United Engine Co., 1916

A United engines brochure found on eBay gives more insight into the United Engine Co., Lansing, Michigan.

| February/March 2018

  • The opening page of the four-page brochure for the 1916 United engine line.
    Image courtesy Dick Webber
  • The inside pages of the four-page brochure.
    Image courtesy Dick Webber
  • The back page of the four-page brochure.
    Image courtesy Dick Webber

The following is a history of United Engine Co., Lansing, Michigan. Compiled by United engine enthusiast Dick Webber, it is the most thorough account we’ve found of United and the engines it sold (it doesn’t appear United ever actually made engines). Its publication here was inspired by the color photocopy of a 1916 four-page United engines brochure sent in by reader Jim Albaitis. Always on the hunt for vintage engine parts (Jim makes reproduction igniters and trips), Jim stumbled across the brochure on eBay. The seller had owned the brochure for 47 years before finally deciding to part with it, and Jim was the lucky bidder. All four pages are reproduced here, including the interior two-page spread.

United Engine history

United began as United Manufacturer’s Assn. and tagged the early engines U.M.A. Tags changed later to United Manufacturers, Lansing, MI. United Manufacturers did not manufacture engines, rather they purchased contract engines from others. Associated Mfg. of Waterloo, Iowa, was the most common and probably the last source. Early United engines originated from Thompson, Waterloo Boy, Nelson Brothers and possibly Field-Brundage.

Engine types as shown on the United tag have been reported as A, B, C, F, H and S. The earliest known United is serial no. 4717, no type listed on tag, and believed sourced from J. Thompson & Sons. C.H. Wendel’s American Gasoline Engines Since 1872 speculates that Gilson could have been the supplier as early as 1911. Engine 4717 appears to be the same as pictured by Wendel on Page 520. Owners question the Gilson connection, insisting that the engine is identical to the Thompson Tiger. Pictures I have seen confirm that. There are three hopper-cooled examples and one air-cooled reported, all 2 hp.

Apparently, the next United offering was Type B. There is one reported example, serial no. 3012. According to Wendel, this engine appeared in 1912. It is pictured on Page 520. I do not know who produced this engine for United, perhaps Field-Brundage.

There is also a Type C United. Wendel refers to Type C and suggests they were supplied by Associated. That engine appears on Page 521 in American Gasoline Engines Since 1872 and does not look like an Associated to my untrained eye. In 1993 an owner in the United Kingdom wrote to Gas Engine Magazine to ask about his Type C 2-1/2 hp engine, serial no. 937, posting a picture which suggests Nelson Bros. There are only four reports of Type C engines, three of which are in the U.K.

Type F United engines were sourced from Waterloo Gas Engine Co. and J. Thompson & Sons. Waterloo was the second most common United supplier. Waterloo United serial numbers fit in with regular Waterloo production, just like the other Waterloo contract engines. Reported numbers are well grouped from 36213 (early 1911) to 83928 (mid-1913), which fits with the entry of Associated supplied engines. However, there are three more reports that extend as high as 124314, late 1915, well into the dates of Associated-produced United engines.


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