How Your Hobby Started Part XXV

By Staff
1 / 5
Courtesy of W. C. Meier, 603 S. Main Street, Kingfisher, Oklahoma 73750.
2 / 5
Courtesy of John M. Hamilton, 2015 Arthur, Charleston, Illinois 61920.
3 / 5
Courtesy of John M. Hamilton, 2015 Arthur, Charleston, Illinois 61920.
4 / 5
5 / 5

3904 47th Avenue S., Seattle, Washington 98118.

This chapter deals entirely with the history of the gasoline
engines sold by The Fairbanks Company of New York.

Considerable research was necessary to get all of the facts
together on this company and it started from the one family of

I also covered the two tangents of the development of Fairbanks,
Morse and The Fairbanks Company which originated from the E & T
Fairbanks Company of St. Johnsburg, Vermont.

‘The Fairbanks Company gives you permission to have this
article published but assumes no responsibility as to the
information presented on engines. To the best of our knowledge and
belief the historical facts are correct.’ (This paragraph
signed by J. E. Bates, Field Sales Manager, Fairbanks Company, Box
1077, 2-22 Glenwood Avenue, Bing-hamton, New York 13902.)

It may require a considerable stretch of the imagination to
calculate just how the invention of a plow with a cast-iron
mouldboard and the platform weighing scale could have a motivation
for the development and sale of gasoline engines. In the course of
events of American industry such historical sequence did occur in
two companies.

It all started when immigrant Jonathan Ffayerbanks arrived in
this country from Yorkshire, England in 1633. Forethought and
well-laid plans for a home in the new world and with a bit more
money than most, he brought well-seasoned oak and small glass
windows to build in Dedham, Massachusetts. It is one of
America’s oldest wooden homes, having been built in 1636.

During the decades from the time of the arrival in this country
of the progenitor of this family until 1793 when Joseph Fairbanks
was born, the spelling of the name had been changed from
Ffayerbanks to Fairbanks.

At Brimfield, Massachusetts, Joseph Fairbanks had taken up
farming. In 1790 Miss Phebe Paddock and Joseph were married. The
founders of the companies in which we are interested were sons of
the Joseph Fairbanks’, Erastus, the eldest, then Thaddius and
Joseph, Jr.

At the age of 23, Erastus moved to St. Johnsburg, Vermont. Later
the family of his father and brother, Thaddius, joined him. Joseph,
Sr. and Erastus started a saw and grist mill on the Sleeper River,
where they constructed a dam for water power.

Thaddius became interested in making wagons and he started an
iron foundry where he manufactured parlor and cooking stoves. Being
of an imaginative nature, Thaddius invented a cast-iron mouldboard
plow. It also became apparent to him that there must be a more
convenient method of weighing bulky and heavy commodities other
than lifting them up to a steelyard.

He set to work on a combination of levers that could be
installed at or under the ground level, that would transfer the
proper ratio of the weight on the platform to be indicated and read
on the steelyard. So it came about with his experiments that in
1830 he invented the platform scale. This original application lead
to many modifications of the scale and he obtained thirty-two
patents. From the development of these commodities, the family
founded E. & T. Fairbanks and Company at St. Johnsburg in

The demand for scales for this new system of weighing came from
all sources of industry and agriculture throughout the world. It
did require hard work by their itinerant agents–or salesman, to
introduce the scales and a firm was established in Boston under the
name of Fairbanks, Brown & Company, to sell scales. Zelotus
Hosmer started as a young man selling scales at this Boston

His nephew, Charles H. Morse of St. Johnsburg Center, went to
work for E. & F. Fairbanks and Company as a clerk. After
serving his apprenticeship, he moved to the Boston office and later
to New York. In 1857 he went to Cincinnati and in nine years became
a partner in the firm. At the conclusion of the Civil War, he went
to Chicago where the company of Fairbanks, Morse & Company was
founded in 1865.

After the great Chicago fire, the company had been burned out.
They relocated and soon were doing business selling scales and
windmills and other heavy hardware products for agriculture, mills,
railroads and mining.

1925 John Deere tractor which was shown at the Waukomis
Threshers Show. I am an old separator operator.

Wind power was sufficient to pump water for cattle on the farms
and water stations on the railroads, but a greater demand for
mechanical power was needed for all sorts of applications where
steam power was too cumbersome.

The internal combustion engine had been developed in Europe and
was being introduced in this country. Mr. Morse was a very
resourceful organizer who soon became interested in this new source
of energy. He purchased the Williams Engine Company of Beloit,
Wisconsin and made arrangements with John Charter, a very
successful American inventor of gasoline engines of Sterling,
Illinois, to bring his engine designs and patterns to Beloit and
start to develop and produce engines. And it was from this
beginning that Charles H. Morse became the head of one of the
world’s largest manufacturers of internal combustion

During all of these years, one of America’s oldest companies
was also developing and selling heavy hardware and industrial
supplies together with Fairbanks Scales, which the company had

This engine is old enough to vote three times over. It has been
restored by Roy Gobel, Charleston, Illinois. It is a 2? Hp. Gray
Brother gas engine. It is one of twenty gas engines that Roy has

The E. & T. Fairbanks and Company, New York Branch office
was opened by Charles Fairbanks, son of Thaddius. The company
incorporated in 1874.

The New York Company continued under this name with William
Paddock Fairbanks as secretary from 1888 until his death in 1895.
Thaddius Fairbanks passed away in 1886. The New York City Branch
was then incorporated under its present name–The Fairbanks Company
in 1891. This historical background of the original branch of the
Fairbanks family has been supplied through the courtesy of The
Fairbanks Company as compiled by Mr. Robert Brewer.

The Fairbanks Company is a manufacturer of many types of valves
and they build a complete line of warehouse trucks. During the era
of stationary gasoline engines they distributed engines of various
styles and ratings, which now brings us to the subject of how the
invention of a plow and the platform scale lead to the development
and sales of gasoline engines in two branches of the Fairbanks
family in American industry .

Through the courtesy of Roger Kriebel of Mainland, Pennsylvania
and Phil King of Granville, Massachusetts the following data and
specifications pertaining to The Fairbanks Company gasoline engines
are available.

Pictured here is an old timer. It is a 1? Hp. Sandwich gas
engine. Note the unusual gas tank-I believe it is a peanut butter
jar. It is owned by Wilbur Jolley, Tuscola, Illinois.

From the Fairbanks Catalog the following statement offers a date
at which this company started in the engine business. ‘We are
pioneers in the gasoline engine business and can refer to Fairbanks
Engines that have been giving service since 1900’–from a 1907
catalog No. 11, second edition.

There are no records to show the original type of engine
offered, but assuming like many other styles of equipment, the
Model or Type ‘A’ would have undoubtedly been the original
unit sold.

Recently a fine Fairbanks Type A vertical 6 HP single cylinder
engine has been found and rebuilt by George S. Clark of Mil ford,
Connecticut. He is to be congratulated on the discovery of this
engine and the excellent reconditioning of the unit.

The Type A engines were first built in sizes of 1, 2 and 4 HP
and then later in ratings of 1?, 2?, 5, 6, 8 and 10 HP. As stated
above, they were a vertical single cylinder four-cycle engine with
cast-iron open crankcase and base with the cylinder all cast in one
piece. The open crankcase was fitted with the lower main bearing
housings and with removable bearing caps and grease cups for
lubrication. The fuel tank was in the lower base.

The mixing valve was mounted on the side of the water-cooled
cylinder head. A plunger fuel pump was located near the bottom of
the engine which pumps fuel to the intake valve with an overflow
pipe back to the fuel tank in the base. In the water-cooled
cylinder head was located the mechanical exhaust valve and
automatic intake valve. The valve pushrod operated the valve and
the igniter which was located on the cylinder head. The timing gear
was gear-driven from the crankshaft and was located under the

This type of engine was advertised as the ‘Outdoor
Engine’ and was made up in portable units, the smaller ratings
on four wheel hand trucks. Other assembled cord wood sawing outfits
were available as well as walking beam deep well pumping units and
concrete mixers. Water cooling tanks and battery boxes were placed
on the truck for complete units. Specifications were given of the
weights of this Type A engine as follows:

1860 Lenoir Gas Engine in the museum of Kloeckner, Humboldt
Deutz A. G. Cologne, West Germany.

The Fairbanks Company gasoline engine types consisted of the
following according to the catalogs that are now available:

The Type ‘B’ series of engines comprised of ratings of
8, 10, 12, 18 and 25 HP were vertical single, two and three
cylinder units of a heavy duty construction. They were built with
closed crankcase with hand holes on both sides and with a flyball
governor running in a vertical position in an enclosed case. The
mechanical valves were operated from eccentrics on the crankshaft
extension. On the two and three cylinder units these eccentrics
were at both ends of the crankshaft. The cylinders were bolted to a
box type crankcase and the water-cooled cylinder head contained the
overhead valves.

Prototype Otto and Langen four cycle gas engine constructed in
1876 situated in the Kloeckner Humboldt Deutz, Cologne, West

The mixing valve was mounted on the side of the cylinder head.
Engines could be had with either igniters or jump sharp with the
timer on the side of the crankcase. It was possible to get either a
hit and miss or a throttling governor. The main bearings were
babbitted made in halves and had an adjustment for taking up the

The connecting rods were of the steam engine style and
adjustable wrist pin bearings. Splash lubrication was used in the
closed crankcase.

An unusual designed rocker arm valve mechanism with removable
valve cages was employed. The valve pushrod actuated one long
rocker lever which in turn came in contact on top of another lever
arm that depressed and opened the valve. The shorter rocker arm
moved on a pivot on top of a stationary support on top of the
cylinder head.

The Type B specifications were as follows: (SEE CHART C)

Further specifications on Type ‘B’ engines from Catalog
No. 10: ENGINE HP.-8-10-12-18-25-35-60; BORE & STROKE-6? x 7?-7
x 8?-8 x 9?-7 x 8?-8 x 9?-9? x 10?-9? x 10?; R. P.
M.-350-350-335-350-335-300-300; DIA. FLYWHEEL-38-43-48-43-48-53-53;
FACE FLYWHEEL-3?-3?-3?-4-4?-5-5; WEIGHT
FLYWHEEL-400-450-500-600-750-1200-1200; NO. PISTON
3/8-3/8-3/8-3/8-3/8-3/8-3/8 ST. PULLEY DIAM. IN.-18 x 6-20 x 6-24 x
6-20 x 8-24 x 8-30 x 10-30 x 10; EXHAUST PIPE
IN.-2-2-2ft-3-3ft-4-4; GAS PIPE IN.-1-1-1-1-1-1?-1?; WATER PIPE
IN.-1-1-1-1-1?-1?-1?; FLOOR SPACE IN.-44 x 38-45 x 43-50 x 48-61 x
43-67 x 48-79 x 53-101 x 53; HEIGHT IN. -65-72-79-73-79-89-89; SHP.
WEIGHT LBS .-2000-2500-3000-4000-5000-8600-12,000.

Two other popular models were the ‘Bull Pup’ and the
‘Bull Dog’ units and as might be expected the smaller size
was built in ratings of 1?, 3 and 6 HP. These were the lighter
weight horizontal, four cycle, single cylinder, water hopper-cooled
with open crankcase having the engine base, crankcase and cylinder
all in one casting.

The timing gear ran off a pinion on the crankshaft and the hit
and miss governor was of the flywheel type with the cam operating a
flat siderod that opened the mechanical exhaust valve and tripped
the igniter. The intake valve was automatic. The mixing valve was a
simple needle valve type with an air control.

These units were shipped on a wood skid with the battery box and
gas tank mounted behind the engine.

The specifications for the Fairbanks ‘Bull Pup’ engines
are as follows: ENGINE H. P. 1?-3-6; R. P. M.-400-400-375;
CRANKSHAFT DIA.-l 3/8-1?-2; BORE & STROKE IN.-4 x 4-4? x 6-6 x
8; FLYWHEEL DIA. IN. -16?-23-39; EXHAUST PIPE DIA. IN.-1-1?-1?; GAS
TANK GALS.-1-2-4; FLOOR SPACE IN.-24 x 43-26 x 56-33 x 60; HEIGHT
IN.-19-23-33; NET WEIGHT LBS.-200-400-875.

The Fairbanks ‘Bull Dog’ engines were of a heavy duty
type built in ratings of 8, 12 and 16 HP. They were also
horizontal, single cylinder, water hopper-cooled with open
crankcase. These units were mounted on a cast-iron sub-base, with
the cylinders bolted to the crankcase. A cast support was used
under the main bearings and under the overhung cylinder.

Various modifications were offered with portable units mounted
on steel wagon trucks, with the friction clutch pulley and the
battery box under the driver’s seat. Cord wood saw outfits were
available with tilting table in sizes of 5, 6, 8 and 12 HP.

A drag saw unit with a 1? HP engine was part of the combination
outfits for sale and also piston pump engine driven units, and
diaphragm pumps, contractor’s hoists and concrete mixers.

Specifications covering these Fairbanks Bull Dog engines are as
follows: ENGINE H. P.-8-12-16; R. P. M.-350-350-350; BORE &
STROKE IN.-7 x 7?-7? x 8?-8? x 9?; CRANKSHAFT DIA. IN.-2?-3-3; DIA.
GALS.-6-8-10; FLOOR SPACE IN.-56 x 3943 x 63-43 x 66; HEIGHT
IN.-37-42-46; PULLEY DIA. IN.-18 x 7-18×7-18×7; NET WEIGHT

Quoting from the 1908 Fairbanks Catalog No. 5 describing their
Type ‘F’ engines, they say–‘The Fairbanks Company is
the largest supply house in the world’–and–‘The Fairbanks
Company handles more types of gasoline engines than any other house
in the world’.– In this catalog it further states–‘These
engines are made in a modern shop’– From these statements it
is quite evident that a great many Fairbanks engines were sold, and
present day collectors should find them to add to their

The Type ‘F’ engines were horizontal, single cylinder,
four cycle water-cooled with an open crankcase, built on a cast
iron sub-base for heavy duty service.

These engines were very much in appearance and similar to the
Angola engines. The cylinder and head were cast in one piece and
the head was of the same design as used in the Angola engine. The
combustion space was an elongated space at the end of the cylinder
with the exhaust valve mounted in a cage under this cavity. The
valve stem was lubricated by a separate oil feed tube. The fuel
mixing valve was located on the opposite side from the long heavy
sideshaft which was arranged with cams and a gear to operate the
valve rocker arms and the governor. The flyball governor is
vertical and runs in enclosed ball bearings. The engine speed can
be changed while the engine is in operation.

The cylinder is bolted to the crank-case by horizontal flanges
along each side of the crankcase, and has an open end water jacket
with a flange for cleaning at the crankcase end.

There are no detailed specifications for the Type ‘F’,
other than the speed and horsepower as follows: TYPE ‘F’
HP. 4-5-7-10-12-15-20-25-30; R. P. M.

There were no bulletins or catalogs available for the Fairbanks
Types ‘E’– ‘K’-‘O’-‘R’-and
































2 cycle


13 Marine


2 cycle




4 cycle




4 cycle




























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