Hail! Minnesota

By Staff
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Robert Geiken’s 20 HP Flour City engine, one of many Minnesota-made engines in his collection.
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The Diamond Jr. tractor was manufactured by?Diamond Iron Works and the Diamond gas engine was originally designed for this machine.
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These catalog photos show the exhaust side of a Faribault hopper-cooled engine (left) that came in sizes 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18 and 20 HP, with a friction clutch pulley and magneto, and a sideshaft hopper-cooled
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Faribault engine (right) that was made in 3 and 4 HP sizes.
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This photo from a 1911 catalog shows a view of the Red Wing Motor Co. in 1911 and was titled “Launching a Speeder.”
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The Faribault gasoline engine was built in this headquarters of the Faribault Engine?Mfg. Co. of Faribault, Minn.
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A close-up of a 5 HP Stickney, serial no. 13372, built in 1912.
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The exhaust side of a 6-cylinder Red Wing engine.
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The 4-cylinder Red Wing high-speed 2-cycle engine.
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Red Wing Motor Co. made this standard heavy-duty 2-cycle engine for their customers.
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This 1-3/4 HP Stickney engine is one of Robert Geiken’s favorites because of how it looks and because it was built in St. Paul, Minn. Charles A. Stickney Co. built them from 1899-1913. The serial number on this one is 19079 and it was built late 191

A lmost all Minnesota gas engines are rare,
says Robert Geiken, longtime collector and aficionado of Minnesota
engines from Hastings, Minn., who owns eight of them. “They’re not
well-known like your John Deere or McCormick-Deerings. Most
Minnesota gas engines were manufactured by small builders.”
Minnesota engines in general can be divided into two groups: those
badged in Minnesota but manufactured elsewhere and the rare,
Minnesota-built engines.

Minnesota-Badged Engines

Crane-Ordway: Built in Waterloo, Iowa, by the
Waterloo Gas Engine Co., the Crane-Ordway engine was rebadged for
the Crane-Ordway Plumbing Co. of Minneapolis. Robert has a 3 HP
version of it, which contains some original paint and part of the
decal on the water hopper.

Hudson & Thurber: A Minneapolis hardware
store of the same name sold its own line of Hudson & Thurber
engines, which were actually rebadged Acme engines manufactured by
Acme Engine Co. of Lansing, Mich. H&T sold agricultural
supplies and in 1906 bought a Chicago City Brand sprayer plant.
Little else is known about Hudson & Thurber and its
engines.

Peerless: Sold in Winona, Minn., the unique
Peerless engine was built by LaCrosse Tractor Co. of LaCrosse,
Wis., and sold by Peerless Co. of Winona. What made this 3 HP
vertical engine unique was not only its double pistons, but how
they were used. The top, or power piston, sits atop the second
guide piston that brings up oil through a poppet valve and mixes it
with gas to lubricate the upper cylinder. “Though the carburetor is
throttle-governed,” Robert says, “it has to suck oil into the
intake manifold and mix with the fuel to lubricate it.” This
Peerless engine contains the name of engine designer William A.
Sorg on the nametag.

Raymer Equipment Co.: Northwestern Steel &
Iron Works of Eau Claire, Wis., made Raymer engines for this St.
Paul, Minn., company. Though it’s unclear what size Raymers were
badged, Northwestern made engines from circa 1905-1913 in 1-3/4 to
12 HP. Robert has a 4-1/2 HP Raymer, which was originally used on
the banks of the Mississippi River in south St. Paul to winch logs
out of the river.

Minnesota-Made Engines

Diamond Iron Works: This Minneapolis company
manufactured at least two different gas engines: the American,
starting in 1912, and the Sorg oil-gas engine in 1913, designed by
the same William A. Sorg involved with the Minnesota Peerless
engine. After its 1885 organization, DIW was heavily involved in
tractor development by 1900, and manufactured the American engine
originally for their Diamond Jr. tractor. They turned their
attention to the stationary engine market devoted to electric
plants, pumping stations, dredges and hoists. The 4-cylinder
American had a 5-bearing crankshaft.

The Sorg oil-gas engine came in 3, 5, 12 and 18 HP sizes and had
a special cylinder head, developed by Sorg, which allowed the use
of kerosene along with electric ignition. Patents for the Sorg were
owned by Gas Corliss Co. of Minneapolis. The 5 HP model sold for
$265. This engine was built in a unique fashion, as the piston was
stationary, and the cylinder revolved around the piston.

Faribault: Robert says at least three Faribault
engines still exist, two in Minnesota. The company was a 1904
consolidation of Winnebago Machine & Foundry Co. and Winnebago
Gas Engine & Construction Co., both of Faribault, and Polar
Star Electric Co. A circa-1910 company catalog expresses its goal
for the Faribault engines: “A GOOD gasoline engine is one that is
good in every respect and it is this conviction which prompted the
thorough study of this subject, resulting in the Faribault Engine,
which combines all of the elements of a good engine, and at the
same time eliminates the faults so common to gasoline engines in
general. … We have studied, and worked to produce an engine second
to none in strength, symmetry and beauty of outline together with
durability and smoothness in operation.”

They added, “On our larger engines the balance weights are
bolted on the crankshaft, instead of having the balance weights on
the flywheel, which will balance the engine perfectly at all
speeds, with less strain on the crankshaft. Our trucks are made
with heavy oak or fir beams, extra heavy maple axles, and steel
wheels with sufficient wide tires. All steel trucks can be
furnished if requested.”

The catalog says only two things can be changed in the engine:
spark and speed. The engine was said to be so easy to use that
anybody could operate it. Faribault engines came in 3, 4, 6, 8, 10,
12, 15, 18 and 20 HP sizes, weighing from 1,030 pounds to 5,000
pounds. “Faribault” is often misspelled “Fairbault” in several
references.

Flour City: Though many Flour City tractors of
various sizes were built by Kinnard-Haines Co. of Minneapolis, they
did not build many stationary engines. A 1904 article in an
unmarked agricultural magazine says it had built an 8 HP gasoline
engine “for use on huskers, shellers, shredders, hay presses, small
separators, etc. This is a new size for the Kinnard-Haines Co.,
made especially for the season of 1904.”

Flour City engines ranged from 3 to 25 HP. The 3 HP, C.H. Wendel
says “was unique from one end to the other,” because of the truck
sills comprising the engine frame and an odd cooling tank, among
other features. It was designed for pumping water, sawing wood or
grinding feed, according to the company. It cost $350 for the
1,200-pound machine in 1902.

Louis Stuff of Jamestown, N.D., says he threshed 7,500 bushels
of wheat from August-November in 1898 with his 7 HP Flour City
engine. Portable engines like this one were mounted directly to
heavy steel channel iron rather than cast iron.

Another testimonial for the Flour City, this time an 8 HP model,
came from J.P. Cook of South English, Iowa, who said his total
operating cost was less than 10 percent of his total earnings from
Feb. 9 to Oct. 29, 1900, sawing wood and shelling 68,000 bushels of
corn.

Red Wing: These engines were manufactured by
the Red Wing Motor Co. of Red Wing, Minn., starting about 1907,
when the company announced they would deal in engines and
motorboats exclusively. In 1911, 2-cycle Red Wing engines were
built in two types: high-speed and standard, in 1-, 2-, 3- and
4-cylinder models of 1-1/2 to 60 HP. Four-cycle engines of 2-, 4-
and 6-cylinders were also built from 8 to 80 HP.

Perhaps the largest engine from the company was a 100 HP inboard
Red Wing Thorobred Hiawatha installed in the Nellie Bly, a 42-foot
houseboat that ran on the Mississippi River during the 1930s. It is
still in dock today.

The Thorobred engine was touted as “The engine with power to
spare.” Few Red Wing engines are found today, partly because few
were built, but also because of extensive scrap drives during World
War II, according to C.H. Wendel in American Gasoline Engines Since
1872.

L.E. Spear: Only one engine manufactured by
this Northfield, Minn., company is know to exist, and belongs to
Robert Geiken. “At least, it’s the only one that’s out in the
public,” he says. He’s heard rumors of a second one existing, but
has never seen it nor has anyone actually verified it. His engine
is a 1-1/2 HP horizontal engine without a serial number and may
have been a prototype.

Stickney: The Charles A. Stickney Co. of St.
Paul, Minn., manufactured perhaps the greatest number of Minnesota
engines of all the companies. C.H. Wendel’s book dedicates four
full pages to the Stickneys, and Robert concurs that they are more
common than many of the other Minnesota engines. “If I have a part
broken on one of the Stickneys, there are enough of those around
that I can find another collector who has them, and if I needed a
part I could borrow it and have it cast.” A wide variety of
different Stickneys were made in 1-, 2- and 3-cylinder models from
4 to 25 HP. Double-cylinder Stickneys ranged from 16 to 100 HP, and
the triple-cylinder models ran from 125 to 300 HP. Early Stickney
engines, especially, used unconventional designs. The early
single-cylinder examples from the turn of the century used a short
cross shaft, mounted directly over the crankshaft, instead of a
straight-line valve gear. The combination pump and engine was also
unconventional, with the pump mounted directly to the frame instead
of adjacent to the engine. Other Stickney engines included the
Stickney Junior engines, Stickney New Line engines and St. Paul
engines. The St. Pauls were designed specifically for use in
buildings, and conformed to Fire Underwriter requirements, in 3 to
20 HP. Overall, Stickney engines varied in size from 1-3/4 to 100
HP. Some Stickneys were sold as Sears Roebuck Universal engines.
The 20 HP Stickney engines are very rare, with only two or three
known to exist.

Stroud-Humphrey: These engines were built in a
small plant along the Mississippi River in Hastings, Minn., a
building that still stands today. It was advertised in Gas Power
Magazine in May 1908, calling it “the little engine with the big
reputation.” Little more is known about the company. Later, J.J.
Raway engines, identical to the Stroud-Humphreys, were built in the
plant. Both engines were probably only sold locally, for the most
part. The Stroud-Humphrey engines came in 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-cylinder
models, and some were out before 1907, Robert says, according to
his research of the company.

The owner of Stroud-Humphrey also built a pair of cars in
Hastings, and had Minnesota’s first driver’s license ever
issued.

The Few, the Proud

There are many other Minnesota engine companies, about 60 total,
which is actually not a large number compared to other states like
Michigan with 230; Wisconsin, 150; and Iowa, 120. A few other
Minnesota engines not detailed above include the Brown engine from
J.C. Shadegg Engine Co., the Onan from Onan Corp., the Russell from
Russell Grader Mfg. Co., Imperial by Valentine Bros. Mfg. Co.,
Underwood by Underwood Machine Co., Imperial by North Star Mfg.
Co., all of Minneapolis, as well as others in different parts of
the state. Almost all of these disappeared when competition
stiffened around 1912, leaving gas engine collectors a difficult
task of finding many of these rare Minnesota engines.

Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several books
on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact Bill at: Box 372, 400
Caroline Lane, Rockville, MN 56369; (320) 253-5414;
bvossler@juno.com

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