On the Square

| May/June 1973

Russell Ginnow, 3125 West Fisk Ave., R. 3, Oshkosh, Wis. 54901

On the square in Berlin, Wisconsin is where Johnson & Fortnum made gasoline engines.

In 1870 Niels Johnson started a machine shop and had been experimenting with steam engines. About 1900 he began to develop a 3 cylinder gasoline engine. Unfortunately he died before it was completely successful. In 1900 a Mr. T. H. (Tim) Fortnum married Niels Johnson's daughter and went into business with his father-in-law, calling it Johnson & Fortnum Machine Works. After Niels Johnson's death Mr. T. H. Fortnum successfully developed a one cylinder gasoline engine. This style engine was made from about 1903 or 1904 until WWI. Since none were made after this, they are rather rare.

All this information was gathered from T. H. Fortnum's son, Mr. Niels Fortnum, who with his son, Dick, are still in business in the same building. They are in the automotive business selling Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth retaining the name Johnson-Fortnum.

I have the 115th gasoline engine that Johnson & Fortnum Machine Works made in about 1904. I bought this engine from Mr. Hellmuth Zabel whose father bought it new in about 1904 or 1905. (Pamphlets were given along with the engines. One of the instructions were that if the engine didn't start not to call for help, but should wait until the next day and try it again.) It was used on his farm near Brushville, Wis. to run a cream separator. For the past 40 years or better, parts of it were used as an air compressor, until I bought it last summer. It took Mr. Zabel and his brother several days to find the other parts.

The engine is an up-right, air-cooled, hit and miss, 4' bore, 4' stroke. Ignition is by dry cell, buzz coil, and spark plug. The connecting rod is solid brass, eliminating use of babbitt in the connecting rod bearing. Main bearings are babbitted and oiled with an oil can. The cylinder and wrist pin are oiled with an oil cup. The excess oil lays in the base to oil the connecting rod bearing. The cooling fan is run by a round leather belt around the flywheel. The battery box and buzz coil are original. The crankshaft for the first engines was fabricated. The engines that were sold had crankshafts forged in Milwaukee. All the castings (cast iron and brass) were made in their own shop. There are not very many cooling fins on the cylinder and they aren't very big. The flywheel spokes are curved.


Gas Engine Magazine A_M 16Gas Engine Magazine is your best source for tractor and stationary gas engine information.  Subscribe and connect with more than 23,000 other gas engine collectors and build your knowledge, share your passion and search for parts, in the publication written by and for gas engine enthusiasts! Gas Engine Magazine brings you: restoration stories, company histories, and technical advice. Plus our Flywheel Forum column helps answer your engine inquiries!

Be sure to take advantage of the Square Deal Subscription Program.

  • No Missed Issues.

  • No Renewal Notices.

  • No Additional Cost.

The Square Deal Subscription Program is designed as a paperless transaction with automatic renewals at a preferred low rate.   With advanced electronic notification, a 100% satisfaction guarantee and an easy opt-out plan, the Square Deal Subscription Program is the best value, risk free, eco-friendliest way to subscribe.

Facebook YouTube


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265