was said to be “Turning Out Engines” in Iowa, with the first order being for six engines from one man. Frank Hardenbrook commented in the Jan. 8 article that he would have preferred to stay in Jasper, but he “could not get men of means” interested in building a new foundry.
What happened to William Rice’s part in this story is uncertain. The Jan. 2 article in The Jasper News said Rice would continue to reside in Jasper, while Hardenbrook and Gade moved to Iowa Falls. The April 2 article called it the Hardenbrook-Rice Engine Co., but the March 1903 issue of The Foundry magazine said that “Gade & Hardenbrook will erect a plant at Iowa Falls, Iowa, for the manufacture of gasoline engines.” Perhaps Rice decided the long-distance venture was not worth the effort, and sold his interest to Gade.
Newspaper accounts from the Marshalltown, Iowa, Evening Times Republican reported that Carl brought his brothers Fred and Louis into the company (and presumably his brother William, as well). Louis, an attorney by trade, acted as a salesman in the area, and was reported to have sold engines to the Illinois Central Railroad for pumping water (Louis had previously been an agent for the Illinois Central).
The Gade brothers had been living in Williams, Iowa, but moved upon leasing the factory at Iowa Falls. The Aug. 7, 1904, issue of the Des Moines Register officially announced Frank Hardenbrook selling out to the Gade brothers, and the reorganization of the company as the Gade Bros. Mfg. Co. (some early advertisements refer to it simply as the Gade Mfg. Co.).
Frank Hardenbrook returned to Jasper, and seemingly lived a quiet life. As late as July 8, 1909, however, The Jasper News shared a tidbit from the Golden City Herald, Golden City, Missouri, reporting that Hardenbrook was selling an air-cooled engine of his own patent to a farmer there. The May 6, 1920, issue of The Jasper News, looking back at Hardenbrook & Rice’s first engine produced almost 20 years earlier, noted that “The Jasper News is still using one of these engines.” Frank Hardenbrook died in 1937 at the age of 77. His death certificate listed his occupation as a well driller. William Rice died in 1931 (age 79) in Jasper, and was listed as a blacksmith.
As a side note, C.H. Wendel writes in Power in the Past: Vol. I that Carl Gade worked with William Hardenbrook to invent and patent the engine. While this seems to be the accepted local lore, I cannot find any reference to Gade’s involvement in the early development of the engine, and Gade’s name does not appear anywhere in the patent record. Likewise, the newspaper articles from the time do not mention Gade’s involvement until his partnership with Hardenbrook and Rice. The Des Moines Register from May 5, 1905, states, “The engine is manufactured under patents obtained by a member of the firm and the engine has found ready sales throughout this part of the state.” I don’t doubt the Gade brothers probably refined and streamlined the Hardenbrook-Rice design once they were in control, but I believe credit for the patent goes completely to Frank Hardenbrook and William Rice. The design as it relates to engines manufactured by Gade Bros. Mfg. Co., Iowa Falls, Iowa, starting in 1904 was examined in “Patent Page” in the May/June 2004 issue of GEM.
The Gade brothers
With full control of the company, the Gade brothers continued to expand. The 1911 Past and Present of Hardin County, Iowa by B.F. Bowen comments that the Gade brothers “remodeled the engine and improved it.” It is unknown just how much they changed the original Hardenbrook-Rice design as I don’t know of any confirmed Hardenbrook-Rice engines that have survived. Looking strictly at the patent drawings of the Hardenbrook-Rice engine, it would appear that Gade simplified the governor and valve operation of the engine with a more standard pushrod operated off a cam on the timing gear and changed the location of the intake and exhaust valves. Gade kept the ported exhaust, which became their longtime trademark, but they moved the exhaust port from the top of the cylinder to the side.
There are collectors who suspect they have a Hardenbrook-Rice or Gade-Hardenbrook engine, but to my knowledge, none of them have any markings or tags to confirm this. I find it doubtful that any Hardenbrook-Rice engines survived due to the limited numbers produced and restricted sales area. Given that the Gade-Hardenbrook partnership only lasted about a year, during which time the firm was most likely busy setting up a new factory in Iowa Falls, it is doubtful many engines were produced in Iowa until after the Gade Bros. complete takeover of the company. According to Wendel’s American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, early Gade Bros. engines went by the “Hawkeye” trade name starting in late 1904, just after Frank Hardenbrook left the partnership. While these early Hawkeye engines did not have an identification tag, they are recognizable by slight differences from later Gade engines, with the main difference being the location of the mounting holes on the sides of the base rather than the front and back. By 1905 Gade engines had taken the familiar shape that would pretty well remain throughout the rest of their production.
Carl Gade is himself an interesting figure, being one of those early 1900s businessmen who seemed to enjoy dabbling in a variety of enterprises.
Before getting into the engine business, he and his brothers dealt in real estate, according to a biography in Bowen’s Past and Present of Hardin County, Iowa, and Wendel’s Power in the Past: Vol. 1. Besides the Gade Bros. Mfg. Co., Carl also started the Economy Excavator Co. (also referenced by Bowen as the Gade Excavating Co.) to manufacture excavating equipment, some of which was patented by William Gade. William held two patents related to excavating equipment, from 1912 and 1918, and Carl was later assigned the patent for a ditch-digging machine by Julius Mahlstadt from Iowa Falls, in 1924.
Carl sold the excavating company in 1913-1914 and started the Carl Gade Mfg. Co. (also referenced as the C.L. Gade Co.), which still produced excavation equipment, as well as farm gates and livestock racks for wagons.
Carl’s gate business was the result of his purchase of the Hibner Gate Co. of Iowa Falls. John Hibner held a 1912 patent on a gate, as well as a 1918 patent on a stock rack with his brother Frank. I found references to both John and Frank Hibner working for Gade after the buyout. Keeping with the theme of marketing other people’s inventions, an article in the July 27, 1912, issue of the Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican said that the Gade brothers would build and market a poultry feeder and a seed corn tester, both patented by Herman Schultz of Iowa Falls. In all of these ventures Carl’s brothers William and Fred appear to be by his side (I’m not sure what part brother Louis played, if any).
When the engine business and his other manufacturing efforts slowed, Gade turned back to real estate. The Hardin County Times in their June 14, 1955, Centennial Issue estimated he owned some 5,000 acres before “The land boom of the 20s wiped him out.” Carl Gade was still alive in 1955, and Gade Mfg. Co., then under the management of John Strohbeen, was still in operation making “Sturdi-Hitch” automotive hitches and other specialties.
Outside of the business world, Carl Gade served on the Iowa Falls City Council and seemed to be a well-respected civic leader. B.F. Bowen wrote of him: “Mr. Gade is a very pleasant Gentleman to know – kind, obliging, a good mixer, frank and unassuming – and he is in every sense of the word one of the sterling representatives of the twentieth-century men of affairs of the Hawkeye state.” In 1955, Iowa Falls author and newspaper editor Ira Nichols said Carl Gade was “the most remarkable and spectacular figure in the second 50 years of Iowa Falls’ history.” Carl Gade died in 1959 at the age of 89.