GEORGE ARCHER

By Staff
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2 / 5
A restored 1 HP Wilson-Des Moines engine with round flywheels. It sold for $4,100.
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A restored One Minute engine #740 on trucks sold for $6,600.

GEM Staff

If you were familiar with George Archer’s engine collection
of twenty-five years, you know that this was going to be a special
auction-not one for the faint-hearted. It was held at the State
Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 22. A perfect place-a
large building with open sides to spread out George’s
collection of over 115 gas engines. There also were consignments of
at least fifty more. After seeing the advertisement for the sale by
Nixon Auctioneers in GEM, my husband Ken and I decided we
wanted to take this opportunity to view a wonderful collection of
many rare engines. I’ve always heard good things about George
and was anxious to meet him.

This was George’s day and to him it was a big party. He
definitely was the ‘man of the hour,’ enjoying every minute
of attention from his friends and fellow collectors. There was
always a group of people surrounding him, some waiting a while to
visit with him. Asking many collectors to tell me about George, the
answer was always the same. He’s a man with a good sense of
humor, a hard worker, a devoted club member, and a mentor to many.
Overall, I would say he’s definitely a well-respected man in
engine land. One gentleman said that George was instrumental to
others just starting in the hobby.

People think of George as synonymous with Waukee, and
there’s good reason for that thinking! It all started when he
was attending a parade and saw a collection of engines belonging to
Merl Gaul, who still lives in Iowa and is now 94 years old. Merl
really got George hooked to the hobby. One of the first things
George decided to do was to join the Living History Farm in Des
Moines. Central Hawkeye Gas Engine & Tractor Association used
these grounds to hold their events before creating their permanent
grounds at Hawkeye Antique Acres in Waukee. George joined the group
in 1972 and was instrumental to the development of Central Hawk-
eye at Waukee. You will find many large engines belonging to him
housed on the grounds. One such engine is a Corliss steam engine
that ran the current for the Fort Madison prison. Yes indeed, it
ran the power for the electric chair. There were only two of these
engines built. This was the only one in the United States. George
purchased it about three or four years ago and restoration has been
an ongoing project. They just completed it last year.

This rare restored 5 HP Crabb engine was built by the Crabb Gas
Engine Co., West Union, Iowa. It had a hopper made of copper so it
wouldn’t rust out when farmers forgot to drain the water for
the winter. This wonderful engine sold for a whopping $13,100! The
Crabb engine found a new home in Canada.

I sat with George and his friends listening to their stories and
their ‘gentle’ ribbing of each other. He told me some
things about his life. His line of work was refuse, surely not an
easy job. He pointed out family members and talked very lovingly
about them. George can adopt me any time, how could you resist! He
definitely was a true collector, he didn’t just stop with just
engines. He was selling advertising items, a Maytag Racer, steam
whistles, lots of other miscellaneous items, and one of my
favorites-a collection of salesman’s samples. George said he
still has other collectibles he’s still enjoying. These include
toys, musical items, and other advertising. Maybe another auction
could be in the works? George always has that twinkle in his eye,
so I didn’t know if he was kidding or not, but he told me that
he had his collection of engines in his basement. He was quick to
point out that he was keeping eight engines. He looked down at his
Fairbanks engine and told me he hated to get rid of this one, then
looked over at another one of his engines and said the same thing.
I’m sure it was hard to choose eight out of 115. It
wouldn’t surprise me if he has already acquired more since his
auction. I asked him whether he could remember any special story
about any of his engines. He couldn’t think of anything
specifically other than times when he had difficulty transporting
his engines!

This restored Eli was built by the Moline Pump Company of
Moline, Illinois (company later acquired by John Deere.) The brass
tag reads #1010, 400 RPM, Patd. 11-11-02. Only four or five are
known to exist. This cross-head engine was on trucks and had its
original ignitor. It sold for $5,700.

Restored Webster Improved Gas Engine built by Webster Mfg. Co.,
Chicago, Illinois. This inverted hot tube engine sold for
$7,000.

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