Hercules Engine News

By Staff

20601 Old State Road Haubstadt, Indiana 47639

Several years ago I had the opportunity to interview Ora
Garrison. He was an 82 year old retiree from the Whirlpool
Corporation. He started to work for the Hercules Corporation on
November 24, 1924. He continued to work there through corporate and
product changes until he retired in the early 70s. His first job
was repairing magnetos sent in by Hercules built engine owners. He
remembered repairing all of the various magnetos that had been
used.

His brother, Bert Garrison who began working for the Hercules
Gas Engine Company in 1917, was the final engine inspector. In 1927
Ora Garrison became the final inspector replacing his brother. Ora
continued to be final inspector until production finally ceased in
1934. The inspector started each engine and checked the timing,
bearing tightness and other mechanical adjustments. Felix Rohrer
made the repairs that the final inspector found necessary. Engine
testers at that time were Owen York and Gilbert Postle the
weight.

It was all piecework for Ora Garrison. He received 5 cents for
each engine inspected and passed. After the engines had been
painted, he received 80 cents per hundred for attaching the serial
number tag to the completed engine.

Serial number plates were made by an outside supplier and were
consecutively numbered when received. The RPM, HP and model letter
were stamped on a series of plates as needed for each size of
engine at the Hercules factory.

Serial number tags were held on by two brads driven into two
predrilled holes on top of the engine water hopper. To make the
brads fit tight, Mr. Garrison used a special small tool and a
hammer to flatten an area on the brad stem. That way it would wedge
tight when driven into the hole. He performed the stem flattening
task during his lunch period. Jaeger brand engines were fitted with
a special Jaeger tag attached to the engine base. He received five
cents for each of those tags he put on.

At the time, James Kelly was the general foreman and A. B.
Cummings was the dispatcher. Both of these men had made the move to
Evansville in the fall of 1913 when the factory was moved from
Sparta, Michigan.

Once the engine had been inspected and passed, Mr. Garrison
initialed and attached a paper tag. The engine was then ready to go
through the wash and on to the painting room. He spoke of some 200
engines per day.

Mr. Garrison recalls that at one time they made a lot of the
model N engines and also a lot of pumpjacks.

Over the years what had started out as the Hercules Gas Engine
Company in 1914 became the Hercules Corporation in 1921, and then
Servel Manufacturing in 1925. In 1927 a lockout occurred and Servel
Manufacturing went into receivership and reopened seven days later
as Servel, Inc. Servel, Inc. eventually, went bankrupt and was
bought out by the Whirlpool Corporation in 1957.

Among the things the final engine inspector did was to start the
engines to check out the various mechanical functions. Mr. Garrison
was a small to average size man, but he had to also crank and start
the 7 and 9 HP Thermoil engines, too. He described that this way,
‘First you got them spinning and then reached back with the
left foot to kick down the compression relief lever. If you
didn’t spin them fast enough, they would start and try to run
backwards.’

Mr. Garrison related that after engine production ceased in
1933, everyone began working in refrigeration production. In 1934
there came an additional order for engines mainly for export.
Several men went back into producing engines. As the inspector, Mr.
Garrison complained to the superintendent that the engines did not
function properly. The superintendent was eager to get the engine
run out of the way and wanted to send the engines out anyway. A
prony brake test indicated that the engines were not producing
their rated horsepower. A small spring on the ignition device was
found to be wrong. A board had to be removed from the already
crated engines so Mr. Garrison could reach in and change the
spring.

Mr. Garrison has passed away now. Fortunately some of his
knowledge of Hercules engine production has been preserved for
future generations.

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