Their History and Development

| November/December 1996

Lauson Engine

Fig. 1

P.O. Box 518 Painted Post, New York 14870-0518


The year 1995 marked the one-hundredth anniversary of Lauson engines. This article will chronicle that history; a manufacturing story that is rich with diversity and change. I first wrote this article in 1974; it appeared in the March/April 1975 edition of The Gas Engine Magazine. Since then, I have obtained much more information enough to warrant a complete rewrite of that original article. Unfortunately Lauson production records dating from before 1956 are believed to have been destroyed sometime around that time, thus precise dating of the earlier Lauson engines is not possible.


In 1848 groups of immigrants left Schleswig-Holstein in what was then Denmark and sailed for America. These immigrants carefully selected a location in the New World which has a latitude corresponding to a location in northern Italy, thinking that the climate would be just as favorable. With that expectation, they built their homes with the south side open to the sun. During the winter of 1848-49 they suffered many hardships, but stayed on to form the community now known as New Holstein, Wisconsin.

In the years that followed, the Lauson family, or families, joined the new community, and in 1867 the Lauson Brothers Implement Company was organized, having H. A. Lauson as general manager, C. P. Lauson overseeing machine repairs, and D. H. Lauson as office bookkeeper.

On January 20, 1868 John Lauson was born to Detlaff Lauson. When he was only 14 years old he joined the business with his uncles, after his father died. In 1884, at age 16, John, in full partnership with his uncle George and J. H. Optenburg, opened a new machine repair shop. This shop was destroyed by fire in 1885.

Immediately after the fire John Lauson and J. H. Optenburg organized a new firm and built a new shop. This firm was named John Lauson and H. Optenburg and Company. They specialized in the repair of steam traction engines and also built boilers, tanks, smoke stacks and related items. This firm is believed to have built and sold some 25 complete steam traction engines under the name 'Uncle Sam.'