HISTORY OF THE FLINCHBAUGH COMPANY

By Staff
1 / 9
The Shop Group of the Flinchbaugh Manufacturing Company in 1909. Fred, the inventor, is to the right of the engine.
2 / 9
Mr. Fred Flinchbaugh, designer, left, and Mr. Eli Flinchbaugh, shop foreman, of York, Pennsylvania, with the No. 1 two HP engine they built, as described in this article.
3 / 9
'The York Standard.' Mr. Flinchbaugh used the name 'York' as his trademark in honor of the city where he lived. Picture courtesy of M. L. Winter.
4 / 9
The Flinchbaugh display at the York Fair, 1909.
5 / 9
M. Helen Lehn, who was Secretary of the Flinchbaugh Company for 18 years and was also a niece of the Flinchbaughs.
6 / 9
Flinchbaugh tractor purchased by the City of Binghamton, NY, and used as you see. This was about 1910. The engine has been dismounted and used today on a saw mill. Photo courtesy of M. L. Winter.
7 / 9
8 / 9
Flinchbaugh's 6 to 20 HP portable.
9 / 9
The full line of tractors manufactured by Flinchbaugh. Nine different sizes. Courtesy of M. L. Winter.

Miss Helen Lehn was secretary for the Flinchbaugh Company for 18
years and gives us this history of Mr. Flinchbaugh and the company.
She is also a niece of Mr. Flinchbaugh and knew all the men in the
plant. She is quite an interesting person and talks very
conversantly about these tractors.–Elmer Ritzman, 1959.

Frederick T. Flinchbaugh, a York County, Pennsylvania Dutch
farmer boy, was always busy making attachments to his father’s
farm machinery, plows, cultivators, harvesting equipment and hay
threshing equipment and his mother’s household equipment. His
parents, realizing the need for mechanical training, encouraged him
to become a machinist.

He finally got a job with a local manufacturing company and
served an apprenticeship. Those days, to become a machinist
required four years. The start was cleaning castings and doing
errands. Next, operating a hack saw or small machine lathe, drill
press, shaper, planer, boring mill for about two years. Next, bench
work, erecting and finally tool room.

There was no diploma to be had, but a good Master Mechanic was
always known and in great demand; in fact, he could get a job in
any factory.

It is interesting to know that apprentices had to work without
pay until they could earn about one to two dollars per week and
finish up the fourth year at about $4.00 a week; 10 hours or more a
day and six days per week.

Fred made rapid progress at the trade and was outstanding. He
was willing, energetic and ambitious. He was always in the front
line when there was an opponent for service. While serving his
apprenticeship with A.B. Farquhar Company, the valve mechanism on
the engine that furnished power for the plant became loose. The men
familiar with the valve mechanism were not on the job at that time
and while several other men failed to make the adjustment, Fred
suggested he could do it, and of course, Fred, an apprentice, was
not given much consideration for such an important adjustment.
Finally, the boss said, ‘Men, stand back, give this boy a
chance.’

Fred made the adjustment. They turned on the steam and the
engine furnished the power to operate the plant same as before.

Fred became interested in gasoline engines. Before 1900, gas
engines were very scarce. However, he decided to build one. With a
few tools and a lathe he set up a workshop in a wood shed at the
rear of his home. He designed a vertical 1? HP engine; made the
patterns. After many years of work he built his first engine.
‘What a joy when it made its first puff.’

He found a buyer for engine No.1, so he started building
another. While Fred was building gasoline engines in his spare
time, [brother] Eli worked his way to a Master Mechanic and was
asked to do repairing about the shop. This spread rapidly and he
received offers from out-of-town factories who were in need of a
mechanic of his type. As time went on, he worked at Coatesville,
Pennsylvania.

The management there decided to replace a large lathe and a
planer with new machines. Here Eli got the idea that the lathe and
planer could be bought at a low price. As soon as possible he made
a trip to York and planned with Fred to buy the machinery and open
a factory; after their father agreed to help with the finances. Not
to lose any time, Eli made the trip back to Coatesville on Sunday,
located the boss sitting on the porch and asked if he would talk
business. ‘Yes,’ was the reply. He gave him a surprisingly
low price for the lathe and planer.

Eli got right on the job, had the machinery shipped to York,
quit his job at Coatesville, came home and the boys decided on a
location, and started to build a factory. Fred kept his job for a
while, but as time went on they had all the work they could handle
and were doing business as Flinchbaugh Brothers. The date was about
1898.

We will let Fred tell about and describe the engines he built as
was printed in an early catalog:

The York Standard

The ‘YORK’ standard gas, producer gas, gasoline and
alcohol engines are designed with the governor operating on the
fuel admission valve. This feature prevents waste of fuel by giving
uniform charges. The sparker has some new features with advantages
superior to other make engines. Material and workmanship are the
very best that can be produced. All bearings are lined with bronze,
there being no babbitt metal used. Crank shaft is forged steel,
machined all over. Connecting rod is of stub and strap type with
set-screw adjustments. Valves are poppet-type, turned out of solid
steel, making but one piece. Valve stems are provided with long
bearings and so designed that they can be oiled, giving long life
and accuracy in seating. Speed of engine can be changed to any
number of revolutions desired while the engine is in operation and
without adjusting the fuel regulator. We guarantee all our engines
to develop their full rated power and to do the same amount of
work, if not more than the average of all correctly rated steam
engines with one hundred pound steam pressure.

In drawing a comparison with that of other makes, kindly
remember that our engines are not constructed to be sold at lower
prices than our competitors, and especially those that are made to
sell; durability first and then the engine. For a cheaper type
engine, see our Farm type. But, do not forget that the latter is
made of the very best material, only that the design is changed and
finish omitted.

Our standard engines are recommended for stationary purposes to
operate and furnish power for factories of any description. The
design is such that we can guarantee absolute satisfaction, for
economy of fuel and operating is superior to all other powers
including electric furnished by water power. On the standard type
we are able to connect a long exhaust pipe without any bad effects,
which is not true of any engine with the governor operating on the
exhaust valve. This includes our Farm type. The latter will do good
work when long exhaust pipes are omitted, but for factory use this
can not be done.

These engines are made for general farm work or any other kind
requiring good reliable power. The design is different from that of
our standards having less finished work; governor operating on
exhaust valve, only operating sparker when charge is taken. Water
supply is over cylinder. Gasoline tank is so arranged that fuel is
fed by suction and gravity — gas, gasoline or kerosene. The design
is strictly high grade, which is the result of many years of study
to meet the requirements so as to warrant satisfactory results,
very simple, no complications, no vitals, no expensive repairs.

Speed of the engine can be varied from 200 to 500 revolutions;
time of ignition changed suitable for speed. A combination gas and
gasoline connection if desired; operates on either, changed from
one to another without missing a charge. It is not cheap on first
cost, but guaranteed to be the cheapest engine that can be bought,
as it will not require immediate repairs.

We equip all engines with a magneto, batteries not necessary.
All small sizes are started on magneto without batteries. Should
liquid batteries be preferred instead, same will be furnished at
equal price.

Mr. Flinchbaugh was a pioneer in the tractor building. Not the
first, but one of the very few firsts to build a tractor rivaling
the steamer. We take the following from an early catalog which
explains somewhat the tractor and its makeup.

Gas and gasoline engines have gained favor among power users
over that of steam on account of the advantages they possess. The
question has been, why cannot a gasoline or any internal explosive
engine be made to answer the purpose of a steam traction engine.
Steam tractions have proven to be a success. Manufacturers have
spent thousands of dollars to develop a traction driven by gasoline
engines. Some have given up and consider it impossible. Others have
put some on the market, and have, and are at the present time
experimenting at the buyer’s expense. The first essential for a
successful internal explosive engine operated by gasoline,
kerosene, or alcohol is to develop an engine that is equal to that
of a steam engine under equal rating.

To start with, to make a successful traction propelled by a
gasoline, kerosene or alcohol engine, we first developed an engine
that would pull a dragging load and recover speed under ninety-five
percent, of its full rating. All of our engines are tested and
rated under a given normal speed and by increasing speed the power
will increase with the speed of the engine which will compare with
that of a steam engine. By having our engines to give the same
amount of power per rating under a fixed steam pressure of 100
pounds or more depending under what pressure they are tested, we
are able to produce a traction that will compare with steam
tractions.

Flinchbaugh’s stationary tandem. ‘Among our many recent
developments we have a two-cylinder stationary tandem. This has
proven to be a decided success. We have some of these in use for
special duty running ten hours daily. There are many advantages
gained by using them in tandem style. Economy of fuel is a great
consideration; speed has proven to be very uniform, giving a very
accurate and regular speed and is an engine adapted for operating
generators, factories, etc. The cylinders are of the four-cycle
type, so arranged that the effect on the crank is of the two-cycle
principle. Under a full load it will receive an impulse on every
revolution. The two pistons being connected by a piston rod on the
same principle as that of the steam engine, a stuffing box being
provided and the box well provided for cooling circulation, giving
the very best results. We would recommend this type engine above
that of any other for stationary work on 2 HP and larger.’
Picture courtesy of M. L. Winter.

The general make-up of the manipulating parts of our engine is
different from anything that has ever been known to the gas,
gasoline, kerosene and alcohol engine industry. First, charges are
accurate and uniform, governor having full control. The charges are
ignited by our specially arranged igniter.

Our gears compare with those of steam tractions. We use but
three extra gears to make up the reverse of the traction. They are
so arranged that they are not burdensome to the engine and use up
unnecessary power. Three clutches are used, two positive and one
friction. The two positive clutches are used for forward and
backward motion. In reversing from either motion, we first release
the friction clutch which in turn releases power on gear
transmission and clutches, allowing the positive clutch to be
shifted without friction or strain on any part of gears or
clutches. After making the shift on positive clutches, the friction
clutch on the engine shaft is thrown in action again, transmitting
power through gears and moving traction backward or forward as
operator desires.

The two positive clutches cannot be engaged at one time. Why? If
we should have one separate lever to operate each separate clutch,
we should have at times, the operator or the one using them, trying
to run both directions at one time. The result would be broken
gears or some other parts that would cause serious delay. All this
we avoid by using one lever to operate all clutches in their turn,
moving but one clutch at a time. Having engines in motion with
lever on center of its space of operation all clutches are
disengaged. To move traction forward, we push lever forward. This
in turn engages forward positive clutch, then friction clutch on
engine shaft. To move backward, having lever in center of shift
pull lever backward. This will in turn engage backward positive
clutch, then friction clutch on engine shaft. To reverse from
forward to backward motion, lever is pulled from forward to back
shift. This in turn releases friction clutch on engine shaft, then
disengages forward positive clutch, and engages backward positive
clutch, then friction clutch on engine shaft. One shift of lever
produces four shifts of clutches, making it impossible to shift
more than one clutch at one time. By using our reversible engine,
when engine is reversed to backward or under motion, the reverse
bar is pulled back to run traction forward and shoved forward to
run traction backward. By this operation the traction is under low
gear.

For different speeds of traction, we change speed of engine,
from one hundred to four or five hundred revolutions per minute, by
shifting small lever, having engine to maintain its power to each
explosion, with our specially arranged sparker.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

There have been many interesting articles in past issues of Gas
Engine Magazine and Iron Men Album. Since many of our newer
subscribers have never seen the older issues of our magazines, we
will reprint selections from time to time. This article first
appeared in the September-October 1959 issue of Iron Men Album. The
suggestion to reprint it was made by John R. Heath, 494 Twp. Road
232, Sullivan, Ohio 44880.

If you can recall an article you feel would be of particular
interest to today’s readers, please let us know!

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines